Hamburg Advances in Class A Playoffs with A-Turf Under Toe

Hamburg avoided what would have been an early and disappointing end to the 2009 season by scoring three third quarter touchdowns to finish off feisty rival Lake Shore.

The second-seeded Bulldogs broke open what was only a one-point halftime lead en rout to a 36-14 win over the No. 7 Eagles in the quarterfinal round of the Class A playoffs.

Despite coming back from the halftime break a somewhat docile bunch, the Bulldogs quickly and relentlessly jumped on Lake Shore, scoring five plays into its first drive of the half, one play into the second drive and on the first play of the fourth drive.

It turned out, the team that finished such a strong regular season at 7-1 didn’t want its year to end just yet.

“At first, we were almost sleep walking and we shot ourselves in the foot with some mistakes and penalties,” Hamburg head coach Mike McFadden said. “In the second half, they decided they were going to step it up and they did so.”

Hamburg will host another playoff game on Friday, Oct. 30 starting at 7 p.m. as it welcomes in sixth-seeded Grand Island, which last weekend upset No. 3 Williamsville South. The Bulldogs easily handled Grand Island 27-3 in the second week of the season, but McFadden realizes this is a much improved team that stands in the way of Hamburg’s sectional final berth.

“We really have go to play our best game or we could be in trouble,” McFadden said of facing a team that has won five straight games after losing its first three. “They’re pretty balanced and can control the ball. We want to make them a one-dimensional team. That’s what we did successfully in the first game.”

Senior tailback Steve Hawkins led Hamburg’s second half furry in the quarterfinal, running for 115 of his 125 yards in the first two possessions of the third quarter. He ended Hamburg’s first possession of the third with a one-yard score after running for 43 yards earlier in the drive, and busted a 75-yard touchdown with 6:49 left in the quarter.

Nico Zarcone, who ran for both first half scores, hit fellow senior Gavin Collins on a 59-yard scoring play. Collins, who finished with five catches for 114 yards, took a right-side screen then used his speed to bounce the play back to an opening in the middle of the field. Zarcone finished with 177 yards through the air and another 105 on the ground.

After moving the ball effectively in the first half on one of Western New York’s top defenses, Lake Shore was held to five first downs over the final two quarters.

The Eagles did open the game’s scoring on their first drive as Matt Kennedy, who at times played tailback and at others shared quarterbacking duties with fellow upperclassman Tom Fritz, ran for an eight-yard score. Fritz then hit Kennedy on a pass for the successful two-point conversion. Kennedy finished with over 100 yards rushing.

Hamburg answered with Zarcone finishing off an eight-play drive with a 34-yard run to pay dirt then hitting Hawkins on a two-point pass play to even the score 8-8. Zarcone ran another one in from three yards out on Hamburg’s ensuing drive. The first of five successful extra points from Andrew Skelton gave the Bulldogs their first lead at 15-8.

Lake Shore got back to within one at 15-14 with 3:47 left in the second quarter when Kennedy hit speedy tailback Patrick Gilman on a 23-yard pass play for a touchdown. Hamburg helped the Eagles cause being called for 95 yards in penalties after being assessed over 100 yards in penalties last week.

Pat Eagan led the defensive charge for Hamburg with eight tackles and an interception from his linebacker spot. Senior defensive end Nate Dix finished with 10 tackles, while linebacker Nick Testman had six. Mike Davison, one of the few underclassmen on a senior-laden defense, recorded a quarterback sack, while Steve VanBuren recovered a fumble.

“We talk about the penalties all the time,” McFadden said. “Some of these are penalties of aggression, but we’ve got to be smarter, too. We’ve got to eliminate some of these holding calls and offsides.”

McFadden is hoping the semifinal home game will once again bring out the type of large crowd that was such a big part of the team’s wins in the first two contests of the season, including the one against Grand Island. The school drew over 2,000 people for its first two games at the renovated turf field with lights.

A win would put Hamburg at Ralph Wilson Stadium the next week to play for a sectional championship against Sweet Home or Iroquois, so this game, the final at home this season, would be ideal for Howe Field’s biggest crowd yet.

“A major part of everything that has happened this season has been helped by the great community support,” McFadden noted. ‘We really need them as loud as they were in the first game against Grand Island. The kids really feed off of it.”

In other local action, Frontier’s season ended with a 40-13 loss to North Tonawanda in a Class AA quarterfinal. Mark Schuster ended a school-record setting career by scoring both of Frontier’s touchdowns, rushing to pay dirt from 49 and two yards out.

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