No. 1 beat No. 2. Again.
The Alden Bulldogs, ranked first in The News small school poll, made the big plays in a rainy second half to give them a 28-21 victory over No. 2 Depew on Friday night in the Section VI Class B semifinals.
An estimated 3,000 at Bulldog Field watched two-time defending champion Alden advance to its fourth straight championship game after its sixth straight win over Depew. The last four wins have come with the Bulldogs ranked first and the Wildcats second in the small school poll.
“Seems like every time we play these guys it’s a tough, physical game and this was no different,” said junior quarterback Brian Stoldt, who threw for one touchdown and ran for another. “The saying this week was that we were going to be ‘as one,’ as a team. In the end, we just knew we were going to stick together.”
Alden (9-0) will play Springville (5-4) for the Class B title at 4 p.m. next Saturday at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
“It’s a fantastic feeling,” said senior running back Corey Barczykowski, who ran 27 times for 170 yards and two touchdowns. “Our team played great today. Our defense played a little shaky, but our offense picked it up when we needed to and we got the job done.
“We’re rolling. We’ve been rolling for four years. It’s just a great feeling.”
Holding a 21-14 halftime lead, Alden made crucial plays on both sides of the ball as each team went on long drives in the second half. Depew had an impressive drive to open the half, but Alden would stop the Wildcats on fourth and 1 at the Alden 13. A run by senior fullback Brandon Atlas was stuffed by senior lineman Jason Bunk and the Alden defense to allow the Bulldogs to take over with 3:28 left in the third.
“That stop in the third was a great play by our defense,” said coach Dick Diminuco. “It’s Bulldog football, they find a way to get it done.”
Alden took over and converted a fourth down of its own – thanks to a Barczykowski run on fourth and 1 from the Alden 39 – during a long drive that would span the third and fourth quarters and end with a touchdown. Stoldt (8-12, 73 yards) ran in from 1 yard out for a 28-14 lead with 7:48 to play.
Depew responded by cutting it to 28-21 with 5:53 left, when, on fourth and 2, junior quarterback Anthony Buono hit senior Brian Rybak for a 32-yard score.
Alden punted and Depew took over at its 28 with 3:45 to play, but after allowing one first down the Bulldog defense forced an incompletion on fourth and 11 at the Depew 43. The Wildcats got the ball back in the final minute at their 8, but senior Alex Darrow intercepted a pass with 25 seconds left.
Depew finishes 7-2. Last year the Wildcats went 8-2. All four of those losses over the last two seasons have come to Alden.
In Week Five of this season, Alden won at home, 34-13, as Barczykowski ran for 252 yards and three scores on 29 carries. Alden won two close, hard-hitting games last year from its B East rival, 14-13 at Depew and 12-0 in the B final at The Ralph.
In an evenly played first half, Alden took a 21-14 lead thanks to a touchdown in the final minute. After Depew tied the score at 14-14, Alden took over with 2:51 left in the half and drove from its 35, with Barczykowski plowing in from 2 yards out with 21.4 seconds left in the half.
Both teams scored on their opening drive, both traded punts, then both traded scores before Alden’s last-minute go-ahead touchdown.
“When we marched down the field it was huge and gave us the momentum going into half,” Stoldt said. “[The Ralph] is the goal for any Western New York football player. It feels great to be there again.”