ORCHARD PARK - Pat Slater and Curt Fischer met at midfield following Friday night's Section 6 Class D championship game. Standing in the middle of the Buffalo Bills logo on the turf at Ralph Wilson Stadium, the longtime coaches of Randolph and Maple Grove, respectively, shook hands and embraced.
Another Randolph-Maple Grove clash was in the books and, like so many games before it, few could have predicted what transpired during its 48 minutes.
Randolph's defense stymied every Maple Grove drive - handing the undefeated Red Dragons their first shutout since 2004 - and the Cardinals got perhaps the play of the game from a player lying on his back.
Randolph’s Jordan Dowiasz runs for a first down during Friday night’s Section 6 Class D championship game at Ralph Wilson Stadium. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photos by Scott Reagle
Add in a healthy dose of big plays from running back Jordan Dowiasz and the final result was Randolph 21, Maple Grove 0.
''Everything just went the right way for us tonight,'' Dowiasz said. ''Maple Grove is a 9-0 team, ranked first in the state, and we just came out and put it to them.''
Dowiasz was particularly effective, carrying the ball 22 times for 214 yards, including touchdown runs of 37 and 55 yards.
But as good as the senior running back was, the play of the game went to teammate Nate Beaver on the game's first touchdown.
Facing a second-and-goal from the 6 late in the first quarter, Randolph quarterback Mitchell Maycock attempted a pass intended for Beaver in the back of the end zone. Maple Grove's Aaron Germain leaped in front of Beaver, got his hands on the ball and was about to pull it in for an interception. But Randolph's Nick Hettenbaugh knocked the ball loose and it popped up in the air and down into the arms of Beaver, who had fallen and was lying on his back in the back of the end zone.
''Wasn't that fun?'' said Slater, who won his 211th career game and his eighth sectional title. ''I said, 'You know what, we finally got a break our way. Maybe this is our night.' And apparently it is.''
Randolph's first sectional title since 2009 - when it went on to win the state title - vaults it into the Far West Regional to take on the Section 5 champion at 5 p.m. next Friday at Buffalo's All High Stadium.
The way the Cardinals (8-2) are playing defense of late, no one should want to face them.
Randolph has won seven straight games since a 27-14 loss to Maple Grove in Week Three of the regular season and since the second half of that game its defense has been nearly impenetrable. The seven touchdowns the Cardinals have allowed during their win streak have almost all come against second and third stringers late in their blowout victories.
Maple Grove averaged 31 points per game through its first nine games but the closest it got to the end zone against Randolph was a third-quarter drive that stalled at the Cardinals' 32.
''They're physical. They play great football,'' Fischer said. ''It was another dogfight for a little while. We knew it was going to come down to big plays and they made the big plays and we didn't.
''I just hope they win it all. I really do.''
The Red Dragons opened the game with a 21-yard run by standout running back Oliver Simpson. But Simpson was limited after that and held to just 56 yards on 12 carries after posting back-to-back 200-yard games to open the postseason. Maple Grove, as a team, had only 81 rushing yards on 19 carries.
''They run backs out of the backfield and kill teams,'' Randolph defensive coach Brent Brown said. ''These kids, they worked so hard all week long. (Simpson) is good and (Germain) is good, but the kids, they did a good job tonight.''
Randolph's defense made its presence known early when, after the teams traded punts to open the game, defensive back Lucas Brown forced a Germain fumble that was recovered by linebacker Cody Oldro.
The Cardinals took advantage with a 58-yard drive that was capped by Beaver's circus catch.
On its next possession, Randolph faced a fourth-and-three from the Maple Grove 37 when Maycock took the snap and ran right, drawing the defense before pitching the ball to Dowiasz, who raced down the right sideline untouched for a touchdown. Micah Kehoe tacked on one of his three extra points and the Cardinals took a 14-0 lead with 1:11 remaining in the first half.
The score stayed that way until the fourth quarter. With just under nine minutes remaining, the Red Dragons drove into Randolph territory still with a chance to win. But Brown all but ended those chances when he stepped in front of a Germain pass for an interception.
''Big play. Big play,'' Slater said. ''It's great when the kids get where they're supposed to be and do their job. It's fun to watch.''
Three plays after the interception, Dowiasz sealed the victory when he took a pitch from Maycock, broke through a couple tackle attempts and made his way to the end zone 55 yards away.
''Jordan ran hard tonight,'' Slater said. ''The line did a nice job, they made some holes for him and we got some good blocking on the outside so once we got him to the corner, he was tough.''
NOTES: Chris Doubek added 44 yards on 13 carries for Randolph, which had a 321-202 edge in total yards and a nearly two-to-one advantage in time of possession Germain completed 9 of 18 passes for 121 yards with Jeff Tampe making five catches for 43 yards and Dalton Bolles having two catches for 42 yards Maycock completed 3 of 5 passes for 27 yards.
Randolph 7 7 0 7 - 21
Maple Grove 0 0 0 0 - 0
Ran-Beaver 6 pass from Maycock. Kehoe kick
Ran-Dowiasz 37 run. Kehoe kick
Ran-Dowiasz 55 run. Kehoe kick