SALAMANCA — The Salamanca football team hoped to build a speedy offense with a variety of dangerous weapons: it appeared to pay off Friday night.
Just take Salamanca’s first two touchdowns in Friday’s Section 6 Class C quarterfinal, both 80-yard bursts of speed from two of the Warriors’ playmakers. Quarterback Maddox Isaac ripped an 83-yard touchdown run after faking a handoff in the first quarter against Cleveland Hill at Veterans Memorial Park for a 7-0 lead. After Cleveland Hill drew within a point, 7-6, the Warriors immediately responded with an 81-yard kick return touchdown by Jason McGraw.
Salamanca scored six straight times, with five touchdowns and a safety, in the second and third quarters to run away with a 51-20 victory over the Golden Eagles, advancing to the sectional semifinals.
Seeded third as the Class C South champion, Salamanca (7-2) did it all without workhorse running back/linebacker Jesse Stahlman, sidelined after an injury in the regular season finale.
Isaac led the Warriors’ 291-yard rushing effort with a team-high 114 yards on six carries and went 2-for-5 passing for 67 yards, including a 52-yard touchdown to J.T. Auman. Auman handled lead tailback duties with 16 carries for 87 yards and a rushing score.
Backup quarterback Jaxson Ross had two touchdown runs and fullback Zaron Tucker had one TD.
“It was a little shaky coming in,” SHS coach Chad Bartoszek said. “I really haven’t game-planned very often without Jesse on our team. I said something to one of our coaches, ‘man, this is the first time ’ he started as a freshman, we haven’t had a game without him. So it was hard for me to change mentalities a little bit, but it was also fun to try to explore some new options and get some people in some different spots. We’re hopeful that he can get healthy and get back, but right now our guys have just got to step up and they did tonight.”
MUCH LIKE their Week 2 trip to play Cleveland Hill, the Warriors needed at least a quarter to adjust and start to pull away.
“It’s just a testament to Coach (Glen) Graham, Cleve Hill, both times we played them, we’ve struggled through the first quarter and a half,” Bartoszek said. “They come ready, and on our end we gave them a couple short fields, which we hate, it’s just not our style. Short fields are tough to stop anybody. So we’ve got enough weapon-wise, speed-wise, talent-wise to make plays and we made it on all phases today; special teams were huge, our defense was flying and then of course we hit a couple big plays offensively. But football in the playoffs, it’s not going to be smooth sailing.”
Cleveland Hill coach Glen Graham credited their Warriors for their execution and offensive diversity.
“Today there was a little bit more diversity in what they were doing offensively,” Graham said, compared to a 34-8 Salamanca win in Week 2. “I think part of that is because they’re missing 47 (Stahlman), so they had to do some different things. They run what they run very well. It’s very familiar and those kids run it to an outstanding degree and when they’re executing the way they executed tonight, they’re hard to beat.”
FOR No. 6 Cleveland Hill (5-4), Larry Burgin ran 20 times for 151 yards, the biggest chunk of which came on a 52-yard fourth-quarter touchdown run. Isaiah Williams made three catches for 76 yards.
Tayoni Galante made a team-high seven tackles (2.5 for loss), while Jaxon Tarr (3.5 TFL) and Quinton Jones (1.5 TFL) had five tackles and one sack each. Tucker made four tackles, 1.5 for loss.
“We just allowed too many big plays: big returns, long runs. It’s hard to win a game, especially on the road like that,” Graham said. “That was a little disappointing on our part but we didn’t give up and we kept playing through the fourth quarter and we’re a very young team in a lot of aspects, so that was good to see. But they’ve got a heck of a team this year.”
Salamanca will play the winner of Saturday’s No. 7 Southwestern at No. 2 Lackawanna game. If Lackawanna wins, the Warriors would take a trip there next weekend; if Southwestern, wins the Warriors will get another home game. Either way, the Warriors can avenge a notable loss: Lackawanna beat Salamanca last year in the quarterfinals, while Southwestern handed Salamanca its only league loss this season.
“We’ve got a little bit of redemption either way,” Bartoszek said. “It’s one game away from a sectional championship. Boy, it’s fun to be a part of and I’m really proud of our coaching staff. I’m hoping this is still just a step.”
CH 0 6 0 14 — 20
Salamanca 7 24 14 6 — 51
Salamanca — Maddox Isaac 83 run (4 plays, 93 yards); Arlen Newark kick, 7-0
Cleveland Hill — Amarion Spivey 12 pass from Zach Phillips (4 plays, 17 yards after fumble recovery); pass failed, 7-6
Salamanca — Jason McGraw 81 kickoff return; 14-6 Salamanca — safety, blocked punt; 16-6
Salamanca — J.T. Auman 52 pass from Isaac (1 play, 52 yards); Jaxson Ross run, 24-6
Salamanca — Ross 2 run (5 plays, 29 yards after fumble recovery); Newark kick, 31-6
Salamanca — Ross 8 run (8 plays, 50 yards); Newark kick, 38-6
Salamanca — Zaron Tucker 27 run (3 plays, 52 yards); Newark kick, 45-6
Cleveland Hill — London Thomas 30 pass from Phillips (8 plays, 62 yards); pass failed, 45-12
Cleveland Hill — Larry Burgin 52 run (1 play, 52 yards); Burgin run, 45-20
Salamanca — Auman 1 run (9 plays, 68 yards); kick failed, 51-20
First Downs 14 16
Rushes-Yards 37-177 37-291
Passing Yards 136 67
Comp-Att-Int 6-11-1 2-5-0
Total Offense 313 358
Fumbles-Lost 3-2 1-1
Penalties-Yards 6-30 3-15
Punts-Avg 3-10.3 2-31.3
Total Plays 48 42