The regular season matchup may have been won by Jamestown, but on Saturday night the Red Raiders – and all of Western New York – were reminded exactly where the Section VI championships are located: Orchard Park.
The defending Class AA state champion Quakers dominated much of the second half as they beat Jamestown, 35-20, in this year’s title game.
A crowd of about 2,500 at Ralph Wilson Stadium watched senior Mitch Wilson run for 276 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries and saw senior quarterback Ben Holmes throw two touchdowns to senior Austin Goltz.
“For the second week in a row, we came out and played great in the second half,” said 19-year Orchard Park coach Gene Tundo, referencing the Quakers’ semifinal win at Lockport. “Our defense held tough all game long. Our special teams did a very good job. And our offensive line played awesome.”
It is the 13th title for Orchard Park, and it’s Tundo’s 11th in 14 trips to The Ralph.
Orchard Park (9-1) advances to next week’s Far West Regionals, where the Quakers will take on Section V superpower Aquinas (7-3) for the right to go to the state semifinals. The private school from Rochester won the Section V (Rochester area) championship Saturday evening with a 15-14 victory over Pittsford.
Orchard Park ran for 476 yards on 76 attempts, with senior Jett Modkins running seven times for 104 yards and Holmes going for 87 on 10 rushes.
Orchard Park beat Jamestown, 30-10, on its way to its state title last year, but Jamestown beat the visiting Quakers, 35-28, in the teams’ Class AA South meeting in Week Six.
That game put Jamestown (No. 3) ahead of Orchard Park (No. 4) in The News large school poll. The Red Raiders (8-2) were intent on reclaiming their past glory by trying to win their first title since 2000, but Orchard Park took ownership of the game in the second half.
“When I went out [injured in the regular-season Jamestown game], I told everyone we’re going to get them back at The Ralph, and we did, and it feels awesome,” said Holmes.
After a tightly-contested 7-7 first half, Jamestown struck on the first play from scrimmage when junior quarterback Jake Sisson hit sophomore Zach Panebianco for a 65-yard touchdown and a 14-7 Red Raiders lead just 30 seconds into the third quarter.
Orchard Park responded on its next drive, as a long Modkins run led to a 13-yard score for Wilson. That was the first of three straight scores for the Quakers as they took a 28-14 lead.
Holmes found favorite target Goltz on the left side of the end zone – with the receiver making a great adjustment on the ball by cutting behind his defender – for a 11-yard touchdown and a 20-14 lead with 5:43 left in the third quarter. The pair also had hooked up for a 28-yard score in the second quarter.
On Orchard Park’s first drive of the fourth quarter, Wilson took a handoff at his own 20, jumped through a hole and outran the defense for an 80-yard score and a 28-14 lead.
“It was a trap, which means its right up the middle,” said Wilson. “As soon as I got the ball, no one was on me and I thought, ‘Oh man, I’ve got to kick it into hyperspeed here.’ I’m just glad no one caught me from behind. It was pretty fun.
“I’m nothing without the line. … Everyone did amazing today on offense and defense.”
Jamestown got some sudden life when a Wilson fumble was turned into a 33-yard fumble return for a touchdown that cut the lead to 28-20 with 5:43 to play.
However, OP’s line continued to make holes and its running backs continued to churn yards. Modkins broke off a 29-yard score with 1:42 left to give OP its 15-point lead.
“After that loss to Jamestown earlier in this year, we had a reason to win this game: We wanted to prove that we were the best team in Western New York, and I think we did that,” said Wilson. “Me and Ben [Holmes] talked about it. We said, ‘we’re going to go out, we’re going to score [in the second half],’ and after that we just kind of steamrolled them.”