The Post-Journal

Red Raiders Are Ahead Of Schedule

In a preseason preview of the Jamestown High School football team, Coach Wally Huckno emphasized his team was very young with only two senior starters back. That is why he wasn’t very optimistic about the season. The roster was filled with underclassmen and he said, “The key is these young kids coming together.”

They’ve come together earlier than anyone expected. Just ask Sweet Home, ranked third in Western New York that posted a 13-13 tie at home with Jamestown. Or Frontier, which led 12-0 at halftime and watched the Red Raiders score 34 unanswered second-half points. Or Orchard Park, tied for 8th in WNY, which had two 70-yard touchdown passes in the first quarter of their home game Friday with the Red Raiders; just the type of plays that can demoralize a young team. But when time expired Jamestown went home with a 25-21 victory and now is ranked fifth in WNY.

Not bad for a team dominated by underclassmen. The roster includes only 13 senior, 20 juniors, no sophomores and, for the first time since Huckno has been with the program, there are three freshmen. And it was freshmen who got everything started this season.

Any doubts about their abilities were quickly erased at Sweet Home when Andy Benson took the opening kickoff and the ninth-grader ran it back 90 yards for a touchdown. Then another freshmen, Chris John, kicked the extra point.

Jamestown jumped out to a 14-0 lead in that game and then hung on for the tie. In the second half Sweet Home ran 37 plays compared to 11 for Jamestown, so the Red Raiders’ defense picked up plenty of experience and respect rather quickly.
In their home opener the following week, the Red Raiders trailed 12-0 at halftime and had been outgained on the ground by 100 yards. Not a good situation for a young, inexperienced team. Right? Wrong.

In the second half Jamestown quickly took the lead on its first two possessions and kept on rolling to a 34-12 win. The Red Raiders outgained Frontier 157-19 in total yardage the final two quarters. The Red Raiders entered that game without junior Duane Waite, who saw quite a bit of playing time last season. He was an important part of the secondary in the win over Sweet Home, but a broken ankle sidelined him and Huckno brought up from the junior varsity another freshmen, Joe McCoy. McCoy played defensive end and his presence was felt immediately by the Frontier quarterback who tried to avoid the big freshman’s pressure and pass over or around him.

Last Friday night Jamestown had to play at Orchard Park against another young team. The rosters were about the same because Orchard Park had 13 seniors, 23 juniors and one sophomore. But the Quakers had four starters back on defense.

So Jamestown was playing on the road at night against a young but more experienced team. And when Orchard Park opened the scoring with a screen pass that resulted in a 70-yard touchdown the Red Raiders could have folded up their tents. Instead, they answered back with a 64-yard touchdown drive that featured three passes, including the last for a touchdown, by junior quarterback Jim Barlow.

He had thrown only 10 passes in the previous two games and completed five, about average for the always ground oriented Jamestown attack. However, Orchard Park dared the Red Raiders to throw by putting everyone on the line during Jamestown’s first possession. Huckno took the challenge and let Barlow put the ball up- an amazing (for Jamestown) 25 times. He completed 13 - 208 yards and two touchdowns.

If was only fitting that most of the receptions were by another junior, Ryan Beaver. But it was seniors such as Branden Maggio, Chris Lange, John Nocero and Todd Saracki, who were given Barlow the protection to throw the ball so many times. However, quite a few times the Quakers got to the young passer, but not before he released the ball. He was often on his back under a big Quaker defender while his receiver was grabbing the ball. But Barlow kept getting right up and doing it again.

Huckno was quick to point out the unity of the team and used senior Jim LaMancuso as an example. He was in the running for the starting quarterback position, but lost out to Barlow. Huckno said that would be tough to swallow for a lot of seniors, but LaMancuso was asked to play in the secondary and was one of the many Red Raiders who covered the Orchard Park receivers like blankets in the final minutes when the Quakers threw six more times than Jamestown and completed only one more pass than the Red Raiders.

Because Orchard Park had more experience, if mistakes were to be made, they should have been made by the young Red Raiders. Huckno said his team did make mistakes, but they weren’t as glaring as those by Orchard Park.

It was Orchard Park that fumbled the snap exchange twice after falling behind 19-14 in the third quarter. It was Orchard Park that committed a holding penalty that nullified a touchdown pass that would have cut the lead to 26-20 early in the fourth quarter. It was Orchard Park what was guilty of having 12 men on the field after gaining momentum with an interception with 2:55 left to play, and two plays later it was Orchard Park that had a 23-yard run deep into Jamestown territory erased because of a clipping penalty on the other side of the field away from the play.

Last Friday’s win put Jamestown in a first-place tie in Division I with North Tonawanda, which is coming off a loss to Sweet Home. And that is who the Red Raiders play today at 2 p.m. at Strider Field.

This Jamestown team was supposed to gain experience as the season moved on, but the Red Raiders have progressed quicker than expected. And if you haven’t seen them play, today would be a great day to take a look at the Red Raiders.

North Tonawanda had trouble stopping the Sweet Home ground game last week, so the Lumberjacks might not see Barlow throw a pass today. But if they concentrate too much on stopping the Jamestown run, look out. It could be interesting to watch.
And if Jamestown is trailing by a couple touchdowns at halftime don’t leave. Fans who did that two weeks ago were rather shocked when they heard the final score.

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We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.