By Jim Riggs
ROCHESTER - Many predicted the Class AA Far West Regional between the Jamestown Red Raiders and the Aquinas Institute Little Irish would be a shootout.
Jamestown quarterback Jake Sisson looks for an open receiver during Saturday’s Class AA Far West Regional at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester. The Red Raiders fell to top-ranked Aquinas, 48-34.
Photo by Tim Frank
Jamestown sophomore Zacc Kinsey rushed for 103 yards on 12 carries and scored two touchdowns.
Photo by Tim Frank
Jamestown’s Stephen Carlson (89) caught seven passes for 131 yards and one touchdown.
Photo by Tim Frank
Aquinas, the No. 1 Class AA team in the state, jumped out to a 28-6 halftime lead, but Jamestown, ranked No. 6, came alive in the second half and three times cut their deficit to eight points before the Little Irish finally nailed down a 48-34 victory at Sahlen's Stadium on Saturday night.
While the Red Raiders' season ends with a 10-1 record, Aquinas, now 11-0, moves on to the Class AA state semifinals at Sahlen's Stadium next Saturday at 6 p.m., against Elmira (10-0), which defeated Christian Brothers Academy, 24-18.
''We had our chances,'' Jamestown coach Tom Langworthy said. ''The kids played their hearts out. I'm really proud of them. We were right in the game. It took a ton of character to come back. We were down three touchdowns in the second half and I'm really proud of my kids.''
He added, ''It stings when you don't win and it's going to sting because we were close. But they made plays and they're a good football team. We got in that hole in the first half and right when we thought we were going to crawl out of it, they made a play. Credit to them, but I'm proud of our guys.''
The game featured two quarterbacks named Jake.
Jake Sisson of the Red Raiders had already set a Section 6 record for passing yardage in a championship game at Ralph Wilson Stadium and broke the Section 6 mark for passing yards in a season. But Aquinas quarterback Zembiec showed he's also talented passer.
See JHS, Page C2
From Page C1
He completed 20-of-35 passes for 313 yards and four touchdowns while Sisson completed 28-of-43 passes for 299 yards and one touchdown.
''He passed more than I thought, but I thought we sold out for the run,'' Langworthy said. ''They took what we gave them.''
Zembiec said, ''It just kind of developed (as the game moved on). They give you a lot of different looks on defense. We were adjusting to what they did and that opened up a lot of the passing game. And I surprised myself with a few runs (two for touchdowns) and we just played off their defense.''
Aquinas coach Chris Battaglia said, ''I read everybody's articles all week and they talked about this kid (Sisson) being the best quarterback in New York state and I kept telling myself I've got the best quarterback in New York state. They're awfully close because that kid (Sisson) is really good. I knew he was good, but I didn't know he was that good.''
The Little Irish usually depend on the ground game, but they went to passing against Jamestown.
''I think what our offensive coordinator saw was they were blitzing us like crazy,'' Battaglia said. ''He (Zembiec) can throw and we can run and we planned to be balanced. I always say put the ball in Jake's hands and good things will happen and they certainly did tonight.''
Sisson not only played quarterback, but also saw action at defensive back.
''We're going for it,'' Langworthy said. ''We felt like Jake would give us a little boost on defense and we go for broke. If he got hurt, that would be bad, but we were willing to take that risk because, for one, we thought we needed him tonight because Aquinas is that good. And the other thing is I think it sent a message to our kids, 'Hey, we're going for this. We're not just happy to be here.'''
The game started the way the Red Raiders would have drawn it up as Aquinas took the opening kickoff and its first two running plays resulted in losses of 1 yard each on tackles by Dylan Anthony, who finished with 10 tackles and was named the defensive player of the game, and Jacis Blake. After an incomplete pass, the Little Irish punted and Zack Panebianco fumbled the catch and Terrance Richards recovered the ball for Aquinas.
Jamestown finally got its offense on the field and drove to the Aquinas 35-yard-line where it turned the ball over on downs after a fourth-and-nine play.
From there, the Little Irish drove 65 yards in six plays to score on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Zembiec to Donato Clemente and Alex Bianchi kicked the extra point.
The Red Raiders came right back and drove 75 yards in 11 plays to score on a 24-yard run by Zacc Kinsey. But Quinn Lee Yaw's extra-point kick was short and the Little Irish were still in front, 7-6, with 11:30 left in the second quarter.
Aquinas took the ensuing kickoff and drove 80 yards in 12 plays to score on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Zembiec to Clemente and Bianchi's kick increased the Little Irish lead to 14-6.
After the kickoff, Jamestown went three and out and on the first play Sisson was sacked for only the second time this season.
It took Aquinas only four plays to get in the end zone again as Zembiec scored the touchdown on a 36-yard run around the left side. Bianchi's kick failed and the Little Irish were in front, 20-6, with 4:13 left in the half.
Sisson completed five passes on the Red Raiders' next possession, but they were forced to punt away and Aquinas took possession at its own 25 with only 1:22 left in the half. And the Little Irish weren't content to go into halftime with a 20-6 lead.
''I said we've got to go for it,'' Battaglia said. ''It's 20-6 and we've held them down, but haven't really held them down. We've made a couple of plays to stop them, but they score 50 points a game and they're going to come back in the second half and they're going to score so we have to try to score everytime we have the ball.''
So that's what Aquinas did as Zembiec completed passes to Clemente for 13 and 34 yards to move well into Jamestown territory. Later Zembiec had two more completions and on a third-and-goal play from the 5, Zembiec went around left end on a keeper to score. Then he hit Clemente with a two-point conversion pass and the Little Irish led 28-6 with 11.6 seconds left before halftime.
Trailing by 22, Langworthy said his halftime message to his team was, ''I just told them we needed to go out there and we had to find a way to stop that run. We screened them a couple times and that really wasn't stopping it so we tried to run the sweep outside and that would neutralize the blitz. Then we were able to do some things we wanted to do offensively.''
What was also helping the Aquinas ground game was Jamestown's poor tackling.
''That's something we work on every week in practice and we knew that was something we need to work on all the time and we did,'' Langworthy said. ''But that kid's (210-pound Luc Pietropaol, 20 carries for 96 yards) a strong back. Sometimes he made us miss, but sometimes he ran right through us. That's a part of the game we've got to make sure was taken care of and we didn't take care of it the way we wanted to.''
The Red Raiders took the second-half kickoff and showed they weren't finished as they drove 77 yards in 10 plays to score on a 3-yard run by Sisson, who completed four passes in the drive. A two-point pass failed, but Jamestown was back in the game, trailing 28-12, with 9:10 left in the third quarter.
After an exchange of possessions, the Red Raiders got in the end zone again.
Two big receptions for 20 and 32 yards by Stephen Carlson, who had seven catches for 131 yards, put Jamestown at the Aquinas 8 and Kinsey eventually scored from 3 yards. Then a two-point completion to Carlson cut the Little Irish lead to 28-20 with 59 seconds left in the third quarter.
Jamestown had all the momentum and had more when Panebianco picked off a pass on a fourth-and-four play. But after returning it about 10 yards he fumbled and Jeremy Byrne recovered it for the Little Irish at the Red Raiders' 39. On the fourth play from there, Zembiec hit Clemente with a 9-yard touchdown pass and Bianchi's kick extended the Aquinas lead to 35-20 with 10:42 left to play.
But the Red Raiders came back again.
They drove 61 yards in eight plays to score on a 39-yard pass from Sisson to a wide-open Carlson in the right corner of the end zone. Lee Yaw kicked the extra point and the Aquinas lead was down to eight again, 35-27, with 8:42 left to play.
The Little Irish came right back and drove 80 yards in nine plays to score on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Zembiec to Alonzo Turney. Bianchi kicked the extra point to put Aquinas in front, 41-27, with 5:44 left.
Then it the Red Raiders turn as Sisson scored on a 3-yard keeper and Lee Yaw's kick cut the margin to 42-34 with 3:37 left.
Jamestown had three timeouts left and attempted an onside kick, but it went out of bounds and Aquinas began a drive on its side of the 50. The Little Irish weren't there long because Clemente took off on a 59-yard run the Red Raiders' 14. Five plays later Pietropaolo scored from a yard out and Bianchi's kick made the score 48-34 with 1:05 left to play.
That was not enough time for anymore Jamestown comebacks. Aquinas got the ball back one more time and Zembiec took a knee twice to run out the clock. And he never felt comfortable until then.
''That second knee was when I knew it was done,'' Zembiec said. ''In a high-scoring game like that, a lot of things go through your mind. When that clock finally ticked zero, you know you can finally relax.''
Battaglia said, ''If we find a better offense in the tournament than them or our's tonight, we both would have been in trouble. Both are really good offenses.''
He added about Langworthy, ''God, that guy's a good coach. I don't know who he is, I've never met him. I've been doing this a long time and I wish I was as good a coach as that guy is.''
Aquinas7 21 0 20 - 48
Jamestown 0 6 14 14 - 34
Aqu-Clemente 11 pass from Zembiec (Bianchi kick)
Jam-Kinsey 24 run (kick failed)
Aqu-Clemente 18 pass from Zembiec (Bianchi kick)
Aqu-Zembiec 36 run (kick failed)
Aqu-Zembiec 5 run (Zembiec pass to Bianchi)
Jam-Sisson 3 run (pass failed)
Jam-Kinsey 4 run (Carlson pass from Sisson)
Aqu-Clemente 9 pass from Zembiec (Bianchi kick)
Jam-Carlson 34 pass from Sisson (Lee Yaw kick)
Aqu-Turney 35 pass from Zembiec (Bianchi kick)
Jam-Sisson 3 run (Lee Yaw kick)
Aqu-Pietropaola 1 run (Bianchi kick)