Nov 07, 2009 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Absolutely no one was going to keep the Westhill football team from the Section III Class B championship this time – even a neighbor hungry for its first-ever title.
Leading from start to finish, the Warriors polished off Marcellus 37-22 Saturday night in the Carrier Dome, beating the Mustangs for the 11th straight time.
More importantly, Westhill atoned for three frustrating years of getting to the sectional finals and meeting defeat.
“It’s very special,” Westhill head coach Gary Griffo said. “These players wanted it extremely badly, and made a lot of sacrifices to get to this point.”
For veteran players like Tyler Nigolian, who went through most of those near-misses (losses to Cazenovia in 2006 and ’07, and Oneida in 2008), that feeling was extra-special.
“It means everything,” Nigolian said. “To get there (to the finals) and lose so many times, and to finally win it is a powerful feeling.”
The milestone for Marcellus was just getting this far for the first time in the program’s history. And while the Mustangs adjusted to this bigger stage, Westhill bolted out to a 16-0 lead, and never got caught.
“We came out a little hesitant and nervous,” Mustang quarterack Will Fiacchi said. “After that, we were okay, but it (the deficit) was just too much to overcome.”
According to Marcellus head coach Joe Goss, the fact that his team played in the Carrier Dome earlier this season (beating Chittenango in the Kickoff Classic Sept. 4) should have made things easier for this final, but did not.
“We thought that it was going to be an advantage,” Goss said. “But they (Westhill) had gone here before and lost, and were a little bit more motivated.”
Marcellus, who lost at Westhill 13-10 on Sept. 18, did have the first chance to score on its opening possession of the game, but saw Brendan Carey’s 44-yard field-goal attempt went wide right.
Westhill took over on offense, and its game plan began to unfold. Seeing that the Mustangs were bent on taking the threat of Dan Ross away, they gave the ball, often, to running back Tyler Nigolian and his younger brother, Nathan, at wide receiver.
On an 80-yard opening march, quarterback Jeff Law converted a third-down-and-23 with a 23-yard pass to Nathan Nigolian. Law himself would finish the drive with a four-yard run, and Nigolian’s two-point completion made it 8-0.
When Derek Belvito fumbled near midfield late in the first quarter and Kevin Wilson pounced on it, Westhill took full advantage. Law broke loose again, this time on a 46-yard run, to set up Tyler Nigolian’s eight-yard TD run and a two-point pass to Ross.
Trailing 16-0, Marcellus nearly fell out of it, only to make a key fourth-down stop deep in its own territory early in the second quarter.
Fiacchi then led a 75-yard drive, the key play a 23-yard pass to Chaz Hayes (who made a one-handed cach) on fourth-and-11. Fiacchi sneaked the final yard for the TD, then found Hayes for two points to cut the deficit to 16-8, where it stayed until halftime.
This close margin, said Tyler Nigolian, didn’t worry the Warriors too much.
“We kept saying it’s 0-0,” he said. “Then we came out and blasted them.”
It was Nathan Nigolian making the game’s biggest play early in the fourth quarter. As part of a 91-yard march, Nigolian made a one-handed catch of Law’s deep pass, going 42 yards, and he later caught Law’s five-yard scoring pass to make it 23-8.
Though rather quiet on the offensive side, Ross did a terrific job covering Marcellus’ top receiver, Dan Rudy, throughout the night, and waited until late in the third quarter to provide a decisive blow.
Lined up a quarterback at the Mustangs’ 26 with Law briefly sidelined, Ross took the snap, scrambled around, then threw a perfect spiral to Nathan Nigolian, who found the end zone to build the margin to 30-8.
Marcellus fought all the way to the end, getting fourth-quarter TD passes from Fiacchi to Rudy and Belvito. In between, though, Tyler Nigolian accounted for all the yards on a 51-yard drive, including the last nine yards for Westhill’s final TD with 3:40 left.
All told, Tyler Nigolian had 183 yards on 25 carries, while Law added 82 yards on just six carries to go with his 10-for-19 passing for 102 yards.
The Warriors advance to face Section IV champion Johnson City in next Saturday’s Class B regional final at Union-Endicott High School near Binghamton. Johnson City beat Maine-Endwell 17-14 in overtime for its sectional crown. Game time is 6 p.m. The winner gets Cheektowaga or Hornell in the Nov. 21 state semifinals at Marina Auto Stadium in Rochester.
Marcellus, meanwhile, finishes a 6-3 season and sees Fiacchi, the school’s all-time passing leader, depart. Rudy, Carey, Belvito, Zach Amidon, Steve Brissette, Jason Howard, John Howard, John Drapikowski and Niko Wagner all depart. Hayes, Ricky Alfreds, Jason Decker, Tyler Tomeny, Dave Breuer, Joe Felicia and Zach Wiley the key returning players in 2010.