PORTVILLE — The Salamanca Warriors never found an answer for Jayden Lassiter, and Portville’s backup quarterback never skipped a beat Friday night.
Lassiter scored five touchdowns in a matchup of Big 30 football squads entering the night at 2-1, leading Portville to a dominant 52-0 non-league win. Lassiter touched the ball 20 times for 228 yards: 18 carries for 202 rushing with four touchdowns and two catches for 26 and a touchdown.
The Homecoming win gives Portville its first 3-1 start since 2012 heading into a visit to rival Allegany-Limestone next week.
Junior Hunter Griffin made his first start at quarterback in place of Mike Stillman, who broke a shoulder bone last week in a win over Chautauqua Lake, coach Josh Brooks said.
“We got the news on Monday,” Brooks said of Stillman. “Hunter had an exceptional week. He’s been playing receiver all year, hasn’t gotten many reps at all at quarterback, got them all this week, really looked pretty good in practice. We felt pretty comfortable with him and we changed the gameplan a little bit to help him. He stepped up and he completed a few passes when he needed to, he read the defense well, he ran the ball well. We’re super-excited about his game tonight.”
Griffin completed 7-of-9 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown to Lassiter, and scored Portville’s first touchdown on a QB sneak. Dalton Tobola was his leading receiver with three catches for 57 yards.
Luke Smith added 50 rushing yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Portville also got a defensive touchdown from Blake George, who return an interception of Salamanca’s Lucas McKenna for 70 yards to the end zone.
Lassiter has broken 100 yards and scored three or more touchdowns in each of Portville’s victories so far this season.
“He continues to grind,” Brooks said. “The greatest part about Jayden is he’s never satisfied. I know right now he’s thinking, ‘I can’t wait for next week.’ He’s going to try to put up better numbers and run harder and play better defense, make more tackles. He is a team guy and he doesn’t get satisfied with himself, which is great to see out of a kid.”
The junior running back seems to have only improved after breaking out as a sophomore Big 30 All-Star last season.
“He took over our starting running back about the halfway point last year and he’s never looked back,” Brooks noted. “He got an opportunity, took advantage of it. And we talk all the time, he’s there in the morning lifting, we do offensive linemen schemes that they come into in the mornings and he’s there working his footwork. It’s not by accident he just shows up on Friday night and does well, he does put work in in the offseason and so do his teammates. If you had Jayden out here, he would tell you his offensive line is very good and they love each other, they work well together. Every team knows if you don’t have a good offensive line, it doesn’t matter how good the running back is. It makes it tough and the O-line makes it pretty easy for him.”
Salamanca (2-2) managed just 25 total yards in its biggest loss of the season under new coach Chad Bartoszek. After facing Portville twice last year while coaching Franklinville/Ellicottville, Bartoszek expected the Panthers to be strong this year.
“They were on the cusp last year. They only had a couple seniors,” Bartoszek said. “Their scheme with their speed is tough on defense. They bring pressure, they’ve got enough bigs in the middle to gum everything up and try to make us play on the edges, but they are tough, they’re fast, they’re disciplined. I give those guys a lot of credit.”
With Clymer/Sherman/Panama coming to Salamanca next week, Bartoszek hopes the Warriors put this game behind them quickly.
“We just talked about the snowball effect. That was a snowball,” he said. “That baby got bigger throughout the game and it’s hard to get beat up like that. I just told the kids at halftime to put this on me. 'You guys have got to keep fighting.' We’ve got to do better, top to bottom, and our kids will respond. I think if we weather some of those bad spells we can hang, we can hang and make plays. But this one just got out of hand. Portville’s a really good team and we just had a rough night.”
For the second-year coach Brooks, it feels good to be 3-1, regardless of the last time the Panthers were there.
“I think it's been a while. We're not looking back, that's not our focus,” Brooks said. “But we're very happy to be 3-1. We're very happy with tonight's win. Salamanca's got a heck of a head coach and it's not going to be long before Salamanca is right back to where they were when he played back in the day. Chad's a great guy, great coach and I wish them the best.”