ROCHESTER — The Cinderella Spartans are not done yet.
Williamsville North, which lost three games this season before pulling off an unlikely and near-unbelievable upset of Sweet Home in the Section VI championship last weekend, is not finished with its football season.
The Spartans scored yet another dramatic, eye-popping postseason victory Friday night as they beat Eastridge, 23-20, when senior quarterback Ryan Majewski hit junior Zac Kelly for an 18-yard, go-ahead touchdown with 43 seconds left to play.
“It’s unreal,” Majewski said. “The whole team just seems to pull together after something really bad happens, and we save each other in the end, and we come through. It’s awesome.”
An estimated 1,500 at Sahlen’s Stadium in downtown Rochester watched Will North lead the Section V (Rochester area) champions all night until the Lancers scored to take a 20-16 lead with 3:06 to play.
Williamsville North responded by driving 81 yards in 11 plays, a drive that included three third-and-7 conversion passes by Majewski (12-22, 142 yards). He hit senior Kolbe Hughes to the North 38, hit Kelly to the North 49 and later connected with junior Dean Thompson to the Eastridge 18.
On the next play, Majewski lofted a spiral to the wide right side of the end zone, where Kelly ran under the ball after beating his man.
“I knew that if I got to the wide side of the field and got a little separation he was going to put it there,” said Kelly, “and he did.”
“My first look was Kelly,” Majewski said. “I read the defense, he beat him, and he made the catch. I threw it to him, hoped it was a good ball and it was.”
Junior Chad Steinwachs, who had a 27-yard field goal to help North to a 16-7 halftime lead, hit the extra point for North’s 23-20 advantage.
Eastridge had a last chance, but that ended when junior John Becht intercepted a pass with 14.4 seconds left, enabling North to run out the clock and set off a raucous celebration among the hundreds in attendance in North green and gold, including the school’s “Green Squall” student section.
“Our theme has been ‘finish’ and that’s been the theme these last four games, and a different way each time,” said North coach Mike Mammoliti, whose seventh-seeded team’s playoff road included knocking off South Park, beating Grand Island in overtime, then beating Sweet Home. “Today it was a two-minute offense, and the kids executed it. It just shows the resolve of these kids.”
North senior Derick Isler ran for 231 yards on 27 carries, including a 9-yard first-quarter touchdown run.
“This is what we’ve been waiting for as a team, and a program,” said Isler. “Playing side-by-side with one another, each game could be our last together, so we’re not letting that chance slip.”
Williamsville North (8-3), which had never won a Section VI title until last week’s 21-12 win over six-time defending sectional champ Sweet Home, will return to Sahlen’s next Friday at 8 p.m. for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association semifinals and a chance to advance to the championship game (3 p.m. Nov. 29) at Syracuse’s Carrier Dome.
The Spartans will face Section IV (Binghamton area) champion Union-Endicott (8-3), which beat Section III (Syracuse area) champion Carthage, 43-7, in Friday night’s Central Regional at Vestal High.
Eastridge senior quarterback Jametrius Lewis ran 15 times for 159 yards, including a 73-yard highlight touchdown run in the second quarter. Ja’von Hampton’s 1-yard run brought Eastridge within 16-13 with 7:36 left in the third quarter. Lewis hit Ricky Hagins for a 19-yard touchdown with 3:06 left in the game to give the Lancers their 20-16 lead.