It was rainy, windy, wet and nasty outside at New Era Field on Thursday. For the Cleveland Hill football team, it was a beautiful day.
Aaron Wahler ran for 330 yards and three touchdowns and the Eagles claimed the Class C Section VI championship for a third straight season with a 32-28 win over rival Southwestern.
“I love this type of weather,” said Wahler, Cleveland Hill’s all-time leading rusher. “At our home games, we have an opening soundtrack and they said, ‘I love it when it’s 75 and sunny.’ That’s not football weather. This is football weather, baby.”
Joe Nichols’ “Sunny And 75” sure didn’t apply on Thursday and that was advantage Cleveland Hill. While the Eagles were able to do their traditional ground-and-pound rushing, pass-happy Southwestern – and record-setting quarterback Cole Snyder – had to deal with the elements.
“I absolutely wanted to see it be like this,” Cleveland Hill coach Glen Graham said. “It’s harder on a rainy and windy day for a passing team than it is for a running team. We knew that would be an advantage and it worked out for us.”
As a team, Cleveland Hill ran the ball 50 times for 498 yards but found itself down 28-26 entering the fourth quarter. But the Eagles pounded out the winning drive, capped by a 3-yard TD run by Jovan Thomas with 5:06 to play.
“When they took the lead, we knew we’d have to come back harder,” said Thomas, who finished with 154 yards on 22 carries. “We had to execute. We spent all year working hard just for that moment. It came out just the way we practiced.”
Cleveland Hill (9-1) will play in the Far West Regionals at 8 p.m. Friday at Clarence High School against the winner of Saturday’s Section V championship game between Letchworth/Warsaw and Attica. That game will be played at 5 p.m. at St. John Fisher College.
“We just want to keep this going as long as we can,” Wahler said. “All the way to the Dome, baby.”
Southwestern opened the scoring with 4:45 left in the first quarter on Snyder’s 22-yard fourth-down touchdown run. The Trojans extended the lead to 13-0 on Snyder’s 61-yard touchdown toss to Alex Card.
Wahler responded with a 60-yard TD run and then Thomas raced it in from 53 yards away and Wahler gave the eagles the lead with a two-point conversion run.
On Cleveland Hill’s first offensive snap of the third quarter, Wahler took off down the right sideline for a 91-yard TD. On his second carry of the half, he went 53 yards for another score.
“I trusted my line,” said Wahler, who carried the ball 24 times. “My line did what they do best. The holes were open and I just did what I had to do.”
Southwestern (9-1) regained the lead again at 32-28 on a three-yard TD run by Zishan Munir with 1:25 left in the third quarter.
Snyder completed 14 of 22 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns – and broke the single-season record for TD passes in a season with 37. The Rutgers-commit also ran for 57 yards.
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