Salamanca’s Season Ends In State Semifinals
CICERO — The importance of special teams in football is often forgotten, with offense and defense in the spotlight most of the time.
Salamanca learned the hard way in Saturday’s New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C semifinals what poor execution on special teams can do to a team’s chances of winning.
With a berth in the championship game on the line, Section IV’s Waverly blocked two Warriors’ punts in the first half that led to great field position and touchdowns. By halftime, the Wolverines led 21-0 and never looked back en route to a 42-0 victory at Cicero-North Syracuse High School.
“I tend to stay pretty emotionally consistent, but after a loss it’s hard to keep it in,” Salamanca head coach Chad Bartoszek said. “It’s hard. There is a lot of tears in there. A lot of stuff went down this year and we played some football today. We just couldn’t stay together football-wise. I think there is a little bit of regret there that we couldn’t finish some drives, couldn’t do some things. The finality of it all hurts. It’s a tough one.”
Both teams looked pretty evenly matched up in the first quarter with the game scoreless after 12 minutes, but it was Salamanca which made the first mistake early in the second quarter. After standing up Waverly inside its own 10-yard line, the Warriors were unable to move the sticks and were forced to punt out of the end zone.
On its first special teams miscue, Salamanca ran a designed play where it looked to the outside with the option to fake and if the lane was not there to perform a rugby-style punt rolling to the right. Briefly it appeared a lane was open, but a Waverly defender was able to burst through and block the punt for excellent field position.
“Arlen (Newark) was our long snapper and we were expecting him up until Wednesday,” Bartoszek said about the punt team. “We had a couple snappers and it wasn’t going great so we were going to rep some rugby and quick-kick stuff. The rugby situation, the one that got blocked at the 1 was open. Jaxson (Ross) read it and said my rule says that’s open, they had one guy there, he may have ran for a first down. That kid somehow took on two blocks and (Ross) would have ran for a first down, but … it’s not on him. He was doing a call. We made the call.”
Waverly immediately cashed in with Joey Tomasso punching in the first score from a yard out. Hogan Shaw added the point-after, the first of his six successful tries.
Instead of coming out flat, Salamanca responded perfectly with the offense effortlessly moving the ball down the field. However, Waverly’s 10 was as far as the Warriors would get as they were unable to close out that drive, or any drive, on the day.
“I’m just going to hate the film,” Bartoszek stated. “We finish one of those drives early. … I think Waverly is probably going to put on a good showing next week. I think were going to reflect in three weeks or a month. That’s a heck of a team.”
After stopping the Warriors’ offense, Waverly turned around and marched right down the field 90 yards and finished off the drive with a Carter George touchdown from 4 yards out with 3:09 left in the first half to go up 14-0.
If another team were to score before halftime, the Warriors needed it to be them, and after being stuffed by the Wolverines it was time to punt. While the first punt had an option for the fake, the second punt was just poorly executed.
“The quick kick was just an epic failure,” Bartoszek stated. “It didn’t go well, the quick-kick was part of the snapping process and the punting process. That’s a coaching error and that one is going to sting because of the preparedness of it and the situation that it came in was a perfect storm of bad.”
Just before the two-minute warning, Waverly got another body in front of a Salamanca punt to set up its offense in a favorable scoring position. Salamanca nearly cleaned up that mistake, but a defensive pass interference call on fourth down kept the drive alive, and with just 19.2 seconds left Kolsen Keathley reeled in the first of his three touchdowns.
In the matter of minutes, what looked like a close game was very quickly getting away from the Warriors.
Already facing an uphill battle down 21-0, an already banged up Salamanca squad began to experience even more injury issues. Platooning two quarterbacks, the Warriors lost junior Maddox Isaac on the first drive of the second half and then Ross had to be helped off the field during the second drive.
So after giving up a 92-yard touchdown catch to Keathley, Salamanca needed to erase a 28-0 deficit with sophomore Payton Bradley stepping in at quarterback, a place where he had taken two snaps all season.
“It is hard when you start piling up there,” Bartoszek said about the injuries. “When the score starts getting up there and you get a couple injuries here and there, your players start to doubt themselves. The legitimacy of what they’re doing to us and then the injuries, it starts to impact your energy, your motivation. I was just so proud of them fighting to the end. We wanted to punch one in, but Payton Bradley has two snaps all year. We’ve got two quarterbacks, but they were both out, so there’s a lot there stepping up.”
“Carmine’s (Hoag) wasn’t great, he was hurt,” Bartoszek added about the injuries. “We’re hoping that it wasn’t serious. He started to feel better, but couldn’t put pressure on it. Jaxson is not going to be able to pressure on it for a little bit, but he didn’t feel like it was a significant knee thing. We had a concussion in there, a shoulder, LB (Lucus Brown) was out with a back. He (Brown) got hit on the post and he’s such a competitor, he didn’t want to go out of the game unless he’s a 100 percent. It just started to pile up a little bit. Our message in the locker room was pride and just how proud we are of them.”
With many of its top players going down with injuries, Salamanca was unable to get back into the game and Waverly continued to tack on points. Keathley added his final touchdown on a direct snap; and Xavier Watson caught a terrific touchdown to complement his interception as the game finished with the Wolverines on top 42-0.
While it is not the result Bartoszek and the Warriors were looking for, this is the direction the former all-state player and now head coach wants to take the Salamanca football program.
“What happened this year is real,” Bartoszek stated. “It’s going to take a couple weeks, but we’ll never forget this run. What these kids did, what they did for this community, for Salamanca football, for Salamanca Warrior community, for our youth, for their parents. It’s a historic run and it means a lot.”
The last time Salamanca made it to this stage was in 2001, and in Bartoszek’s senior season the Warriors lost in the state finals. Making sure Salamanca stays at this high level is not just coaching at the high school level, but Bartoszek and his staff having a hand in development at the youth level.
“We’re doing it, we are,” Bartoszek said about the steps to making sure Salamanca’s next state semifinal trip is not 22 years away. “Our program, we are coaching from pee wee’s on up and when I say we, I mean everyone on our staff down through the program. We are giving everything we’ve got to this program, and a lot of that has to do with the fact that we’re dads. Our kids are playing, so there’s a little selfishness there, but if we’re gonna do something, we’re gonna do it. I know what our community is getting in terms of football coaching and our community has responded and I’m very proud of that.”
Salamanca 0 0 0 0 — 0
Waverly 0 21 14 7 — 42
W–Tomasso 1 run (Shaw kick)
W–George 4 run (Shaw kick)
W–Tomasso 10 pass to Keathley (Shaw kick)
W–Tomasso 92 pass to Keathley (Shaw kick)
W–Keathley 6 run (Shaw kick)
W–Tomasso 8 pass to Watson (Shaw kick)