The Post-Journal

JHS Absent From Second Home

We’re about to finish our second, and last, week of postseason play in New York high school football and one team’s absence has been very noticeable, particularly at Rich Stadium Tuesday for the Section 6 Football Championships Media Day. That team was Jamestown.

Playoff games have been held at Rich Stadium since 1979 and Jamestown had made the most appearances there with nine until Springville tied that record this season. Since 1987, a semifinal round of playoff games has been played and in those six seasons the Red Raiders have been a participant four times.

“It was certainly strange not to be in the playoffs at all,” Coach Wally Huckno said earlier this week. “Strange and not good. The whole coaching staff, we kind of felt the same way - like we lost our best friend. I would like to say it’s better now than a week ago, but it isn’t.”

Huckno has been on the Jamestown coaching staff for all the Rich Stadium appearances and has been the head coach for six, but he wasn’t predicting a seventh back in August. When previewing an extremely young team, which had only two senior starters back and plenty of underclassmen, he stressed, “The kids are going to have to come through.”

They did and the Red Raiders entered the final game of the season at Lockport knowing that if they won, they’d win the Division I title and a Playoff berth. If they lost, they were out of the playoffs completely. Jamestown lost on a 53-yard Lockport touchdown pass play with two minutes to play to end the Red Raiders’ season with 4-3-1 record.

“I felt down in the dumps for the last couple weeks and I know I shouldn’t be,” Huckno said. “We’ve had a lot of success and rationally it’s hard to explain it. But when I look back, really, we should have been 7-1. We had Sweet Home 14-0 (and ended up with a 14-14 tie) and we lost two games (St. Francis and Lockport) in the last two minutes. I think we had enough talent. Maybe if we made the right coaching decision and had done things a little differently, we would be there (in the playoffs).”

He added, “I do take some consolation that we gave Orchard Park their only loss and we gave Sweet Home their only blemish - a tie.” Those are the two teams playing today at Rich Stadium for the Class A title that Jamestown won last year.

“It’s very easy to transpose to the next level - If that being the case (trying and beating the finalists), how come we’re
not there,” Huckno said. “Well, that’s just the nature of the game. I can remember one year we lost very early to Kenmore East. Before the season was over, we left them well behind and we went (to Rich Stadium) and they didn’t, and that was our only loss. But even rationally being able to explain it doesn’t do away with the hurt.”

And like Jamestown, Orchard Park had a young team and Coach Dan Elvin thought his team was a year away from contending. And he repeated that Tuesday at Rich Stadium. But his Orchard Park team kept building momentum and ended up as the division champ. Jamestown also continued to improve and put itself in the position to win that title.

“It’s like everything else. You get your hopes up even if they are premature,” Huckno said. “I think (Falconer Coach) Bill Race is a good case in point. He didn’t expect to be there and we aren’t there.”

But Rich Stadium is almost like a second home to the Jamestown football team, so not being there this year is tough to accept. Huckno said he has a sign above his mirror at home that says- Losing Hurts Winners Most of All.

“I think that epitomizes our program,” he said. “We’re almost mourning like at a funeral. It seems like a rather stupid thing when there are so many important things in the world.”

Most of the players have accepted the sudden end of the season, but there are some senior who haven’t. Huckno mentioned it’s more difficult for the ones who don’t participate in winter sports, which quickly gets their minds off football. “They look lost,” he said. But there is a group more lost.

“The senior parents are almost stricken,” Huckno said. “You prepare yourself when you’re going to lose. I think we do that well with kids, but I don’t think we do that well with the community and with the parents. I run into more people that are devastated.”

If it can’t be Jamestown, Huckno is pleased that Orchard Park is playing today for the title his team won last year. “I thought Orchard Park was the best team we faced,” he said.

And most of Orchard Park’s success came on defense because it allowed the fewest points in Division I- 52. Jamestown was next by allowing 107. That is where the Red Raiders get a little more consolation.

“They gave up 52 points and we scored half of the points in one game against them,” Huckno said about the Red Raiders’ 26-21 victory at Orchard Park. There could be quite a bit of talk about those two teams in Division I next season. Orchard Park will have 8 defensive starters coming back. Jamestown will have back its numerous underclassmen, including about 5 starters back on the offense and the defense. Also, this season’s junior varsity was undefeated.

“Next year Orchard Park has to be the favorite (especially) when you have 8 people coming back on your defense,” Huckno said. Then he mentioned he has to find two new tackles and a center. “We do have a lot of kids coming back, but it’s like up the middle in baseball.” It’s a long wait for practice to begin in August. Until then there are plenty of good memories for the 1992 season to fall back on. “We will be hard pressed to play any better that we did this year,” Huckno said. “We didn’t play too bad - except for a couple of plays.”

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