On a cold, rainy, miserable looking Friday night, the elements weighed heavily on the outcome of many playoff games, but one in particular was 7) Burgard/MST at 2) Cheektowaga. The Warriors defeated the Bulldogs for a fourth consecutive time, winning 22-0 in a Class B Quarterfinal matchup.
The playing field at Warrior Stadium at Cheektowaga Central is all natural grass, which doesn’t go well with what felt like never-ending rain. By the end of the contest, the announcer could barely tell what yard line the ball was on due to the field being so worn down. It is no question that the weather changed the Warriors game plan, as they are usually more of a passing team. “That’s the game of football, you’ve got to adapt. Coach Zipp did a great job of calling what worked in the weather,” said Cheektowaga Head Coach Mike Fatta.
The game was dominated by defense from both squads, even though Burgard/MST had both Dejaun McCullough and Dom Prince playing at the same time. Prince, in his first week back since leaving week 6 with a concussion, only touched the ball three times in the first two quarters. He had -5 yards on those 3 carries, and did not play in the second half at all. McCullough carried the Bulldogs to as much offense as he could muster, with 26 yards on 12 carries, but penalties made a huge difference in the outcome. It seemed as though every time McCullough would break free for a big gain there was a hold, personal foul, or other penalty called on the Bulldogs.
Just when fans started to get out of their seats and head to the snack shack for halftime, the Warriors put up a number other than 0 on the board. On a 3rd and long for the Bulldogs on their own 4-yard line, McCullough and the Bulldogs decided to punt the football. The Warriors’ Ryan Carpenter rushed him and blocked the punt, then found the end zone, having the pigskin fall right into the hands of Lamar Reeves, who was a JV call up this week starting for the Warriors weakened defense. Reeves took it four yards to the end zone with 11 seconds left in the half.
“I was just in the right place at the right time. Ryan blocked the punt and it was just right there, so I ran it in,” said Reeves on his first varsity TD. 6-0 Cheektowaga at halftime.
The Warriors came out strong with their defense, led by Willie Belton, who had eight tackles (six for a loss) and two sacks. Belton says, “I was just working hard, knowing that this could’ve been our last game for our seniors. I was just going on.” Jaquan Bush also had a great game on defense for Central, having five tackles, three for a loss. The next score of the game came nine minutes into the third, as Seven Turpin, who had 48 yards on nine carries, ran for a 21-yard TD run.
Cheektowaga Senior QB Eric Bartnik, who had to change up the way he plays due to the rain, managed 123 total yards, going 6/19 for 56 yards passing, 67 yards rushing on 11 attempts. He talked about the team’s performance after the game, “We weren’t able to pass the ball as much tonight, and we had to stick to the ground game. Our O-line and our running backs came through. They executed very well,”
The final scoring play of the game was the nail in the coffin, as Michael Gray III ran in a 1-yard attempt for the team’s third TD on the day. Gray ended with 79 yards on 19 attempts.
Cheektowaga had 204 yards rushing total, and 56 yards through the air. Burgard/MST had 109 yards of total offense, 102 passing, and 7 rushing. Tony Maple did all he could for the Bulldogs, getting 102 yards going 8/15.
Next week, Cheektowaga will host the Olean Huskies in a Class B Sectional Semi-final matchup.
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