This edition of Warriors v. Warriors is a classic David vs. Goliath match up. And, much like David in the famous story, if Tonawanda hopes to win it will have to make that first shot count.
Joe Kelly collected his first win as Tonawanda’s head coach last Friday when his Warriors beat Newfane, 28-12. But Kelly and his troops know there is a world of difference between facing Newfane, which was 0-9 last season, and Cheektowaga-the two time Section VI Class B champs who made it to the state semis and went 11-1 last season.
Still though, with Kelly at the helm and opening with a win, Tonawanda is coming in an optimistic group.
The combination of some new faces and a new approach offensively has the Warriors believing that they just may be able to catch lightning in a bottle and hit Cheektowaga with something unexpected. But Tonawanda is also being somewhat shrewd as they divulged virtually nothing about their game plan.
“We have a few secrets that no one knows we have,” Tonawanda QB Zachary Sajdak said. “We’ve got a couple kids that, because of the concussion tests, are finally eligible now. So we’re just building off what we have and adding more kids to our squad.”
Tonawanda knows they must find a way to contain QB Eric Bartnik, who passed for 2,300 yards last season, and All-WNY first team Stephan Parker who had 1,001 yards receiving. Coach Kelly said he thinks that his boys’ learned enough from their scrimmage against Bishop-Timon to be able to handle the challenge of trying to stop Stephan Parker.
“I just want to try and contain Stephan Parker,” Kelly said.
“That’s their go-to. Everything else fails you throw it to the 6-foot-3 guy. Hopefully, hopefully we can tire him and wear him down.”
Already buying into Kelly’s message that they should believe in themselves and each other, gaining that first win has Tonawanda off on the right foot and ready for the challenge of Cheektowaga in Week Two.
“Yeah 100%,” Kelly said. “We definitely have something they haven’t seen and we definitely have players that they haven’t seen play yet. That’s a big a deal. Hopefully those guys come through. I have all the faith in the world that we can win.”
With an explosive offense and hard hitting defense Cheektowaga is once again the odds on favorite to win B West and return to the state tournament. After dispatching Dunkirk in Week One, Cheektowaga head coach Mike Fatta is focused on making sure his team doesn’t have a let down this week. But Fatta also expressed his thoughts on the departure of former Tonawanda head coach Rob Gross, whom he had great respect for.
“I don’t have a lot of film on them. They run an option so that’s something you’ve always got to work on (defending) an option,” Fatta said. “Coach Gross did a real good job there last year, he was always real sound. I don’t understand why he’s not there anymore. Coach Gross always did an awesome job. He didn’t always have the talent, but he knew what he was doing. He did a great job.”
WNYAthletics.com reporter Jack Kreuzer contributed to this story.