Nelson Has A Night

No. 2 Maple Grove Pulls Away From No. 7 Randolph/Frewsburg

Maple Grove’s Taige Jones (33) tackles Randolph/Frewsburg’s Rocco Oliverio (4) during Friday’s Section VI Class D quarterfinal on Dutch Hollow Road. P-J photo by Scott Reagle

Nash Nelson lived just outside the spotlight for most of the season as Maple Grove went 6-1 en route to the No. 2 seed in the Section VI Class D playoffs.

Friday night, the senior running back was one of the biggest reasons the Red Dragons will be playing next weekend.

Nelson scored on 25-yard catch and run midway through the third quarter and added a 63-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter as Maple Grove pulled away from No. 7 Randolph/Frewsburg for a 40-21 quarterfinal victory.

“Nash is a power back. He’s just a scary runner,” Maple Grove coach Curt Fischer said. “When he has to make a play, he always makes a play for us.”

The win sends the Red Dragons into next Friday’s semifinal back on Dutch Hollow Road against the winner of today’s 1:30 p.m. game in Clymer between No. 3 Clymer/Sherman/Panama and No. 6 Cattaraugus-Little Valley.

Maple Grove’s Nash Nelson (39) attempts to get away from Randolph/Frewsburg’s Tyler Hind (3) during Friday’s Section VI Class D quarterfinal on Dutch Hollow Road. P-J photo by Scott Reagle

“They are going to be a tough game, there’s no doubt about it,” Fischer said. “That’s going to be a heck of a game.”

The Cardinals fell behind 14-0 early, but hung around after scoring late in the first half to make a game of it. On second-and-6 from the Red Dragons’ 37-yard line midway through the third quarter, Randolph/Frewsburg fumbled the ball away and Maple Grove took over at the 39-yard line.

“It took us a while to get going. We weren’t playing bad in the first half,” Randolph/Frewsburg coach Brent Brown said. ” … We had a couple of turnovers that just absolutely killed us. You just can’t do that when you are playing against a team like that. When you start moving the football, you can’t put it on the ground, especially when you get down in there.”

A pair of Nick Fabrizio runs coupled with an Easton Tanner 12-yard run set the Red Dragons up at the Cardinals’ 37-yard line, but the hosts eventually faced a second-and-32 from the 45-yard line after a pair of penalties and a negative run. Aided by a 15-yard personal foul on Randolph/Frewsburg, Maple Grove faced fourth-and-12 from the 25-yard line. Tanner dropped back to pass and found Nelson on the right side of the offense, at least 5 yards shy of the first-down line. Nelson cut back all the way across the field, making nearly every player on the Cardinals defense miss a tackle, and eventually plunged into the left corner of the end zone for a 20-7 lead.

“That was huge,” Brown said. “We had a stupid 15-yard penalty to get them in there.”

Tanner’s 38-yard run on the first play of Maple Grove’s next drive gave the Red Dragons the ball at the 4-yard line, and Fabrizio’s second touchdown of the night essentially put the game away at 26-7 with 1:23 left in the third quarter.

“It’s just getting that seam,” Fischer said about his team’s long runs. “Against this team, they have so many people in the box, if you can get 3, 4 yards past the line of scrimmage, you’ve got to feel like you have a shot.”

On Maple Grove’s next drive, Nelson went 63 yards through the middle of the Randolph/Frewsburg defense for his second score of the night and he made it 34-7 with 9:39 remaining after he added the 2-point conversion.

“He’s going to become a bigger factor,” Fischer said. “It’s exciting to see him do what he did tonight.”

After a pair of penalties to open the Red Dragons’ next drive, Carson Crist ran for a 58-yard touchdown to give the hosts a 40-7 lead with 7:19 left.

Fabrizio scored on a scintillating 61-yard touchdown run with 5:43 left in the opener quarter as he took a sweep to the left side of the Maple Grove offense, spun off a defender about 30 yards down field and fumbled into the end zone. A 23-yard touchdown run from Tanner on the Red Dragons’ next drive made it 14-0.

Randolph/Frewsburg, which merged less than two weeks before its season opener late this summer, stayed in the game with a 13-play, 59-yard touchdown drive that was capped by a Jake Brown-to-Tyler Marchincin 21-yard touchdown pass with 1:31 left in the first half.

“It was tough. We were trying to figure out which kids should be playing, plus you are trying to merge both systems,” Brown said of the merger. “It was tougher than I thought it would be for sure. A lot of people say when you merge it takes a year or two, and now I know why. I think we got better every week, but we just needed more time.”

NOTES: Trent Gray threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Dakota Donaldson and a 2-yard touchdown pass to Marchincin late in the fourth quarter for Randolph/Frewsburg. … Zak Trim was in on 15 tackles, Taige Jones and Nelson were each in on 12, and Fabrizio was in on 10 for Maple Grove. … Fabrizio ran for 113 yards, Tanner ran for 82 and Nelson ran for 70 for the Red Dragons. … Nick Becker started for Randolph/Frewsburg, just six days after being charged with second-degree menacing in the town of Ellicott. “He had to go in front of the athletic council and had a court date. His story is that it was a big mistake. It sounds like everything might get dropped,” Brown said.

Randolph/Frewsburg 0 7 0 14 — 21

Maple Grove 14 0 12 14 — 40

MG–Fabrizio 61 run (Fischer kick)

MG–Tanner 23 run (Fischer kick)

R/F–Marchincin 21 pass from Brown (Donaldson kick)

MG–Nelson 25 pass from Tanner (kick failed)

MG–Fabrizio 4 run (run failed)

MG–Nelson 63 run (Nelson run)

MG–Crist 58 run (kick failed)

R/F–Donaldson 3 pass from Gray (Donaldson kick)

R/F–Marchincin 2 pass from Gray (Donaldson kick)