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Frontier’s first time back at Stadium doesn’t go as hoped

RUN AFTER CATCH — Ricky Fitzgerald tries to get loose after a pass catch in Frontier’s sectional final loss to Jamestown. Photo by David Marino.
Frontier’s first trip back to The Ralph since the 1984 season was an experience, but not exactly the one the football team had in mind.

Jamestown’s offense racked up single-game championship records for total yards and individual passing and receiving yards in winning the Class AA sectional title game 42 – 7 on Nov. 9 at the home of the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park.

The Red Raiders threw the ball down the field early and often, while Frontier turned the ball over three times in the first half, then twice failed to score while in the red zone, early in the third quarter.

“Obviously, it wasn’t what we hoped for, but regardless of what that team over there did, I’m just so proud of my guys to get here and play here,” said Frontier head coach Tim Myslinski, whose team won a playoff game for the first time since 1984 last year, before falling to Jamestown in the Class AA semifinals. “Every year, we’re getting better and better. This is a long-term thing. It’s not just something that happens overnight. This is another step.”

Jamestown can attest to that, having won the title for the first time since 2000, but enduring losses in the championship game the past two seasons, at the hands of Orchard Park.

“Frontier’s a great football team, but tonight, I’m so proud of our guys the way we battled and hung in there, and we’ve worked really hard for this,” said Jamestown coach Tom Langworthy, whose team improved to 10 – 0. “These kids have earned this and deserve to be called champions.”

After two defensive stops early in the third quarter with a 21 – 0 lead, Jamestown’s offense went back to work building on increasing its lead as senior quarterback Jake Sisson finished with a new record 402 yards on 13 of 29 passing and the team racked up a new mark of 607 yards.

It took Zack Panebianco only the first half, to set the game’s receiving record, as he finished with 181 yards on five catches and was on the receiving end of TD catches of 78 and 46 yards in the first half.

“I was just thinking, I don’t remember catching a ball in the second half. “[The receiving record] is pretty special. It’s no surprise for Jake; he’s been breaking records all season,” Panebianco said. “Our game plan was the same it’s been all season, we haven’t changed a thing – it’s just been working for us.”

Sisson also ran for three scores, a 31-yarder in the first half in which he showed off his speed and elusiveness and then 1 and 5 yarders in the second half, to push Jamestown’s lead to 35 – 0. Sophomore Zacc Kinsy added a 6-yard score to push the lead to 42.

Frontier ended Jamestown’s bid for a shutout with 5:12 left in the game, when senior quarterback Tyler Gaglia ran in a score from 10 yards out. He finished with 64 yards passing and another 64 rushing. Seniors Kenny Kahler and Cameron Coon added 98 and 89 yards on the ground, respectively.

“I brought them in after the game, and how could I beat down a group of guys who played hard?” Myslinski said. “That was a hard-hitting game. I’m pretty sure that’s the hardest [Jamestown’s] been hit, all year. I told them I’m proud of them getting to this facility and now you’ve got a taste of it.”

Myslinski said that, what bothered him more than the record-setting performance by Jamestown was his own team’s inability to take advantage of opportunities.

Jamestown’s quick-strike offense hit for a long touchdown 53 seconds into the game, but the Falcons then had three opportunities inside Red Raiders’ territory, before Jamestown scored again, with 8:59 left in the second quarter.

Frontier then fumbled the ball for the second and third times inside Jamestown territory, the second time on the Red Raiders’ 16, before another play put the Falcons in a 21 – 0 hole at halftime.

Adrian Cannon and Brandon Wilczewski both recorded first half interceptions for Frontier, while teammate A.J. Licata tackled the punter for a loss, after a high snap.

To start the third quarter, Frontier drove to the Jamestown 19 to no avail, and then after Wilczewski blocked a punt and the team recovered at the Jamestown 18, it could not move the ball and turned it over on downs. The Red Raiders responded with a scoring drive late in third which took the air out of the Falcons.

“I put that loss on us – I mean, we didn’t execute and we turned the ball over three times in the first half,” Myslinski said. “It could be 21 – 21 going into halftime and it’s a totally different ball game. As good as they are, we lost this game.”

Although Frontier was scorched with a number of long plays by a fast-moving, hurry-up Jamestown offense, 42 points was actually the least points the Red Raiders have scored on an opponent all season. They also scored 42 on Orchard Park in a 1-point win.

“We knew we had to play hard and when we had adversity, play through it and that’s what we did tonight and that’s why were champions,” Langworthy said. “We saw early on they were going to force us to complete a deep ball. They had a lot of guys in the box and we had a few things prepared for that situation.”

Possibly a sign of good things ahead, Myslinski said that, right after the game, Vinny Pupo came over to him and admitted that he may have missed a few offseason lifting sessions. The junior then said, “It won’t ever happen again.”

“It’s seared in the back of their heads,” Myslinski said. “It’s a great group of kids, and now, we’re just hoping to get back here next year.”

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