The Post-Journal

Jamestown Is Winning With A New Look

The Jamestown High School football team has a new look this season and it has the fans excited.The Red Raiders have had a winning tradition which their .700 winning percentage in the 1980s proves. Since the Section 6 Playoffs at Rich Stadium were established in 1979. Jamestown has made five appearances. But winning wasn’t always enough for many fans because Jamestown always got there with the same old conservative style.

That style was grind-it-out football. Run, run, run and don’t pass because only three things can happen when you pass and two are bad. But who could argue with four straight Division 1 titles in four seasons with a total of five losses? A lot of people. Just ask Buffalo Bills coach Hank Bullough whose team finally won a game after two losses and all he heard was complaints about Jim Kelly passing only 10 times.

Jamestown Coach Wally Huckno knows what that is like. He said that after this season’s four games, all wins, player’s parents will congratulate him for the victory. But he said they add, “Coach, it’s nice to see you put the ball in the air.”

In the 1980’s, Jamestown has averaged 56 passes and 22 completions per season for 328.5 yards and 3.6 touchdown passes.

After only four games this season, quarterback Jim Painter is 10-for-14 for 223 yards and six touchdowns.

Last Friday night, in very wet conditions at North Tonawanda, many would have expected the Red Raiders to forget about passing because the conditions favored their familiar ground game. But Painter attempted five passes and completed two. Huckno said after the fame he was planning to have Painter pass, rain or no rain.

“Why has Jamestown opened up its offense this season? “I think it’s the personnel,” Huckno said. “I’d love to have thrown the football more (in the past), but we didn’t have the right people.

Painter is one reason for this season’s successful passing attack. “He probably throws the ball with the best accuracy of any quarterback we’ve had (recently),” Huckno said. That accuracy has led to success.

The abilities of the receivers have caused the passing game’s success. We have people who can catch the ball better than (anybody) since I’ve been on the varsity level,” Huckno said in the preseason. That is something recent quarterbacks, such as Carl Faison and Van Tane didn’t have. “Carl had the greatest arm I’ve ever seen,” said Huckno and added that when Faison stopped by practice recently he threw a pass 70 yards. “Van Tane had a good arm, too.”

It isn’t only Painter’s arm that leads in his passing success. “He has quick feet,” said Huckno who has Painter rolling out a lot. And he pointed out that when Painter is rolling out, he has plenty of time to find receivers because “We’ve been protecting the passer real well.”

Huckno agrees with the fans. “The pass is entertaining,” Huckno said, but he wants his team to be a winner first and an entertainer second. So without the right combinations in the past, the ball stayed on the ground.

As an example, he mentioned the Kenmore West-Hamburg game he scouted last Saturday. Hamburg’s first two passes were intercepted and Kenmore West returned them 39 and 47 yards for touchdowns to take an early 14-0 lead. Passing can put you in front quickly, but it can also put you behind quickly.

Aerial maneuvers aren’t the only change for the Red Raiders. They have also become unpredictable in other aspects of the game. Leading 7-0 in the fourth quarter and faced with a fourth and one-inch play at their own 20, the Red Raiders were expected to punt. That is what North Tonawanda Coach George Drmacich and a majority of the fans expected. Drmacich is the new head coach, but he has been involved with North Tonawanda football for years and he knows enough about Jamestown’s conservative style. But Huckno had his club go for the first down and Ned Battle got it.

That call was made because of personnel, also. “With (Joe) McMurdy, Battle and (Greg) Wilson in the backfield, you should be able to gain an inch,” Huckno said.

Five plays later Jamestown was faced with a fourth down again but 15 yards, not one inch, were needed for a first down. And those 15 yards were required on a slippery field, so not many expected a fake. That is when Huckno called for the unexpected and Battle ran for the first down.

That was another play called because of personnel. Huckno pointed out that his previous punters were halfback Larry Madden and quarterback Tane, players he didn’t want to risk on the runs. But Battle is a big (200 pounds) and quick (runs 40 in 4.7) running back who could handle that play.

The fake punt was all for naught because the play was called back on a clipping penalty. But it had to open the eyes of some opposing coaches scouting the game.

In the past, when Jamestown went back to punt, it was always punted. When a drive was moving well, Jamestown stayed on the ground. And when it stayed on the ground, it was usually up the middle. None of that is true anymore.

The Red Raiders have become unpredictable on offense and they are happy to have remained predictable (as in awesome) on defense because they have allowed only 15 points in four games. That unusual offense and usual defense could lead Jamestown to a usual finish – a playoff game at Rich Stadium.

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