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Golden Cougars Post Shutout Win

Falconer/Cassadaga Valley/Maple Grove’s Karsen Depasquale, left, and Dalton Caldwell combine to tackle Gowanda/Pine Valley’s Kaleb Smith during Saturday night’s Class C South football game at Bill Race Field. P-J photo by Scott Kindberg

FALCONER — Falconer/Cassadaga Valley/Maple Grove took exactly two plays to find the end zone Saturday night.

As it turned out it, that was all the points the Golden Cougars needed.

Jackson Gowan connected with Matt Welsh for a 37-yard touchdown pass less than a minute into the first quarter, Brailyn Paladino booted the extra point and Falconer/Cassadaga Valley/Maple Grove’s defense pitched a shutout in a 21-0 Class C South victory over Gowanda/Pine Valley at Bill Race Field.

The win improved the Golden Cougars’ record to 2-1 overall and 2-0 in the league. The Panthers, meanwhile, fell to 1-2 and 1-1.

But both Falconer/Cassadaga Valley/Maple Grove coach Dan Greco and Gowanda/Pine Valley coach Tyler Thompson felt good about the performances of their respective teams.

“We didn’t give up any points,” Greco said.

Added Thompson: “We gave them a ballgame. To be 7-0 at halftime, I couldn’t be more proud and happy.”

The Golden Cougars got all the points they needed before most of the large crowd had settled in their seats. After receiving the opening kickoff, their first play from midfield was a 13-yard run by Noah Abram. On the very next snap, Gowan found Welsh on a 37-yard TD strike. Paladino followed with the first of her three successful point-after tries and the hosts led, 7-0, just 55 seconds into the game. The score remained that way until Dalton Caldwell (11 carries, 92 yards) added fourth-quarter touchdown runs of 14 and 15 yards to finally put the game out of reach.

“(Gowanda/Pine Valley) has a whole lot of heart,” Greco said. “They don’t have numbers and they’re not even big as far as size, but they tackle well. (Coach Thompson) is just doing a great job. They’re not afraid of anything or anybody. They weren’t afraid of us.”

Winners of two straight, the Golden Cougars played stout defense throughout, keeping Gowanda/Pine Valley out of the end zone and forcing a turnover on downs at their 9-yard line in the first quarter. After that, the Panthers entered enemy territory just two more times the rest of the way.

Leading the defensive effort for the Golden Cougars were Jarrett Vincent with 9.5 tackles; Brodie Little with 8.5 tackles; and Caldwell, Kynan Egan, Karsen Depasquale and Jake Swanson with six stops apiece. Egan and Devyn Morrison both had a fumble recovery. Morrison also had a sack.

But as Thompson gathered his team at midfield for a postgame chat, you couldn’t tell that the Panthers had lost. With a roster short on numbers, he felt they’d played as well as they possibly could.

“I feel great, I really do,” he said. “Besides the injuries — we always want to stay as healthy as we can, because our numbers are really low — but it was a two-score game. We’re missing two key starters (Fred Roland and Harlee Conklin), so there were some kids that had to step up and fill some spots that maybe weren’t quite ready for, but they stuck (with it) and gave it everything they had.”

The Golden Cougars are back in action on Saturday afternoon when they entertain Salamanca at Cassadaga Valley, while Gowanda/Pine Valley travels to Fredonia on Friday night.

“We’re hoping to get better every week,” Greco said. “We don’t have a choice. Salamanca is around the corner, and everything I’ve seen on them is just pretty impressive.”

Thompson acknowledged that Fredonia “has some skill kids who have been there for a while and can move the ball.”

He added: “We’re going to go back to work Monday, do the best that we can, throw everything we’ve got at them Friday and see what happens.”

NOTES: Paladino attempted a 36-yard field goal in the fourth quarter. It appeared to be on line, but it fell just short of clearing the crossbar. “The kids call her ‘Money,'” Greco said. ” … You should see her in practice. If she’s not out of her comfort zone, it’s going through.” … Welsh had four receptions for 62 yards and the TD. … Gowan rushed eight times for 49 yards and was the Golden Cougars’ top ground gainer. … Unofficially, Gavin Phillips ran for 67 yards on 13 carries for the Panthers. Teammate Quentin Centner had an interception and a fumble recovery.

Gowanda/Pine Valley 0 0 0 0 — 0

Falconer/CV/MG 7 0 0 14 — 21

F/CV/MG–Welsh 37 pass from Gowan (Paladino kick)

F/CV/MG–Caldwell 14 run (Paladino kick)

F/CV/MG–Caldwell 15 run (Paladino kick)

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