The Jamestown football season ended with disappointment on Saturday night with a 48-34 loss to Aquinas Institute in the Class AA Far West Regional.
After trailing by 22 points at halftime, the Red Raiders battled back and three times pulled within eight in a wild, back-and-forth second half filled with big plays. It brought back memories of the early years of the American Football League.
Things were moving so fast on the field, the heads of the coaches and players from both teams are probably still spinning. But for Jamestown, the result was the sudden realization that the season was finally over with a 10-1 record.
Landing on the turf after going high to make catchers such as this is why Jamestown’s Stephen Carlson (89) suffered bruised ribs in Saturday night’s Class AA?Far West Regional game against Aquinas Institute.
Photo Tim Frank
After a couple of days to reflect on the game, Red Raiders coach Tom Langworthy was asked his feelings on Monday night.
"Bittersweet,'' he said. "It's nice to be able to go home and spend more time at home, but I think today after school it really hit me and it was the most disappointed I've been. When you're out of your routine that's when it really hits you. ''
During the game things were moving so fast, especially with Jamestown's hurry-up offense, it was difficult for a coach to actually watch what is happening and take it all in.
"Your mind is constantly moving during the game,'' Langworthy said.
The action can slow down when watching a tape of the game, but Langworthy said, "I haven't watched it yet. I'll probably give it a few days."
Looking back, he said, "The game was just a good football game. There was no point where I thought that anyone was going to win until there was less than a minute to go."
And that is how it ended because Aquinas scored its last touchdown with 1:05 left to play.
Aquinas had opened the scoring in the first quarter, but Jamestown answered back with a touchdown early in the second quarter. Then the Little Irish ran off 21 points before halftime.
"We got in that hole in the second quarter and we were able to crawl out of that,'' Langworthy said. ''We were within eight points three different times, feeling as though we were going to close that gap and then for some reason or another we just didn't do it. It was frustrating, but at the same time I'm proud of the way our kids battled. We played hard. They played real hard and they hit hard. I think that was the toughest game Aquinas has seen all year."
That can also be said for Jamestown, which had numerous players suffer injuries. Ben Larson left the game in the first half with a concussion. Zack Panebianco had right knee injury and later took a shot to his left elbow. Stephen Carlson suffered bruised ribs after coming down hard on the field after going high to make a catch. Also, Matt Nazzaro had an elbow injury and Joe Ramos broke a knuckle.
The second half became a battle of the quarterbacks, Jake Sisson of Jamestown and Jake Zembiec of Aquinas. One would lead his team to a touchdown and then the other would answer right back by doing the same thing.
Sisson completed 28-of-43 passes for 299 yards and one touchdown.
"He's a special player," Langworthy said.
And so was Zembiec on Saturday night.
"Our game plan was to take away their run game because I think that's what they wanted to do and he hadn't been forced to throw all year,'' Langworthy said. ''He's thrown, of course, but he hasn't been forced to throw it, so we didn't know what he would look like. On films he looked like he was a little bit nervous back there. Credit to him, he made some big-time throws."
Zembiec completed 20-of-35 passes for 313 yards and four touchdowns.
"He made throws on the run, he beat us taking advantage of his feet and he made some really nice throws down the field,'' Langworthy said. ''He's a good quarterback, but with all due respect to him, I think Sisson's better.''
After the game, the Red Raiders were, as expected, dejected. But it was different reaction than when the previous two seasons ended with losses in the Section 6 Class AA title game.
''They left it all on the field,'' Langworthy said. ''No one was upset with their effort. They tried hard, I thought they executed well for the most part. We played against really good team. I thought we left it all on the field and on a different day it could have been a different outcome.''
He added, ''I think when the dust settles they'll realize how much they've accomplished.''
Among the accomplishments this season was that the team met three of its four goals - going undefeated at home, winning a division title and winning at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The fourth goal was to win a state championship.
Sisson set Section 6 records for passing yardage in a game and a season while Panebianco set a receiving yardage record for a Section 6 title game and did it by halftime. And the Red Raiders set a record for total yardage in Section 6 championship game.
Those accomplishments throughout the season are what Langworthy will be thinking about while some fans might still be grumbling about some factors they might think contributed to the loss to Aquinas on Saturday night.
''I'm not going to dwell on the officiating or the public versus private school thing,'' Langworthy said. ''It's none of our business. Our business is lining up and playing the opponent.''
And 10 our of 11 times Jamestown did that and came up a winner. That's why Langworthy said it will be a satisfying offseason.
''The Jamestown Red Raiders are at the top of Western New York football and that's the way it's going to be until we get a chance to defend that next year,'' he said.