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The second-seeded Williamsville North Spartans are headed to New Era Field to take on the Lancaster Legends after defeating the Niagara Falls Wolverines on Friday night by a score of 31-8.

It was a game in which things didn’t go the Spartans’ way at first, but the second half proved to be a difference-maker for Spartans coach Mike Mammoliti’s group.

“I’m so proud of these kids,” Mammoliti said. “They’re a different group than most kids. They don’t get rattled, they don’t get shaken. To be able to come back in the second half and do what we did, it’s a testament to them.”

After a scoreless first quarter, the Spartans struck first on a one-yard quarterback sneak by Joe Nusall with ten minutes left in the period of play. The touchdown would be the only points scored in the first half, and Mammoliti knew his team needed to make some adjustments. He also knew that his team has been a different one in second halves this season compared to firsts.

“Our coaching staff changed a couple of things up scheme-wise during the intermission, but more than anything, I’ve got to give credit to our kids,” Mammoliti said. “I think they like the idea of pressure. That’s really cool… they deserve this win.”

A few minutes into the third quarter, Dylan Kelly sacked Wolverines quarterback Jermani Justus in his own end zone for a safety, and the rout was on. Three minutes later, Ivan Ghemmenge plunged into the end zone from a yard away to increase his team’s lead to 17-0.

“Coach told me that if I saw an opening, I can make the decision to rush the quarterback or not, and I saw one,” Kelly said. “Fortunately I was able to get in the backfield and tackle (Justus).”

On the Wolverines’ next offensive drive, Dylan Mann intercepted an errant pass from Justus and took it 57 yards to the end zone to make the score 24-0. Ghemmenge then added another rushing touchdown – his ninth of the season – from ten yards away to help his team go up by 31.

A quarterback change by the Wolverines did yield to a score – a 17-yard touchdown pass from Deonte Matthews to Willie McDougald in the middle of the fourth quarter – but those points and a recovered onside kick by the team came far too late to make a difference.

The Spartans were able to get this far, according to Mammoliti, because of the maturity of his players and their strong work habits.

“On Saturdays, we bring the guys in and we watch the film of our last game, but on Tuesday nights, they get together – Scott Becht and Cam Walter, two of our captains, run the meeting – and watch film together,” Mammoliti said. “It’s cool to see, because they’re sitting there talking about things that we’ve mentioned when the coaches meet with the players.

“We then go on the field the next day at practice and they’re making checks and calls that result from that studying. They’re a great group of kids that way – they’re accountable and prideful, and that goes a long way.”

For the Spartans, their first trip to New Era Field since 2013 will culminate in a battle for the Section VI Class AA championship with Lancaster – a team that has dominated the level of competition all season. But neither the team’s players, nor their coaches, believe that they don’t have a chance against the top-seeded Legends.

“Lancaster’s record speaks for itself, but I think we’ve got as good a chance as anybody,” Mammoliti said. “We’re looking forward to it… They’re pretty good and efficient, and they don’t beat themselves. It’s a great matchup though, because we’re the same kind of team but we’ve flown a little under the radar. We’ll see what happens.”

Ghemmenge agreed.

“It’s all about the team who wants it more, really,” Ghemmenge said. “I know we want it more. We’ve been preparing for this game ever since last October. We don’t beat ourselves, and as long as we do the little things, we can win.”

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