Thursday October 18, 2012 | By:Michael J. Petro | Sports
Pictured here, Brandon Wilczewski tries to elude Hamburg’s Joe Wittmeyer in Frontier's win over Hamburg. (Photos courtesy of Ron Larson)
Coming into this season, most of those around the Frontier football program knew that the future for the varsity was bright. But with so few seniors in this year’s class, the question remained would the Falcons be a year away from making some noise or could they get that jump started this season?
The answer has been a clear and resounding, ‘yes’ that the future is now. And although many underclassmen have helped make that happen, the seniors couldn’t be more proud of what this group with limited numbers has helped to accomplish.
The upperclassmen, along with many of their younger teammates walked off the field at Hamburg on Friday (Oct. 12) winners of a third straight rivalry game between the two teams and about to head to the playoffs for only a second time for the program since 1984.
“It’s amazing if you look at the statistics — we only have three seniors on the starting offense,” said one of them, captain and center Luke Bartone, who noted that two sophomores play on the left side of the offensive line.
“You have to congratulate all of the young guys that have stepped up for these seniors,” he added. “The seniors have been around for a while and the few guys that are on the team now I’ve played with my entire life. It’s a special thing to be with these guys and you can look at each other and say ‘we’re in this together — always have been and we will be (in the playoffs)...It’s something we did not expect at the beginning of the season. We've done things as a team that show us we can accomplish anything.”
While only a handful of them may be starters, many of the 17 seniors in this year’s class saw the field as the Falcons ran off 42 unanswered points to beat Hamburg 49-20. The Bulldogs, who dropped to 2-5 on the season, took a 20-14 lead into halftime, before Frontier came back for a fourth time this season in improving to 5-2.
“It’s a small class but these seniors love to play the game every single down and they get after it,” Frontier head coach Tim Myslinski said. “We talked about how those guys are the unsung heroes of this team, even the kids who don’t play. I said, ‘let’s just give them a chance,’ and it was awesome to see the smile on a couple of their faces.”
Another one of those seniors, starting quarterback Ben Koch led Frontier down the field in its two-minute offense for a score with 49 seconds left before halftime to begin to shift momentum in the Falcons’ favor. After Koch went 4 of 4 on that drive, Elijah Ricks ran for a nine-yard touchdown which pulled Frontier to within six points in the first half.
On the drive prior, Hamburg used a 29-yard run on a drive-saving fake punt to get down the field on a scoring drive, which was capped by senior Josh Bennett’s two-yard touchdown run.
Bennett enjoyed the game of his senior season, also capping an earlier drive with a one-yard touchdown and opening the game’s scoring with a 23-yard fumble return to paydirt on the opening play from scrimmage. He finished with 101 yards rushing and five tackles before being hampered by an ankle injury.
“Hamburg came out and was fantastic. Their running back had a heck of a game,” Myslinski said. “When they were doing a couple of things to us, we got nervous, but I think overall, (defensive) coach (Mark) Privateer made some good adjustments...we talked about what they were doing and knew what we saw, we just had to execute. We made some nice plays.”
Frontier’s Ben Koch (middle) and Ricky Fitzgerald close in on Hamburg quarterback Luke Kramer. (Photos courtesy of Ron Larson)
The first of those impressive second half plays was the ultimate of momentum shifter as junior Cameron Coon picked up a fumbled snap and ran it about 60 yards for a Frontier touchdown. The extra point was blocked by Bennett to keep the score tied at 20, but the damage was already done. The Falcons would score on their next four drives, two of which they benefited from a short field after Hamburg turnovers.
Leading that second half barrage was junior fullback Kevin Hamilton, who scored on a 32-yard touchdown to put the Falcons in the lead 26-20. A Koch two-point run put Frontier up 28-20. Hamilton, who’s starting in place of the injured Kenny Kahler, also scored on a six-yard run in the first half to cut Hamburg’s lead to 14-7. He added 12 tackles and an interception on defense.
Koch, who finished with 112 yards rushing, scored on seven and three-yard scoring runs, and sophomore Paul Brinkel added a 23-yard run to cap the scoring. Adrian Cannon made six of seven point after attempts. On defense, Nick King added nine tackles. Myslinski also praised Bartone for being an offensive leader and alerting the coach to what’s happening on that side of the ball.
“It’s nice to come out here. The lights and field are beautiful, the stage was set. In the fist half, we came out a little slow but in the second half, we showed that ‘Frontier Fire,’” Bartone said. “There’s no more doubt that we carry around with us anymore. We’re looking at next week and it’s as real as it gets. We haven’t won a playoff game since 1984. It’s time to change history.”
The ability for a team to continually show the fortitude to come back in games could be considered a gift — Frontier has done it in its last four wins. However, the last thing Myslinski wants is to fall behind in the playoffs. Frontier starts the Class AA postseason as a third seed from the South Division playing the North’s No. 2 Niagara Falls on Saturday, Oct. 20.
“It’s a nightmare in a way because we may be a second half team but once we’re in the playoffs, it’s going to be tough to come back,” Myslinski said. “We stress quick starts; it’s not like we don’t do that, but it seems like they have to get punched in the face to respond.”
Kahler was not ready to go for a third straight game with a sprain in his leg, but got some work during the practice week. Myslinski said Kahler’s injury is day by day. With the emergence of King as a fullback as well, Myslinski believes it’s a luxury to have three players that could play that position.
Also for Hamburg in the rivalry game, senior quarterback Luke Kramer ran for 111 yards on 19 carries. Wes Riley and Evan Smith added five tackles, while Sean Simano notched a sack and Kramer, an interception. The Bulldogs will play in the Chuck Funke Memorial Consolation Bowl at Williamsville North on Saturday, Oct. 20.