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Playoff-Bound

Southwestern Beats Rival Falconer/CV/MG To Lock Up No. 7 Seed

Southwestern’s Jameson Walsh finds a hole to run through during Friday’s Class C South game against Falconer/Cassadaga Valley/Maple Grove at Charles A. Lawson Field. P-J photos by Tim Frank

Seniors on the Southwestern football team posed for photos at Charles A. Lawson Field on Friday night. In their final home game of their high school career, they had plenty to smile about.

The Trojans scored touchdowns on their final three possessions of the second half to post a come-from-behind 36-24 Class C South victory over Falconer/Cassadaga Valley/Maple Grove.

The win, which improved Southwestern’s record to 5-3 overall and 4-2 in the division, secured a playoff spot and a seventh seed in the Section VI playoffs, which begin next Friday.

For the Golden Cougars (4-4, 3-3), well, they had a chance to knock off their longtime rival, but they couldn’t quite finish the game the way they started it.

The Trojans, on the other hand, did.

Southwestern’s Cameron Lemk makes a catch in between a pair of Falconer/Cassadaga Valley/Maple Grove defenders during Friday’s Class C South game at Charles A. Lawson Field. P-J photo by Tim Frank

Emphatically.

In typical fashion, it was Aidan Kennedy who led the way.

The senior quarterback hit Ashton Mathews on a 24-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter — their second connection of the game; scored on a 1-yard keeper with 5:24 remaining to give the Trojans their first lead of the night; and then intercepted a pass that set up Jameson Walsh’s game-clinching 4-yard TD run with a shade over two minutes remaining.

In a season in which Southwestern has had its share of gut-punch losses, this one was a welcome relief for head coach Jake Burkholder.

“At halftime, our kids came together,” he said. ” … They stepped up, our seniors stepped up and we had some kids who hadn’t had a lot of playing time that stepped in and made plays, so it took everyone to make that happen.”

Falconer/Cassadaga Valley/Maple Grove head coach Dan Greco, understandably, was disappointed, especially after the penalty-plagued Golden Cougars led most of the way.

In fact, behind a stout running game, they scored on their first three possessions of the first half — TD runs of 6 and 3 yards by Dalton Caldwell sandwiched around a 29-yard field goal by Brailyn Paladino — and took a 17-16 lead to the break.

And although Southwestern moved the ball effectively in the first two quarters — Kennedy tossed an 11-yard TD pass to Mathews and a 16-yard scoring strike to Cameron Lemk in between a Neves Hoose 40-yard field goal — it was having trouble defending Falconer/Cassadaga Valley/Maple Grove’s running game.

That changed after intermission, but not before Noah Abram’s 54-yard sprint to the end zone and Paladino’s third successful point-after boot gave the visitors a 24-16 advantage with 6:51 remaining in the third quarter.

After that, it was all Trojans.

On their next three possesions, they found paydirt — on Kennedy’s 24-yard connection to Mathews; Kennedy’s 1-yard run, which was set up by his 31-yard connection to Lemk; and Walsh’s 4-yard TD burst, which came following a Kennedy pick of Falconer/Cassadaga Valley/Maple Grove quarterback Jackson Gowan.

“Things just happen to us at times in a game that lead to our demise,” Greco said. “We did that a couple of other times this year, but it really came down to their passing offense against our passing defense. We can’t simulate that kind of attack, can’t practice against that because we don’t have kids who run routes like that, can throw like that and can catch like that.”

Kennedy finished 15 of 22 through the air for 208 yards and three touchdowns; Walsh rushed for 73 yards on 11 carries and the TD; and Hoose drilled 3-of-4 point-after kicks in addition to his successful field goal.

“It’s nother example of (Kennedy) being a leader for this team,” Burkholder said. “He’s put blood, sweat and tears into this program. I hate the fact that it’s the last game on this field, but he’s going to do everything he can to put this team in a position to win.”

Burkholder said he anticipates the Trojans being the No. 7 playoff seed and will likely travel to No. 2 Depew in next week’s playoff game.

Greco, meanwhile, said Southwestern “did what they needed to do.”

“We go far in a game and we find a way to not finish and shoot ourselves in the foot.”

Falconer/Cassadaga Valley/Maple Grove 7 10 7 0 — 24

Southwestern 3 13 7 13 — 36

F/CV/MG — Caldwell 6 run (Paladino kick)

SW–Hoose 40 FG

F/CV/MG — Paladino 29 FG

SW–Mathews 11 pass from Kennedy (Hoose kick)

F/CV/MG — Caldwell 3 run (Paladino kick)

SW — Lemk 16 pass from Kennedy (kick blocked)

F/CV/MG — Abram 54 run (Paladino kick)

SW — Mathews 24 pass from Kennedy (Hoose kick)

SW — Kennedy 1 run (pass fail)

SW — Walsh 4 run (Hoose kick)

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