The nippy weather didn’t stop the North Tonawanda and Tonawanda faithful from coming out and watching the 104th TNT Classic between the Lumberjacks and the Warriors at George Vetter Stadium last Friday. The festive atmosphere was everything fans could hope for thanks to the crowd and Norm Palmer of WLVL broadcasting, who called the game from the Dick Grapes Press Box.
The Tonawanda Warriors would get the first score after Brandon Frye ran an interception of North Tonawanda’s Chris Woodard for a 90-yard touchdown. The interception would be Woodard’s only mistake of the game, however, as the junior quarterback finished with 135 yards passing and two touchdowns late in the fourth quarter to junior running back Nehemiah Stone and senior wide receiver Jake Ferry, known to some Lumberjack fans as the “Wes Welker of North Tonawanda.”
After a 32-yard field goal by David Eichorst, North Tonawanda cut Tonawanda’s lead to 7-3 to end the first quarter. Stone would start his terrific day on the ground with an 11-yard touchdown run. According to Woodard, that touchdown run was able to kick-start the Lumberjack offense.
“Once we got that first touchdown, for all of us, it was like ‘OK, we can do this. We just have to play our game,’ ” Woodard said.
Stone would add that it was “about time” that he scored his first offensive touchdown after having to go through three months of physical therapy after he partially tore a knee ligament a couple of weeks before the season began. The Warriors, however, struck back to take a 13-10 lead after Frye showed off his offensive ability when he caught a 24-yard touchdown pass from Tristan Boling, who would finish with 317 all-purpose yards on the night.
After a Jacks fumble on the goal line, Tonawanda would be stopped by the Jacks’ defense and had to punt. A botched snap forced Warriors’ punter Tim Barnard to field a low ball from his knee in the end zone, and was called for a safety. The Jacks would take advantage of that turnover as senior running back Christian Mahoe would score on a 16-yard touchdown run to give North Tonawanda an 18-13 lead at the half.
Stone knew that if North Tonawanda wanted to keep its winning streak over the Warriors alive, he would have to take over like he did in last year’s Classic when he scored the game-winning touchdown. And in the second half, Stone would become “Super Stone” as he scored on a 15-yard touchdown run to give the Jacks an 11-point lead.
“We always knew that he was a threat throughout the year, and he’s started to get on the healthy side of things,” head coach Tony Trulizio said after the game. “Stone was a big contributor to the team tonight.”
The Warriors wouldn’t go down without a fight. Boling scored on a 10-yard touchdown run, and completed the two-point conversion to his favorite target, Connor Pumm, to cut the lead to 24-21. Pumm finished the night with five catches for 73 yards and eight tackles.
The Jacks would score again as Mahoe would go into the end zone on a 13-yard touchdown run after dislocating his shoulder earlier in the quarter. The senior would finish with 151 yards on 13 carries and said his big night happened thanks to the offensive line. After Stone’s 45-yard touchdown catch, the Warriors weren’t able to get things going, and the ’Jacks would go on to win their 13th straight game over the Warriors, 45-21.
After the game, Stone and Frye were named the most valuable players.
Stone said the intense rehab was worth it since he was able to help his team add another victory to the record books.
Like in other years, this game didn’t disappoint, and there’s no question why it’s called a “Classic.”
The Warriors will play their first playoff game in nine years this weekend as the fourth seed in the Class C North bracket against Fredonia. The Jacks, who lead the TNT series with a 64-31-9 record, sadly did not make the Section VI playoffs for a second straight year but will be playing in a consolation game against Williamsville East at George Vetter Stadium tonight.
Joseph Kraus is a sophomore at North Tonawanda High School.