ELLICOTTVILLE — It looked, felt, and sounded like a football playoff game. It very well could be a playoff matchup weeks from now.
Franklinville/Ellicottville edged out Portville Central School 16-8 in overtime on Friday night in an old-school rock-em sock-em Section 6, Class D contest that featured twists and turns that left both coaches complimenting their players for sticking with it when the opportunity for victory looked bleak.
Gian Nuzzo finally put the Titans (3-1, 2-1) on top with a 2-yard touchdown run in OT, and then the F/E defense forced four incompletions to ice the victory and hand Portville (3-1, 2-1) its first loss.
For now, has the upper-hand in the chase for second place behind seemingly unconquerable Randolph in Class D belongs to the Titans. Though the postseason is far off, that’s noteworthy.
“No one wants to be in the four seed. Both teams are thinking this going in,” F/E coach Jason Marsh said of avoiding the Cardinals in the first round. “This was a big game for both teams.”
“I think we all know that there are some top teams in this league,” Portville coach Josh Brooks added. “We have an idea where people are going to finish, but we have another tough one next week.”
Both teams had a chance to win the game in regulation. After driving to the Portville 20 with less than four minutes remaining, Nuzzo’s pass was tipped and intercepted by Zander Keim, who returned it 61 yards to the F/E.
The Panthers couldn’t cash in. Facing a fourth-and-1 with 37 seconds remaining, they attempted a 27-yard field goal that was blocked.
“We came through in the end,” Marsh said. “When our backs were against the wall in overtime, we put together a great series there. That’s a testament to our kids. They didn’t quit. When we gave up that interception near the end of regulation, it would have been pretty easy for our kids to hang their heads. Instead, they fought back. They kept them out of the endzone, forced a field goal, and blocked a field goal.”
The Titans scored the game’s first touchdown in the second quarter on a fourth-and-10 pass from Nuzzo to Noah Schenk. Braylon Wyatt added the 2-point run.
Marsh sent a different play into the huddle that Nuzzo and Schenk changed at the line of scrimmage.
“We have that flexibility in our offense,” Marsh said. “They checked up and audibled to that on their own, and they made it work … thankfully.”
Schenk leaped over a defender and brought in a fade pass with one hand in the front corner of the end zone.
“I have to give credit to Noah Schenk,” Brooks said. “He made a heck of a touchdown catch on fourth-and-10. If he doesn’t make that catch, it’s 0-0 and probably a whole different game. That was a great high school catch.”
The Titans had a chance to extend their lead before halftime when they drove inside the Portville 10 after recovering a fumble. Ben Isaman saved the Panthers with an interception.
That gave Luke Petryszak a window to drive PCS to the tying score in the fourth quarter. The junior quarterback overcame two lost fumbles and a botched quick-kick punt by scoring on a 6-yard sweep with 8:34 remaining.
Petryszak added the 2-pointer on a scramble run, but it was costly. He injured his leg on the play and didn’t return.
Petryszak produced 47 of his team-high 51 rushing yards on the scoring march. The Portville offense wasn’t the same without him.
“I think that injury forced their hand a little bit,” Marsh said.
Instead of having the luxury of utilizing Petryszak’s legs in overtime, PCS called four straight passing plays for backup Drew Langdon, who did throw a TD pass in Portville’s victory last week.
“We’re banged up,” Brooks said. “They were giving us a look where we thought we could get a pass in there. Almost had it.”
Neither team could muster much offensively. F/E finished with 176 yards and Portville with 134.
Nuzzo completed 6 of 12 passes for 74 yards while Hunter Smith led the Titans on the ground with 52 yards on 11 carries. Beau Bielecki added 4 receptions for 45 yards.
Petryszak was 5-10 for 35 yards. Aidan Defazio produced a big 21-yard catch on Portville’s touchdown drive.
“I think we all anticipated a low-scoring game, and whatever team made the biggest play would probably come out on top,” Brooks said. “That was them tonight.”
Proud of his team, Brooks added: “Things weren’t going well for us. A lot of high school teams, especially at this level, would give up. Our kids kept fighting. That says a lot about the character of our kids.”
Portville 0 0 0 8 0 — 8
F/E 0 8 0 0 8 — 16
Franklinville/Ellicottville — Noah Shenk 15 pass from Gian Nuzzo (65 yards, 12 plays); Braylon Wyatt run, 8-0
Portville — Luke Petryszak 6 run (68 yards, 12 plays); Petryszak run, 8-8
Franklinville/Ellicottville — Nuzzo 2 run (20 yards, 4 plays); Jacob Dahlke run, 16-8