It certainly wasn’t the start Tom Langworthy was looking for Friday night, but, boy, the Jamestown Red Raiders put a nice finishing touch on their Class A1 opener.
Sophomore Takye Branch rushed for 111 yards on only nine carries and scored two touchdowns; senior Francisco Rodriguez added 95 yards and another TD; and Red Raiders’ defense pitched a shutout over the final three quarters to post a 28-14 victory over Hamburg at Strider Field.
The victory evened Jamestown’s record to 1-1 overall and, more importantly, 1-0 in the division heading into next Saturday’s game at Kenmore West.
For now, though, Langworthy is happy where his team stands after a rough first game against West Seneca East.
“Right now, we’re making improvements,” he said. “From Week One to Week Two we’re seeing a lot of improvements.”
He’s also seeing players — like Branch — grow up before his very eyes.
Getting his first extended look in the offensive backfield, the 5-foot-6, 145-pounder played a huge role in the second quarter when the Red Raiders — aided by the Bulldogs’ breakdowns on special teams — ran off 23 offensive plays to the visitors’ zero, transforming a 14-8 deficit into a 21-14 at the break.
“I thought he had the hot hand tonight, and was able to make some cuts and get north and south,” Langworthy said. “When you’re coaching, the players who are hot you just keep riding those guys.”
Branch scored his first TD on a 13-yard run to tie the game, 14-14, with 4:14 left in the second quarter and then when the ensuing kickoff bounced off a Hamburg player, Red Raiders’ kicker Jayden Schultz pounced on the loose ball to give Jamestown possession near midfield.
That drive went nowhere, but the Bulldogs muffed the punt, allowing the Red Raiders one more chance.
They didn’t disappoint.
Taking over at the Hamburg 23, Jamestown — aided by a fourth-down pass interference call — found the end zone when senior quarterback Drew Boggs connected with sophomore Elijah Rojas on a 1-yard scoring strike with 4.9 seconds left before intermission. Schultz kicked the first of his two successful point-after tries and Jamestown had its first lead of the game, 21-14.
There was no scoring in the third quarter, but Branch capped his fine evening with a 2-yard TD run with 9:17 left in the final quarter. That score was set up by his runs of 20 and 34 yards.
“I’m just super happy for him,” Langworthy said. “What people don’t see is he’s been working real hard (all winter and spring) and now he’s able to reap the benefits and help the team in the fall. I’m super pumped for him.”
Langworthy felt the same way about his defense, which yielded a touchdown on Hamburg’s first possession of the game, a 34-yard run by Nick Hafner. After that the Red Raiders buttoned things up and kept the Bulldogs’ offense out of the end zone. Hamburg’s only other score came on Hafner’s 95-yard kickoff return in the second quarter.
“They came out early with a couple of different adjustments that we hadn’t seen,” Langworthy said. “We had to adjust on the fly, and I think we did a great job with that. Then we won the line of scrimmage, especially in the second half.”
Leading the defensive effort was Grant Moore with eight tackles, including two sacks. Josh Zielinski (one sack) and Peyton Olson each had six tackles, and Cameron Pangborn added five stops.
The Jamestown victory was especially sweet because it came on the night that the Red Raiders’ honored the memory of the late Cheryl DiMaio, the “team mom” in the program for decades. She passed away in March at age 70.
“It was good to get a win for Cheryl,” Langworthy said.
Jamestown returns to action at 2 p.m. next Saturday at Kenmore West.
HAMBURG 14 0 0 0 — 14
JAMESTOWN 8 13 0 7 — 28
Ham–Hafner 34 run (Skelley run)
Jam–Rodriguez 13 run (Rodriguez run)
Ham–Hafner 95 kickoff return (pass fail)
Jam–Branch 13 run (kick fail)
Jam–Rojas 1 pass from Boggs (Schultz kick)
Jam–Branch 2 run (Schultz kick)