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Trio of Seniors Lead Falls over OP

With only pride on the line Saturday the Niagara Falls Wolverines and Orchard Park Quakers turned in a fantastic high school football game. Each team already had next week’s playoff opponent and venue mapped out. That didn’t stop Niagara Falls however from putting everything they had out on the line as they overcame two deficits to earn a 26-23 victory on Senior day.

The Wolverines defense showed up early as Myles Cortese picked off a Dylan Janca pass and returned it 67 yards for the opening score. That certainly brought the house to its feet as I suspect there were close to 1000 in attendance. OP roared back though. Janca found his rhythm on the very next Quaker drive and hit fellow senior Matthew Honer for a 35 yard strike, tying the game at 7. Josh Dahl then put Orchard Park up by six when he busted a carry through the Falls defense and ran 15 yards for the score.

Down by six points Wolverines QB Jhamir Isom would soon take over. On a keeper play he found a big hole in the OP defense and scattered sixty-six yards for another long TD play for Niagara Falls, the PAT after missed which meant the game was tied 13-13.

OP kicker Brian Strybel made a 25 yard field goal attempt before the end of the half to put Orchard Park up 16-13.

Niagara Falls offense showed they have some real talent in the backfield during the 2nd half as Jay’meire Maye and Haseen Pruitt scored rushing touchdowns.  Pruitt had several big carriers that allowed the Falls offense to take precious time off the clock and keep Janca off the field.

OP did score a TD late. Nick Bruce made a tough catch to help get the Quakers to within three points late in the 4th. On the ensuing on-sides kick, Niagara Falls recovered and ran the clock out to preserve the victory 26-23. Pruitt finished with 91 yards rushing on 16 carries while Isom had 70-yards through the air.

Janca finished with 2 TD throws and two picks.

It was an emotional win even without it having an impact on the post-season and it was evident in talking with players after the game. “We never beat them before so this was almost personal” Syquan Ralands commented after the game. The junior DE had a monster game, recording a sack and forcing Janca out of the pocket on several passing attempts late in the 4th quarter. “This is a huge confidence boost for us going into next week”

Coach Donald Bass was extremely proud of his teams efforts “This is an amazing feet. It meant a lot to the players” he said. “We were down a bit but we kept fighting and came back. I’m proud of this group, this is huge”.

“We just didn’t play together, as a team and it showed” OP lineman and Connolly Cup hopeful Zach Prince said after the loss. Prince played just about the entire game and seemed to be in on just about every tackle. “I think we took this game too easy and underestimated Niagara Falls. They are a good team.”

Niagara Falls finishes the season 5-1 in Class-AA North league play, will host Hutch-Tech next Saturday at 2pm.

Orchard Park ends up 3-2 in Class-AA South and will host the Williamsville North Spartans Friday night at 7pm. OP coach Gene Tundo afterwards was very complimentary of the Falls team “The QB made some big plays that hurt us bad. Those guys deserved it, they wanted it more, senior day, so all those things came together.”

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