It was by no means pretty, but a win is a win, as the Niagara Falls Wolverines defeated the Lockport Lions, 26-20, Saturday afternoon.
The game was riddled by turnovers as both teams struggled keeping the ball in their own possession. Despite that, the Wolverines’ defense was able to control the Lions’ offensive attack, and NF junior quarterback Justin Goldsmith added three passing touchdowns to help get the victory.
At the start, the game looked like it would be all Lockport. Senior quarterback Nick Cascia threw six completions on the opening drive, the last being a short touchdown throw to Imario Douglas for six. The two-point conversion was unsuccessful, making it 6-0 Lions.
The Falls offense’s first possession was less than spectacular, as the team lost a chunk of yards on a third down fumble. On fourth down a shanked punt gave the Lions terrific field position in Wolverines territory. Despite starting in stellar field position, the Lions were unable to get anything rolling on offense and turned it over on downs.
The Falls followed up with a turnover on downs, but quickly got the ball back after Kishaun Miller caught an interception. Once again, though, the Wolverines offense couldn’t muster any ground.
After punting, the Wolverines got the ball back once again following a Lockport fumble on the first play of the possession.
The fumble was actually historic, as on the reception, Cascia broke the Lockport school record for completions.
On the ensuing NF offensive possession, the team had two touchdowns negated due to penalties. The third time was the charm, though as Goldsmith found Isaiah Reed for a touchdown in the end zone, tying the game at six.
After the Wolverines defense held the Lions, NF started at their own 3-yard-line. They weren’t backed up for long though as Goldsmith threw a pass to Zion Paige, who took it 75 yards into Lions territory. On fourth down and goal, Goldsmith then found Ja’Shawn Prather for 13 yards in the end zone for another Wolverines TD, making it 12-6. The Wolverines took the lead into halftime.
Following a Falls turnover on downs, the Lions embarked on a long drive, which ended in a fumble. The Lockport offense was back on the field quickly, though, as the Wolverines fumble on their first play deep in their own territory. Three plays later, Julius Williams ran it in from two yards out of the wildcat formation. The score by the junior made it 12-12.
After a good return to the Wolverines 47 and one rushing play, Goldsmith found Paige again for 39 yards. Then, Goldsmith found Christian Burns for seven yards down to the two-yard line. As it seemed the Wolverines were going to take the lead, a Goldsmith pass was intercepted.
As Lockport stepped back on the field, Cascia dropped back on a second down play and was intercepted by El-shaddai Ashley of the Wolverines.
After causing a three and out, Lockport dodged a bullet deep in their own territory. A punt was muffed at the four-yard line and with three Wolverines surrounding, the Lions still managed to regain possession.
The Lions followed with a turnover on downs, and NF made them pay. Faybion Prather began the drive with a big run, then Kalem Chappell finished the drive with a 10-yard run and then capped with a one-yard dive into the end zone. After a successful two-point conversion, the Falls led 20-12.
The Lions pulled out some trickery on their next possession with a wide receiver pass. The play resulted in a 57-yard gain by Williams. Cascia later finished the drive with a three-yard score, then followed it with a successful two-point conversion run, making it 20-20.
The Wolverines answered back, though.
On a second and 11 play, Goldsmith threw a deep ball for Faybion Prather. The pass didn’t have enough on it, was tipped by a Lockport defender, but fell right into the hands of Prather, who then dodged another defender and took it to the house for six. The two-point conversion was no good, but the Wolverines led 26-20, a lead that would stand the rest of the game.
After another turnover on downs, the Wolverines looked as if they had the game wrapped up, but a fumble on their very first play gave Lockport a chance. Once again, though, the Wolverines defense was able to stymy the Lions offense and the team eventually turned the ball over on downs again. As the Wolverines got the ball back with little time remaining, Faybion Prather put the game on ice with a big run for a first down on third and long.
For Niagara Falls coach Don Bass, the win is an exciting one, as the victories were hard to come by in 2018.
“Since we only had one last year, it feels great,” Bass said. “We kept fighting. We made tons of mistakes, but we were able to overcome them and I’m very proud of them.”
Goldsmith added, “It feels good – really good.”
Meanwhile, Faybion Prather remarked, “It feels great. You know the team was fighting, coming back. Some turnovers were tough, but we stuck together and was just one. We never went selfish, it wasn’t just one person. So, basically, we all stuck together and won.”
Aside from the offense, Bass said it was a good showing from the defense being able to keep Lockport in check after turnovers.
“One of the things we worked on in the offseason is unity. Just binding together and (supporting) the next man up,” Bass said. “And they really support each other all year, and I’ve been really proud of the fact that they didn’t blame anybody. They just stayed together and said, ‘Don’t worry, we got you.’ That’s what the defense is for.”
Faybion Prather added to his coach’s comments and said, “The defense was our team basically, and we needed them. If we didn’t get a touchdown, we knew our defense would save us on the other side. So, basically, shout out to our defense.”
The play of the game was the Goldsmith to Prather touchdown pass, which was tipped then corralled by the wide receiver.
“The first thing that went in my mind was that both receivers ran the wrong route,” Bass said with a laugh. “But then when it was tipped and caught I was like ‘Thank you, Lord.'”
Goldsmith added, “I was just hoping he didn’t pick it. I didn’t put enough on it. I felt like if I put too much on it I was going to overthrow.”
On the receiving end, Faybion Prather added, “I was just like ‘I have to get this one.’ The time was too close and I said, ‘I need to go get this.’ He tipped it up for the interception, but when he tipped it, I ended up pulling it down and throwing a dude off of me and scoring. But it was a great throw from Justin.”
The Lockport Lions’ next contest is at 2 p.m. Saturday, September 14th, while the Wolverines host Lancaster in their home opener at the same time.
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