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Bulldogs ride Gomolka, emotion of rivalry to win against Frontier


BULLDOG CELEBRATION — Pictured from left, Joe Wittmeyer expresses his emotion and Jeremiah Bill hugs head coach Pat Cauley, after Hamburg upset Frontier 14 – 7, in a rivalry game. Photos by Michael Petro.

Already considered an underdog, Hamburg went into its annual rivalry game at Frontier starting its third-string quarterback.

But, as it turned out, Mitch Gomolka’s being back and healthy and an unrelenting defense, forcing three turnovers, was enough to compensate.

The Bulldogs pulled the 14 – 7 upset, stifling for much of the game one of the top large schools in Western New York. Class A’s Hamburg, which improved to 3 – 4, ended a three-season long losing skid to 5 – 2 Frontier and now leads the all-time series 30 – 27 – 2. Gomolka led the charge offensively, with 187 yards on 13 carries and a score on one of a pair of long touchdown runs, to account for Hamburg’s points. His score went for 61 yards, while fellow junior Mark Myles ran for a 55-yard touchdown, both in the first half, after Frontier got out in front 7 – 0 on a defensive touchdown.

The rest was taken care of by a Hamburg defensive unit that held Frontier’s offense scoreless and a junior quarterback in Tom Coyne, who stepped in and helped his team to the victory.

“We’ve been through so much — hey, that’s our third quarterback,” first-year Hamburg head coach Pat Cauley said. “But as I’ve said before, we’re still going to play some football.”

Some of that adversity started from the third day of practice, when Gomolka sustained an injury, while the team practiced without pads. He just recently returned, after missing the first several weeks of the season and Cauley he was happy to have back a guy he described simply as “a football player.”

“We just came out flat-out saying, ‘Let’s power run; run it right at them and see if they can stop us,’” Gomolka said. “It’s the best feeling in the world right now — coming out like we did, beating a cross-town rival. We had to come in here thinking we were going to win. If we didn’t, we weren’t going to pull this out.”

Hamburg went to a new wrinkle, using some direct snaps going to Gomolka and Myles to take some pressure off of Coyne. Senior tight end Griffin Ryan also played some in the backfield. The Bulldogs finished with 290 yards on ground; more of 200 of them came in the first half.

“We had to put some of that stuff in, but Thomas had some reps with our base offense and he’s a battler,” Cauley said. “We knew he’d give us a chance. He told the kids yesterday that he’d give it everything he had to win the game, and he did it.”

Frontier, which has lost two of its last three games after a 4 – 0 start, had the ball three times in Hamburg territory in the first half and once more in the third quarter, but could not execute a finish to those drives.

The Falcons scored less than 5 minutes into the game, when senior Eric Gottstine fell on a fumbled shotgun snap in the endzone. After Hamburg responded a minute later and then again with 4:50 left in the second quarter, Frontier had no answer of its own.

Falcons’ head coach Tim Myslinski said it reminded him of the team’s only other loss, in which Frontier fell behind early in dropping a 26 – 21 game at Ken-West.

“They were ready to go and we clearly were not,” Myslinski said. “I’m embarrassed of how our kids performed. They got punched in the face and did not react in a positive way. Hamburg played with passion and emotion. We pride ourselves on pride and punish. They did that to us. I’m happy for Hamburg, because they deserved to win it.”

Hamburg’s defense forced fumbles on back-to-back Frontier drives in the first half, and then Robby Miller intercepted a pass late in the third quarter, to end a Frontier drive that had gone 74 yards to the Bulldogs’ 17. Colton Preischel had one of the fumble recoveries, as he tore the ball from the running back’s hands.

“Coach [Charles] Barth did a great job getting the guys ready,” said Cauley, whose team’s defense has only allowed just over 13 points per game. “He does some things different than we’ve done in the past and it’s taken our kids a little while to get it, but we haven’t given up points all year. We’ve played four top 10 [WNY] teams and people haven’t scored on us.”

On that Frontier drive, the Falcons were facing a makeable third-and-one at the 17, when they were called for consecutive delay of game penalties, putting them in third- and fourth-and-long situations. Gaglia had a 53-yard run on the drive. Also for Frontier, Cam Coon reached the 100-yard mark rushing.

Myslinski said that the result left him concerned about his team’s chances in the playoffs. With a 5 – 1 mark in Class AA, the second-seeded Falcons earned the right to host a quarterfinal Friday 7 p.m. against No. 7 Lockport, as well as potentially a semifinal at their home field. Frontier won at Lockport, 23 – 0, earlier this season.

“I told the kids all week that this is a playoff game for our hometown; this game will determine how we play next week,” Myslinski said. “And if this is any indication of how we’re going to play, it may be a very short season.”
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