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High School Football: Frontier ends playoff victory drought, previewing semifinal at Jamestown

Paul Brinkel runs away from the Niagara Falls defense during Frontier’s 21-7 Class A quarterfinal victory which ended a 28-year drought without a playoff win. (Photo courtesy of Anne Licata)

Nearly three decades of a playoff win drought for Frontier football was emphatically brought to a close Saturday (Oct. 20) afternoon, as the Falcons earned a well-deserved cross-over victory at Niagara Falls to open the Section VI Class AA postseason.

Frontier’s hard-hitting 21-7 win in the Class AA quarterfinals against Niagara Falls was the first postseason victory for the Falcons since winning a sectional title in 1984.

The third-seeded Falcons of “AA” South built an early lead against the North’s No. 2 seed and then held on in the second half, much to the delight of the large contingency of Frontier fans who made the trip north to Nicoletti Field. The game was originally slated to be played at Sal Maglie Stadium, but waterlogged conditions at that site forced the contest to be moved to nearby Nicoletti Field, where a cold wind and rain did not prevent a fast start for the Falcons.

Frontier head coach Tim Myslinski, whose team will travel to face Jamestown in the Class AA semifinals Friday (Oct. 26) at 7 p.m., said the Falcons were motivated to end the program’s long drought. After coming back in four of five regular season wins, Frontier flipped the script with its quick start to Saturday’s game.

“All week we said, ‘Let’s make history,’” Myslinski noted afterwrad as Frontier players celebrated with their family members and fans. “This is really satisfying. All my coaches put in hard work all week leading up to the game…We usually are more of a second half team, but today it was the opposite. We had a great first half. Defensively, we played fantastic.”

Playing mostly a smash-mouth style, Frontier controlled the tempo on offense, rushing for nearly 200 yards as a team, including a game-high 88 yards from junior running back Ken Kahler and 78 yards from senior quarterback Ben Koch. Defensively, Nick King led an aggressive charge up front with two sacks, delivering several jarring hits on Niagara Falls’ ball carriers and pressuring Wolverine quarterback Rickey Bailey.

Alex Licata, Brandon Wilczeski and Ryan Harvey also recorded sacks for the Falcons, who held the Wolverines’ option-style attack to less than 150 yards of offense. Wilczeski also contributed an interception at the end of the first half, picking off a deep heave from Bailey.

Frontier jumped out to a 21-0 lead by halftime, scoring on its first two possessions of the first quarter. The Wolverines’ only TD came midway through the third quarter, when Marcus Johnson recovered the ball in the end zone following a high snap on that sailed over the punter’s head.

However, with Niagara Falls driving later in the third while trying to further cut into Frontier’s lead, King helped squash the rally by sacking Bailey on 4th-and-goal deep in Falcons’ territory. Frontier recorded an interception with 1:25 remaining in the contest to essentially ice the game, and the celebration began on the sideline and in the stands for the visitors.

Koch directed an efficient offensive game plan, capping the game’s opening drive with a 1-yard keeper to the end zone that put Frontier up 7-0. Kahler carried six times on the 62-yard march, as Falcons’ linemen opened big holes in the trenches.

After a Wolverines punt set up Frontier at midfield, it took the Falcons seven plays to reach pay dirt again, as Cam Coon recorded a 6-yard TD run. The Falcons stretched their lead to 21-0 late in the first half, driving 57 yards in less than a minute, as a pass to Kahler, followed by an unneccesary roughness penalty on the Falls, set up an 8-yard TD pass from Koch to Rickey Fitzgerald in the back of the end zone.

Koch completed 6 of 13 passes for 88 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. Fitzgerald recorded three catches for 35 yards.

Bailey led the Wolverines with 63 rushing yards but was just 4 of 17 passing for 48 yards, throwing two interceptions. The Falcons also held Falls running back Shaolin McCray to just 19 yards on nine carries, controlling the line of scrimmage on the muddy field. Frontier kicker Adrian Cannon converted all three of his point-after tries.

Frontier defeated Jamestown 35-28 during the regular season at home, but Myslinski noted that Friday’s rematch will be a difficult challenge on the road for his team.

“That’s a great team,” Myslinski said of the Red Raiders, who opened the postseason last Friday with a 60-22 win against Hutch-Tech in the quarterfinals and are 7-1 overall. “We beat them during the (regular) season but that doesn’t mean (much) in the postseason.”

The Falcons (6-2 overall) had last appeared in the sectional playoffs in 2010, losing to Class AA North’s Kenmore West in the quarterfinals. That was the first time a Frontier team had reached the playoffs since 1984. This year’s team has taken another step forward for the program.

Frontier at Jamestown

Friday, October 26, kickoff 7 p.m. at Strider Field

Breaking down the Class AA semifinal

Record: 6-2, 204 PF 166 PA
Coach: Tim Myslinski (3rd year)
How they got to this point:
Finished third in Class AA South, winning five of six games to finish the regular season strong after losing a lopsided game to West Seneca West in its season opener. Came from behind in four of six wins this year. Defeated Niagara Falls, the second-place finisher in Class AA North, 21-7, in the quarterfinal division cross-over round.
Results vs. common opponents:
° Clarence W 27-24
° Lancaster W 22-16
° Orchard Park L 27-10
° Niagara Falls W 21-7
° West Seneca West L 28-12
Key players: QB Ben Koch leads team with over 400 yards rushing and 600 yards passing; FB Kenny Kahler has run for 400-plus yards in only five games; TB/DB Cam Coon has scored 5 TDs and been a key pass defender, WR Ricky Fitzgerald leads the team with 267 receiving yards; LB Nick King has recorded 13 tackles per game, FB/DB Kevin Hamilton has 3 INTs; Luke Bartone is the senior leader on young O-line.
How the first game played out:
Hamilton stepped in at fullback for the injured Kahler and ran for 74 yards and 2 TDs, including the game-winner with 54 seconds left. Frontier had trailed three times in the game. Koch had his best passing game of the season, finishing 14 of 19 for 219 yards and 3 TDs. Fitzgerald had 139 yards on eight catches with a score.
Last Section VI title: 1984

Record: 7-1, 283 PF 151 PA
Coach: Tom Langworthy (5th year)
How they got to this point:
Won the Class AA South Division title, getting a big boost from defeating defending sectional champion Orchard Park in a first-place game in Week Six, after its only loss of the season at the hands of host Frontier the week prior. Defeated Hutch Tech, the fourth-place finisher in Class AA North, 60-22, in the quarterfinal division cross-over round.
Results vs. common opponents:
° Clarence W 27-21
° Lancaster W 29-22
° Orchard Park W 35-28
° Niagara Falls W 35-7
° West Seneca West W 42-8
Key players: RB Da’Quan Hollingsworth has run for over 1,000 yards and scored 18 TDs, including five in playoff win; QB Jake Sisson has 15 TD passes and set a single-game, school-record with 327 yards; WR/DB Zach Panebianco leads the team with over 500 yards receiving and 8 TDs, along with 4 INTs; Cortland Haines is one of the team’s top tacklers and widely-considered a top WNY lineman.
How the first game played out: 
Hollingsworth had staked Jamestown to three separate leads with an explosive rushing night that included going for more than 200 yards and three scores. He broke free for TD runs of 71, 69 and 25 yards. Jamstown led 7-0, 14-7 and 21-14, before tying the game at 28 apiece on a Sisson 31-yard TD pass to Panebianco in the fourth quarter
Last Section VI title: 2000

How to get to Strider Field:
195 Martin Road Jamestown, NY 14701
Take I 90 to the Dunkirk/Fredonia Exit (Exit 59). Turn left onto Route 60 and follow into Jamestown. Follow Route 60 through the city and turn left onto Martin Road. You will see a Pizza Hut and a Mobil gas station on the left. Martin Road runs between the Pizza Hut and the Mobil station. Proceed up Martin Road until you see the school and the field on the left.


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