FRANKLINVILLE — Before Friday night’s Section 6, Class D football matchup against Franklinville/Ellicottville, Portville coach Josh Brooks found an email in his inbox that he turned into bulletin board material for the Panthers.

The contents of the email from the section, Brooks said, assumed a PCS loss that would drop the Panthers to the fourth seed for the upcoming postseason.

“No one gave us a chance going into this game, “ Brooks said. “We just use that as motivation.”

It almost worked. The Panthers controlled the clock and the game for three quarters before the Titans roared back from a 12-8 deficit for a 22-12 victory that set the stage for the sectional playoffs in Class D.

No. 3 F/E (6-2) plays at No. 2 Clymer/Sherman/Panama (7-2) on Nov. 6 while No. 4 Portville (4-4) visits top-seeded Randolph (8-0) on Nov. 5. All four teams were given a bye week after Cattaraugus-Little Valley and Silver Creek opted out of participating in the postseason.

The winning points for the Titans came on a 50-yard run from Gian Nuzzo on a third-and-16 reverse 12 seconds into the fourth quarter. Nuzzo also converted a third-and-25 with a 36-yard catch earlier in the drive.

“It was just something we saw on film,” F/E coach Jason Marsh said of the trick play. “We saw they over-pursued a little and we thought they would over-pursue to our sweep and we came back and reversed it. Coming into the week we thought it was something that might work.”

Brooks thought one of his defenders was held on the edge.

“They hadn’t shown that reverse,” he said. “They had to go into the bag of tricks to get us. That’s something we can live with.”

Things got worse for Portville on the first play of the ensuing drive. An errant shotgun snap was recovered by F/E’s Ethan Frank at the PCS 32 and the Titans scored seven plays later on a Beau Bielecki 2-yard run. Hunter Smith hauled in a Lucas Marsh pass on the conversion for a 10-point lead with 8:56 remaining.

Portville twice had the ball inside the F/E 30-yard line after that, but both drives stalled and ended on downs.

“A couple mistakes cost us in the end,” Brooks said.

Marsh said the comeback effort was indicative of the Titans’ resiliency throughout the season.

“When they’re down, they find a way to fight back,” he said. “That’s what a good team has to do.”

“We had that big group of seniors last year that was a great group. I really thought people were counting us out,” Marsh added. “These kids have fought hard every week. They have a different identity and are a different group of kids. They work hard. I’m really proud of the way our team has molded into what it is now.”

The Panthers scored first on a 10-yard run from Kaedon Holcomb in the first quarter. F/E countered on the next drive with a 37-yard Blake Frank reception from Marsh early in the second. Bielecki’s conversion run put the Titans ahead 8-6.

Portville regained the lead late in the third quarter after a Zander Keim interception set the Panthers up at the F/E 21. Holcomb scored again from 15 yards out.

PCS held a 7-minute advantage in time of possession and ran 17 more plays than F/E, but it couldn’t stop the Titans’ big plays.

Marsh threw for 201 yards on 10 completions. Blake Frank had three catches for 85 yards. Ethan Frank led the defense with 8.5 tackles and a sack.

“They’ve got a lot of athletes from two schools,” Brooks said of the Titans. “That’s hard to stop.”

Holcomb had 51 yards on 15 carries and Luke Petryszak added 65 yards on 20 rushes for Portville. Petryszak went 5-for-10 through the air for 74 yards and an interception.

The Panthers will try to avenge a 51-8 loss against Randolph on Oct. 1.

“They’re very good,” Brooks said of the Cardinals. “They’re undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the state for a reason. We’ve gotten better. They’ll see that on film. We’re going to go there in two weeks and give them everything we have. We’re not going to opt out.”

F/E, meanwhile, fell to CSP 16-12 at home on Oct. 8.

“They’re a good football team,” Marsh said of CSP. “They’re always fundamentally sound. They don’t make mistakes. We’re going to have to go in and play our best football to try to get a win at their place.”

Portville 6 0 6 0 — 12

F/E 0 8 0 14 — 22

First Quarter

Portville - Kaedon Holcomb 10 run; run failed, 6-0

Second Quarter

Franklinville/Ellicottville - Blake Frank 37 pass from Lucas Marsh; Beau Bielecki run, 6-8

Third Quarter

Portville - Holcomb 15 run; pass failed, 12-8

Fourth Quarter

Franklinville/Ellicottville - Gian Nuzzo 50 run; pass failed, 12-14

Franklinville/Ellicottville - Bielecki 1 run; Hunter Smith pass from Marsh, 12-22

Team Statistics

Portville F/E

First Downs 13 10

Rushes-Yards 46-153 22-41

Passing Yards 117 201

Comp-Att.-Int. 6-14-1 10-21-1

Total Offense 270 242

Fumbles-Lost 1-1 0-1

Penalties-Yards 7-55 8-80

Punts-Avg. 1-40.0 3-47.7

Total Plays 60 43


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