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Touchdown Pass Gives Williamsville North Overtime Win Over Clarence

Maybe the play didn’t turn out exactly as planned but Joe Nusall knew what to do – and Dylan Kelly knew what Nusall was going to do.  On a day full of big plays, this play was the biggest.

A scrambling Nusall found an open Kelly for a 34-yard touchdown in overtime and Williamsville North escaped Clarence with a 41-35 win over the Red Devils in a memorable Class AA showdown on Friday night.

“It was just crazy,” Nusall said. “We had a similar game-winning touchdown last year. It was a deep-in route, I rolled out right and he kind of read my mind and headed back towards the end zone and I got it to him.”

The Spartans (2-0) opened up a 14-point lead on three occasions but couldn’t put the resilient Red Devils away until the overtime. On Clarence’s possession, Dylan Mann – who admittedly did not have a great day on defense – picked off a deflected Jack Putney pass, ending Clarence’s first offensive possession.

A bad snap set Williamsville North way back on its possession, but Nusall made it happen on third-and-24. As the pocket collapsed, he rolled to his right and found Kelly alone in the end zone for the game winning TD.

“It was crazy,” Kelly said. “I looked back at Joe and I saw him scrambling and we’ve been over this so much, we’ve been practicing, just extend the play. It was just a great throw by him and then I just kind of blacked out after that. It was a crazy ending to a crazy game.”

Nusall and Kelly connected on a 25-yard TD play on the first play of the fourth quarter and that seemingly put the game in North’s control at 35-21. Putney and Clarence had other ideas. The third-year standout starting quarterback marched his team right back down the field and hit his favorite target, Jon Stevens, for a 17-yard touchdown just 1:17 later.

The Red Devils then used a four-minute drive to tie it. Putney used his arm and legs to lead the team down the field and then Zachary Norton’s two-yard TD run on fourth down (and Stevens’ extra point) tied it at 35 with 3:25 left.

Mann’s 42-yard kickoff return put North in good shape to retake the lead but Stevens outfought a North receiver for position in the end zone and intercepted a Nusall pass with a minute left.

“I said it all offseason,” Clarence coach Paul Burgio said, “and I’ll still stand by it that Jon Stevens is the best corner in Western New York and that interception proves it. Against kids that are taller, bigger, stronger; he’s just relentless.”

The pick was among many highlights for Stevens on the night. He had six catches for 134 yards and a pair of touchdowns and added another touchdown on the ground. Putney threw for 250 yards and ran for another 130. Norton also caught a TD pass for the Red Devils (1-1).

“That’s the character of our team this year,” Burgio said. “Our kids have that character and against a team like that, to come out and show it, that just makes me more proud of them.”

In the end, Williamsville North had just enough firepower. Nusall threw for 196 yards and a pair of touchdowns and Scott Hopkins ran for a touchdown as well.

But the offensive star of the show was Mann. The running back ran for 190 yards and two touchdowns and also threw a touchdown pass on a halfback option to Mike Cabra.

On the jubilant visiting side of the field, though, Mann was hardly worried about stats.

“Emotions were crazy,” he said. “I had some mistakes in the secondary but my team had my back. I made up for it with my offense; I just ran down hill and believed in our team.”

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