Falcons 2-0 for first time since 2007
By David Yarger
What a difference a year makes. Last year, the Niagara-Wheatfield Falcons football team's defense struggled to slow teams down. In 2018, the Falcons haven't given up a point.
The Falcons defeated the Frontier Falcons, 19-0, Saturday, on a cool and breezy day at Terry Harvey Field.
The game wasn't the Falcons' best offensively (coming off a 48-0 victory over North Tonawanda), but defensively, the team stayed on the same path as in week one.
Frontier held the Falcons on their first offensive series, but on N-W's second possession, quarterback Jordan Parks, who played with the flu, took two carries 75 yards, with the second going for a 52-yard touchdown. After the point after attempt, the score was 7-0, Niagara-Wheatfield.
On Frontier's second offensive possession, N-W defensive lineman Kevin Cannon seized the drive by picking up his second fumble recovery of the year. The play was a theme of sorts, as Frontier fumbled the football four times. Bryson Solomon picked up the Falcons' third fumble one possession later.
The rest of the game's scoring was done minutes before halftime. After just a nine-yard punt by Frontier, N-W took over at the Frontier 41-yard line. From there, quarterback Chris Gordon III ran for eight yards and threw for 33 yards, highlighted by a pitch and catch to Austin Leber for 23 yards. Leber finished the drive off with a five-yard touchdown run. The PAT was no good, and the Falcons led, 13-0.
After forcing another Frontier punt, the Falcons started off at their own 22-yard line. The first play was called back due to a penalty and pushed the Falcons back to their own six-yard line. The distance didn't seem to bother Parks, who took off on a QB keeper for a 94-yard touchdown run. After an unsuccessful PAT, the score was 19-0, Niagara-Wheatfield.
From halftime on, the defensive intensity increased, and both offenses stalled for the most part, with a few occasional big plays.
At the end, with Parks and Gordon on the sideline, Tommy Peltier stepped in to put the Falcons into victory formation and close out the game. The final was 19-0, in favor of Niagara-Wheatfield.
Offensively for N-W, Parks and Gordon combined threw for 89 yards. Parks also led the rushing attack with eight carries for 177 yards and two touchdowns. Overall, the Falcons accumulated 305 total yards.
Defensively, Jake DeWolf led with eight tackles; Cody Giuliani and Griffin Cornwell each had six tackles; and Noah Bennett and Solomon added a sack apiece.
Niagara-Wheatfield coach Russ Nixon admitted he knew the game would be a fight, but he was happy to see his team on top at the end.
"We knew we were going against a tough Frontier team," Nixon said. "We knew they were much improved from the team we saw last year, and they battled."
The Falcons also defeated Frontier last season, 41-26.
Niagara-Wheatfield is now 2-0 for the first time since 2007 thanks to two straight shutout victories. Of all things, Nixon couldn't praise his defense enough.
"I gotta high-point our defense," he said. "Back-to-back shutouts and today they just played lights out. Not giving up too much against a difficult offense to defend at times. ... I told them 'D-tackles, D-ends, our linebackers, our safeties, our corners, everybody just contributed to that.' "
Nixon also credited Guiliani, James McVay and Will Gansworth for battling all day on the defensive line and creating pressure on the Frontier offense.
The Falcons will hit the road for their first away game of the season next week. Next up: the Hamburg Bulldogs. The Falcons struggled on the road last season, and Nixon's main focus was just to be prepared and focused for Hamburg.
"Just being prepared, being ready to execute our offense, defense, (and) special teams. We know they got a big back; being able to account for him and making sure that we're prepared on our end," Nixon said.
The battle at Hamburg High School is at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Niagara-Wheatfield's Antonio Conklin tackles Frontier quarterback Alex Lippert.
Noah Mixon leaps and catches a pass from quarterback Chris Gordon III
Quarterback Jordan Parks runs for a touchdown versus Frontier