The date of Oct. 5 has stood out for quite a while on Western New York High School football calendar. That is the date the Jamestown Red Raiders were scheduled to play host to the defending state champion Orchard Park Quakers in a Class AA South game.
The last time the teams met was in the Class AA championship game at Ralph Wilson Stadium and Orchard Park won, 30-10. During the regular season, the teams played at Orchard Park and the Quakers also won that game, 34-14.
Now the date has arrived and with the implications expected. The winner of tonight's 7 p.m. game at Strider Field will be the division champion.
Jamestown senior Conner Anderson and the rest of the Red Raiders will take on defending state champion Orchard Park at 7 tonight at Strider Field. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Jim Riggs
''This has obviously been circled on the calendar for a long time,'' Jamestown coach Tom Langworthy said. ''What an opportunity to play for first place in our league, that's what we're doing Friday night. If you asked me in the summertime, when we're working at training camp, what are you looking for in Week Six playing against Orchard Park, I'd say we're playing for first place.''
And that's what is happening, despite Jamestown suffering its first loss of the season last week at Frontier. The loss gives the Red Raiders a 4-1 record overall and 2-1 in Class AA South and dropped them from fifth to eighth among large schools in WNY. Orchard Park is still undefeated at 5-0 and 4-0. If Jamestown wins tonight, both teams would have one loss in the division. Orchard finishes its season with a non-league game against Niagara Falls while the Red Raiders play a Class AA South game at Clarence. If they win there, Jamestown would be tied with Orchard Park with 4-1 records and the Red Raiders would be the Class AA South champion because of defeating the Quakers.
So the loss at Frontier wasn't that costly in the standings, but Langworthy pointed out, ''The loss means something in regards to our kids are competitive and our coaches are competitive and you hate to lose. Anytime you lose and it doesn't hurt, something's wrong. And it really hurt.''
He added, ''What I'm proud of is a minute after we shook hands with Frontier, our kids were talking about motivation and using it to our advantage. That's something I'm proud of our kids for.''
While Jamestown was involved in a wild 35-28 loss to Frontier, Orchard Park had its hands full with Lancaster before pulling out a 34-24 victory.
It was mainly Ben Holmes who pulled it out as the senior quarterback passed for 272 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for 102 yards and two more touchdowns.
''He will be the best player we've played against this year,'' Langworthy said. ''He's extremely dynamic. He throws well, he runs well, he makes plays and he's tough to tackle.''
Jamestown counters with its own a throwing-and-running quarterback, Jake Sisson. He has passed for 644 yards and rushed for 165.
''I would say Jake is more of a power runner, Holmes is more elusive and quick,'' Langworthy said. ''But they have similar skills.''
Last week, Da'Quan Hollingsworth had his busiest game on the ground for the Jamestown as he carried 32 times for142 yards and three touchdowns.
The Quakers' top rusher is Mitchell Wilson and No. 2 is Holmes.
That might sound familiar because Hollingsworth leads Jamestown in rushing while next is Sisson.
And Jamestown playing Orchard Park with a lot on the line is also familiar.
''I'm proud that we're to the point where people can say Jamestown and Orchard Park is the premier game in Western New York,'' Langworthy said.
A quite a few of those past games were nail-biters and Langworthy expects the same tonight.
''We've been on two dogfights this year,'' he said. ''One we won by seven and one we lost by seven. I expect this to be a dogfight, too.''