Fabrizio Has Big Night, Red Dragons Down T’Birds

Maple Grove’s Easton Tanner (4) returns the opening kickoff for a touchdown during Friday night’s Class D football game at Chautauqua Lake. The Red Dragons went on to win, 34-8. P-J photo by Scott Reagle

MAYVILLE — Maple Grove’s Nick Fabrizio was a Class D all-state selection last season based largely on what he did in the Red Dragons’ two most important games of the season.

Friday night, Maple Grove’s senior running back was back in all-state form.

Fabrizio ran 39 times for 252 yards and four touchdowns as the Red Dragons rebounded from a loss to Franklinville/Ellicottville with a convincing 34-8 win over Chautauqua Lake.

“Fabrizio needed a night to feel what he really is,” Maple Grove coach Curt Fischer said. “I thought he did a great job.”

Maple Grove’s defense, led by senior Zak Trim’s 18 tackles, held the Thunderbirds to 134 total yards and stopped them on all nine of their third-down attempts.

Maple Grove’s Nick Fabrizio stiff-arms a Chautauqua Lake defender during one of his 39 carries Friday night in Mayville. P-J photo by Scott Reagle

The Red Dragons held a 32:27-15:33 advantage in time of possession and put the game away early with 14 points in the opening two minutes.

“They’re tough. We need to get tougher,” Chautauqua Lake coach Rich Morton said. “We really need to put together a strong week of practice. We had a couple of great days at the end of the week, but we haven’t been able to put together a whole week of hard practices. The guys need to come ready to work and bounce back.”

Easton Tanner returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a score to give the state’s 14th-ranked team an 8-0 lead after Fabrizio’s 2-point conversion run.

“This was huge,” Fabrizio said. “To come out here with the momentum that we had from the opening kickoff was great.”

Fabrizio then intercepted a Devin Pope pass near the sideline on the opening play of the ensuing drive. On second-and-8 from the 19-yard line, Fabrizio ran around the end toward the Maple Grove sideline for a touchdown in the corner of the end zone to give the Red Dragons a 14-0 lead with 10:24 still showing on the first-quarter clock.

“I was studying a lot of film and I knew they loved the smash pattern,” Fabrizio said of the interception.

“Nick made a great play there,” Fischer added. “It’s scary when you are facing a kid like Pope. He is one of the best athletes in Western New York. It was just a great defensive play.”

Maple Grove was unable to build on its lead until the second quarter due to fumbles on consecutive drives, but Fabrizio’s 13-yard touchdown with 8:24 left in the second quarter made it 20-0.

“It’s all to the O-line,” Fabrizio said. “It’s all them.”

The Red Dragons took over again with 4:16 left in the second quarter and Fabrizio carried on six straight plays for 43 yards to produce a second-and-10 from the 22-yard line. After a Nash Nelson 7-yard run, Fabrizio went 14 yards to set up a first-and-goal from about 1 yard away. The senior running back capped that drive with his third touchdown of the night for a 26-0 lead.

“They did a great job tonight,” Fischer said of his offensive line. “They send the house. We kept preaching to the guys ‘We have to get blocks. If we get blocks he’s going to do great things.'”

Chautauqua Lake showed signs of life in the final 1:08 of the half as Bryce Rowe returned the kickoff to the 43-yard line. Pope hit J.C. McCroskey for a 5-yard gain on first down before finding Rowe open for a 38-yard catch down the Thunderbirds’ sideline with less than 30 seconds remaining in the second quarter. On second-and-10 from the 14-yard line, Pope hit Rowe over the middle for a 14-yard touchdown with under 16 seconds remaining in the half.

“We’re building here and it’s a process,” Morton said. “We’re going to have up weeks and we’re going to have down weeks.”

The Red Dragons put the game away on their second drive of the third quarter. Fabrizio ran the ball on 12 straight plays for 61 yards, capped by a punishing 9-yard run through the middle of the Chautauqua Lake defense, and then caught a 2-point conversion from Easton Tanner to make it 34-8.

“Coach Fischer was on us. We really worked hard this week,” Fabrizio said. “We are hoping to work as hard next week.”

Maple Grove will look to move into a tie with Clymer/Sherman/Panama for second place in the division when the teams meet next Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in Clymer.

“They’re playing great football,” Fischer said of the Wolfpack. “We are in a position where we’ve got to win out, that’s the bottom line.”

NOTES: Chautauqua Lake travels to Cattaraugus-Little Valley next Friday night. … Carson Crist had an interception and Taige Jones had a sack for the Red Dragons (3-1, 2-1). … Rowe had 5¢ tackles while McCroskey and Pope each had five. … Kyle Majka and Trey Sauerland each recovered a fumble for the Thunderbirds.

Maple Grove 14 12 0 8 — 34

Chautauqua Lake 0 8 0 0 — 8

MG–Tanner 97 kickoff return (Fabrizio run)

MG–Fabrizio 19 run (run failed)

MG–Fabrizio 13 run (run failed)

MG–Fabrizio 1 run (pass failed)

CL–Rowe 14 pass from Pope (Pope run)

MG–Fabrizio 9 run (Fabrizio pass from Tanner)