OP eliminates gridders from title contention
Orchard Park’s football team used two touchdowns in the second quarter of Friday’s Section VI Class AA Federation quarterfinal to separate itself from Clarence en route to ultimately knocking the Red Devils out of contention for a trip to Ralph Wilson Stadium, 36-20.
Coach Mark Layer was proud of his players’ refusal to give up through the final whistle, as evidenced by the Red Devils’ successful recovery of an onside kick that set up their final score of the game, a 3-yard run by Jake Minard. Minard’s score was set up by a 30-yard completion from Scott Pinto to Spencer Dimitroff.
Good fortune wasn’t on Clarence’s side after that score, however, as the Red Devils were unsuccessful in their attempt at recovering a second onside kick with under a minute to play in regulation — which allowed Orchard Park to take a knee and kill out the remaining time on the clock.
Park scored 36 points, I thought our kids played their hearts out defensively. We just had some turnovers and some special teams mistakes that put some extra pressure on our defense. It was just tough to get any offensive continuity going.” Those Clarence turnovers that Layer noted were costly were magnified in the second quarter, as the untimely miscues gave Orchard Park a field position advantage that led to a pair of touchdowns that broke open before halftime what had been a scoreless stalemate.
Orchard Park bumped its lead up to 23-0 through the third quarter behind a long run and a safety, but Clarence broke the Quakers’ shutout bid before the end of the frame when Lex Oakes connected with Emaure Williams on a 77-yard strike that pulled Clarence within two scores, 23-8.
Orchard Park responded with two more scores early in the fourth quarter to push its advantage to 36-8 before Jamie Burczynski returned the kickoff following the Quakers’ final score 85 yards to paydirt.
“It was nice to see kids like Jake, Spencer and Scott make big contributions to our success that night,” Layer said. “Jamie’s an excellent athlete too, so it was nice to see him break free for a kick return. Orchard Park just unfortunately did an outstanding job against us defensively for most of the night — and they used their run game and short passing game to open some things up for them on offense.”
Williams finished the game with 40 yards on 12 carries to account for more than half of Clarence’s rushing yardage on the night, while Stephen Marzano added 18 yards on five carries. Oakes and Pinto each completed one pass to account for all of the Red Devils’ 107 yards through the air.
Defensively, Mike D’Andrea paced Clarence with 10 tackles, while Williams and Josh Sweeney each added six. Dimitroff added five stops for the Red Devils (2-6 overall), who will play Lancaster at 8 p.m. Wednesday, at Tonawanda High School, for the Chuck Funke Memorial Classic Class AA championship.
The Red Devils and Redskins did not meet during the regular season, but Layer has no doubt that the longtime divisional rivals will both bring their best efforts to tonight’s season finale.
“We’re looking forward to the chance to go out on a high note,” Layer said. “We’ll get the kids ready to play as quickly as possible. Lancaster has good offensive balance, so we’ll work to do what we can to keep the ball out of their hands. We just need to pick things up ourselves offensively and try to move the ball with a little more consistency so that we can put some points on the board earlier.”