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The tradition continues in Cheektowaga

Many thought this was going to be the year the Maryvale Flyers were going to beat their cross-town rivals.

But the Cheektowaga Warriors showed Friday night that they still have Maryvale’s number beating the Flyers 28-21.

For the second year in a row, the Warriors were able to take a division title, a top-seed in the Class B playoffs and bragging rights from the big Week 7 win.

However, Cheektowaga entered the game in an unfamiliar position, as the underdog. They used it as a source of motivation heading into the game.

“It was everywhere,” junior Taivaughn Roach said. “We had lost a game earlier in the season so everyone was like ‘Cheektowaga is going to lose’. There was a lot of motivation in us to fight through it and get the win.”

Leading the way for Cheektowaga was quarterback KeShone Beal who ran for all four Warrior touchdowns, even after fumbling on the first drive of the game.

“He’s a fullback playing quarterback,” Cheektowaga head coach Mike Fatta said of Beal. “Even though we didn’t make a lot of plays through the air, he put us on his back.”

The game got off to a quick start as Beal fumbled the ball after faking the handoff to his running back. Nick Costanzo recovered the ball the and the Flyers took over at the Cheektowaga 35-yard line.

Maryvale quarterback Connor Desiderio found Jay Henley for a first down to bring Maryvale into the red zone. The drive was ultimately stopped when Roach sacked Desiderio on 4th down.

Maryvale got strong field position after the defense came up with a big stop, but Desiderio was again taken down for a sack on 4th down giving the Warriors the ball on their own 45 yard line.

The experience of the Cheektowaga defense showed in the early stages of the game as they were poised and ready for the moment.

“On the defensive side of the ball these guys have played a long time and have been in big games,” Fatta said. “The guys on defense are used to these games and they played poised.”

Cheektowaga tailback Mike Gray III took over the game on the ensuing drive. He broke free for 25 yards on the first play. He then took another big run up the middle to bring the Warriors into the red zone. Cheektowaga finally got on the board as Beal took the keeper for the 16 yards, giving the Warriors an 8-0 lead at the end of the opening quarter.

Late in the half, the Flyers made a questionable move calling a timeout before 4th and 2 with 42.2 seconds left. They decided to go for it from the Cheektowaga 45, but Law came up just short.

The Warriors had good field position and took advantage of it. Beal connected with Tommy Zolnowski for 30 yards bringing them into the red zone. A few plays later, Beal kept the ball again taking it 11 yards for a touchdown to give his team the 14-0 lead at the half.

On Cheektowaga’s first offensive drive of the second half, the Warriors tried a trick play by snapping the ball to the up-man. It backfired as the snap was fumbled and the Flyers fell on it.

Maryvale capitalized right away as Rashad Law took it for 52 yards along the right side for the Flyers’ first score.

But the Warriors came roaring back on the ensuing drive. The Cheektowaga offensive line made a gaping hole for Gray to bring the Warriors into enemy territory. Beal then took it himself for 34 yards to the 12-yard line and capped off the quick drive with a QB sneak to put his team up two scores.

Late in the third quarter, Zolnowski had a big punt return for Warriors taking it to the Flyer 25-yard line. But the Maryvale defense stood tall. Zach Vaticano made the stop on 4th down.

The Flyers’ offense picked up the momentum from the defense. Maryvale got big help as Blackwell was interfered with on third down. Law lead the rest of the drive taking a big run of 20 yards into Cheektowaga territory and then scoring on 26 yard run to bring the Flyers within a score.

The Warriors moved the ball into Maryvale territory on the next drive. But on fourth down, Law came up with an interception with 9:26 left in the game. Unfortunately, the Flyers were unable to convert on the turnover.

Later in the quarter, a bad snap on the punt gave Cheektowaga the ball at the Flyers’ 37 yard line. Beal capitalized on the turnover with a 22-yard run and then a 3-yard run for his fourth touchdown of the game with 1:20 left.

But Maryvale was not going to except defeat that easy.

The Flyers converted a trick play as Law found Blackwell on a halfback pass for the 50-yard touchdown bringing them back within a score with 57.7 seconds left. Cheektowaga ended all hope of a Flyer comeback as the recovered the onside kick.

The Warriors also picked up their seventh straight division championship Friday night.

Beal, playing his first year on the varsity, wants to keep the tradition of the Cheektowaga football program’s success going.

“I was moved up and went with the team to the Ralph last year,” Beal said. “It was great and I want to keep it going.”

Both teams will have home games in the first round. The Warriors will host the No. 8 seed and Maryvale will now welcome the No. 5 seed, both games on Friday night.

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