It was a game where neither team could find a rhythm. Penalties kept drives alive while incomplete passes stalled them.
On the first day of the season, it was McKinley that finished a few more plays on both sides of the ball. That gave the Macks a 14-12 win over Williamsville North in a Class A Central matchup at Charles Dingboom Field on Friday night.
“Our defense played really hard tonight,” McKinley coach Ed Wilson said. “They kept us in the game. Our offense struggled a little bit. We’re young. Most of our guys graduated but I think we’re going to be OK. Tonight was a little rough.”
In the second half with a two-point lead, the Macks seemed to try and get another score quickly with big plays that produced nothing. Then they went to the run, and a series of short gains set up a beautiful 25-yard pass play from quarterback Jamar Rutledge to Deante Thompson. While the conversion failed, the score put the Macks up, 14-6, with 5:30 left in the third quarter.
“We did feel that score was important,” Wilson said. “We just wanted to stay focused, committed and play hard.”
Williamsville North stayed in the game thanks to a big punt return by Kolbe Hughes, which placed the Spartans on the 15 yard-line. Four plays later, quarterback Ryan Majewski ran the ball in from the 1-yard line.
But for the second time on the night, the two-point conversion failed and McKinley kept a two-point lead, 14-12, with 5:46 to play.
The Spartans then pinned the Macks deep in their own end, but a scrambling pass from Rutledge to Thompson moved McKinley to their own 47, away from safety territory.
Hughes returned a McKinley punt for a touchdown, but it was called back on a holding penalty and put the Spartans on their own 27 with 2:30 left to play. But all their passes were incomplete and they turned the ball over on downs to McKinley, which ran the clock out.
“We shot ourselves in the foot tonight,” said Williamsville North coach Mike Mammoliti. “In the first half we had plays that we could have done differently and that held us back. We were our own worst enemy.”
The first half included a stretch where the Spartans held the ball for most of the first quarter and nearly took the early lead, but a rushing touchdown was called back on a holding call and some great pass breakups in the end zone by McKinley kept the game scoreless.
McKinley’s first drive of the game stalled early in the second quarter, but the Macks played their punt perfectly, downing the ball on the North 4.
On the next play, the Spartans fumbled and the Macks recovered in the end zone. Rutledge ran in the two-point conversion to give McKinley an 8-0 lead with 11:37 left in the half.
Majewski started hitting his targets regularly to help drive the Spartans deep into McKinley territory. Zac Kelly ran in from 7 yards out for a touchdown with 6:03 left in the half.
The two-point conversion pass failed and the Macks had an 8-6 lead.
McKinley plays next Friday against Riverside at Dingboom Field while North is at rival Williamsville South on Thursday.