BUFFALO - The Randolph Cardinals stood single file for the traditional postgame handshake at All High Stadium on Friday night and, one by one, they slowly made their way through the line, sharing a few pleasantries and an occasionial brief embrace with the players from Avon.
Bringing up the rear was Jordan Dowiasz.
The Cardinals were merely saving the best for last.
Above, behind the blocking of Michael Bowers and Cody Oldro (76), Randolph running back Jordan Dowiasz finds running room during Friday’s Class D Far West Regional football game against Avon. Below, Chris Doubek is dragged down by Avon’s John Ambroselli. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photos by Scott Kindberg
The senior running back rushed for 252 yards on 27 carries and scored three touchdowns, including two during a decisive second quarter, to propel No. 4 Randolph to a convincing, 34-14, victory over the second-ranked Section 5 champions in the Class D Far West Regional.
Junior quarterback Mitchell Maycock and senior running back Alex Miinte both added TD runs, sending the Cardinals (9-2) into the New York State Public High School Athletic Association football semifinals for the third time in school history.
The previous two trips - 2005 and 2009 - they eventually came home with a state title.
''History means nothing,'' Randolph coach Pat Slater maintained afterward, ''but that's the good thing about high school football. Every year it's a new team, every team has its own identity and they have to come up with their own characters.''
The lead role this postseason for the red and white is Dowiasz, who has turned it into a personal highlight reel.
He opened the playoffs by scoring a pair of touchdowns against Cattaraugus-Little Valley.
He followed that with a 169-yard effort and four TDs against Silver Creek.
And then in the Section 6 championship game, he blitzed then top-ranked Maple Grove for 214 yards and two scores.
''He's pretty fast,'' said Slater, who registered his 212th career victory, ''and he's pretty good. We like that.''
Dowiasz scored on touchdown runs of 1, 73 and 42 yards, giving him 27 for the season. His first two TDs came before intermission when Randolph, which scored on its first four possessions and finished with 377 yards on the ground, opened up a 27-0 lead against the Braves (9-2).
Dowiasz's third touchdown - off an option pitch from Maycock - with under five minutes to go in the game stamped the Cardinals' ticket to Sahlen's Stadium in Rochester and a berth in the semifinals. That's where they'll meet top-ranked Tioga (10-1), a 54-13 winner over No. 3 Sandy Creek, 5 p.m. next Friday.
''This is a great feeling,'' Slater said.
Early on, though, the Braves' no-huddle, spread offense, directed by senior quarterback T.J. Crye, was clicking, moving them to Randolph's 32 on their first possession.
But on second down, Crye's pass was intercepted by Randolph junior linebacker Cody Oldro. Seven plays later, Maycock scored on a keeper from 13 yards out to give the Cardinals a 6-0 lead, one they would never relinquish.
''That (interception) was a big play for us,'' Slater said. ''We needed something to get us going and make them believe. ... Something like that against a team like that, it's great.''
Then, in the span of five minutes of the second quarter, Randolph scored three touchdowns - on a 1-yard run by Dowiasz, a 2-yard plunge by Miinte and a scintillating 73-yard burst down the far sideline by Dowiasz. With 6:52 remaining before halftime, the Cardinals led, 27-0.
That would be more than enough points, although the Braves did make things mildly interesting at times after that. Crye scored on a 4-yard run with under a minute remaining in the second quarter and later connected with senior John Ambroselli on a 11-yard touchdown pass with 3:09 left in the third period. Both TDs were followed by successful point-after kicks from Conner O'Donoghue.
But even though Avon did a decent job stopping the run after intermission, Randolph never lost its defensive composure either. Crye completed 15 of 32 passes for 239 yards, but the Cardinals yielded only 60 yards on the ground.
''We managed to make the plays when we needed to make the plays,'' Slater said.
And when Dowiasz took the pitch from Maycock late in the final period, he delivered again.
''All I saw was end zone,'' Dowiasz said. ''Then it was a sigh of relief.''
Added Slater: ''It's great to be moving on.''
NOTES: Junior linebacker Chris Doubek led Randolph with eight tackles and two assists and Oldro, the defensive most outstanding player, had seven solos and four assists. ... Doubek also had 51 yards rushing on 13 carries, while Miinte had 40 yards on six trips and junior Jared Pitchford had 27 yards on two carries. ... Micah Kehoe connected on three extra-point tries for the winners. ... Unofficially, Dowiasz, who was selected the offensive most outstanding player, has rushed for 1,541 yards this season. ... Jake Martinez had six catches for 95 yards and Ambroselli added six receptions for 86 yards for Avon.
Avon 0 7 7 0 - 14
Randolph6 21 0 7 - 34
Ran - Maycock 13 run (kick failed).
Ran - Dowiarz 1 run (run failed).
Ran - Miinte 2 run (Maycock run).
Ran - Dowiarz 73 run (Kehoe kick).
Avo - Crye 4 run (O'Donoghue kick).
Avo - Ambroselli 11 pass from Crye (O'Donoghue kick).
Ran - Dowiarz 42 run (Kehoe kick).