The Post-Journal

JHS Returned From The Dead

Back in September, I had to take a hiatus from the Jamestown High School football season and while I did, it appeared the Red Raiders took a hiatus from their plans to make the Section 6 Playoffs.

But when the Jamestown season was on the brink of disaster, the Red Raiders sucked it up and put together a must four-game win streak. As a result, instead of packing equipment away this week, Coach Wally Huckno and his staff were preparing the Red Raiders for a first-round Section 6 Playoff Game at West Seneca West.

On Sept. 16, Jamestown lost its opening Division 1 game to Lockport 14-6. That was not the best way to open play in always tough Division 1. It is possible to win the title with a loss, but it’s tough. And it was made tougher for the Red Raiders because the loss came in the opening division game.

Lockport had been picked as a possible favorite in the division in the preseason and another possible favorite, West Seneca East, was on tap for the Red Raiders the following week. A loss at West Seneca East would have been a severe blow, but I never got to see the game because I took a severe blow in the side of my car and spent the week in the hospital while the Red Raiders prepared for the game. It was also an important game for West Seneca East, which had been ranked top large school team in Western New York in the preseason, because it had also suffered a Division 1 loss.

While recuperating at home, I missed my first Jamestown game in 10 years and learned the Red Raiders defeated West Seneca East 9-6. Even though it was the third game of the season and second in Division 2, Coach Wally Huckno called it a must-win game. His team pulled it out with a blocked punt by Jason Jackson with two minutes left and then Dwayne Vanderwork scored the winning touchdown.

But another tough Division 1 test was on tap the following week at Lancaster, which was also 1-1 in the division. I was still stuck at home recuperating when the Red Raiders ran up a 14-0 halftime lead. But they were recuperating later because Lancaster roared back to win 21-14.

“We just gave the game away,” Huckno told Denny Seitz of the Post Journal. “Last week we won a game that we shouldn’t have and this week we lost one that we shouldn’t.

At that point things didn’t look good for Jamestown – not good at all. The Red Raiders were 2-2 overall, but 1-2 in Division 1, tied for fifth place with Tonawanda. Back in the days of the one round of Section 6 Playoffs at Rich Stadium, Jamestown’s hopes of going would have been over. But now with the Harbin Point System determining wild-card teams, there is still hope. But it appeared the Red Raiders needed Houdini, not Harbin.

“I had a question what the boys would do after the loss to Lancaster,” Huckno recalled this week. “Would they fold?”

I thought they would, mainly because I heard that was the feeling on the team. And things didn’t look bright with a non-league game coming up with St. Francis, which was undefeated and ranked third in Western New York and 17th in the state.

I returned to work that week and planned to return to the JHS beat with the game at St. Francis. My nephew was a member of the previous two St. Francis teams that Jamestown defeated. However, I learned from his parents that the feeling around St. Francis was this was the year it would get even and I had to agree.

However, after scoring a first-quarter touchdown on a 70-yard pass play, the hosts were very flat while Jamestown played inspired football and pulled out an impressive 14-6 win.

I came away thinking St. Francis was highly-overrated because it sure didn’t look like the No. 3 team in Western New York. Now St. Francis is 6-2, so I know it wasn’t a pushover. However, even with that non-league win, which was vital for Harbin points that the Red Raiders needed, I still wasn’t thinking about playoffs. But the Red Raiders were.

Next came a 29-20 win over North Tonawanda with Junior Scott Larson at quarterback in place of injured Jay Henry. Then came a tough 13-7 win at Orchard Park with Henry back as signal caller. The Red Raiders were still alive for a wild card-berth, but the chances were still slim. They needed plenty of help from other teams.

“We have to beat Frontier and nothing is sure yet,” Huckno said after the Orchard Park game. “We could end up losing by a point or two or winning by a point or two. It’s going to be a case of a lot of things have to happen.”

The big thing that happened was the following Friday night when Depew played to a scoreless tie with Lancaster, a team in front of Jamestown in the Division 1 standings, but behind the Red Raiders in Harbin points.

That made last Saturday’s task simple. Jamestown didn’t have to worry about accumulating more Harbin points with the results of their defeated opponents’ games. All the Red Raiders had to do was beat Frontier. Many times teams blow it in that situation. Jamestown didn’t. It blew out Frontier 42-7.

Since falling to 2-2 the Red Raiders were in a sudden-death situation. They couldn’t afford to lose. Now they are in another in the Section 6 Playoffs, another sudden death situation. Pressure is nothing new for this team so don’t be surprised if it advances to the Class A championship game at Rich Stadium on Nov. 18.

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