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HS football: Niagara-Wheatfield squeaks by Lockport on opening day

Sun, Sep 3rd 2017 11:20 am
Falcons and Lions combine for 85 points in offensive barnburner
By David Yarger
Tribune Editor
High school football was back in action at Niagara-Wheatfield on Saturday. The Falcons and Lions offenses put on a clinic in the 48-minute affair, with Niagara-Wheatfield defeating Lockport, 43-42.
Wheatfield coach Russ Nixon breathed a sigh of relief after the game, after the Falcons saw their lead decline to 1.
"What a battle on both sides," he said. "Feels nice to win the first home-opener here in I don't know how long. So it feels great to get that one and then get us going on a positive roll, especially heading into next week against a tough opponent."
Rushing yards came at ease, especially for the Falcons. The team had 49 carries for 404 yards. Quarterback Jordan Parks led the way with 12 carries for 140 yards and a touchdown, while Jake DeWolf had 12 for 129 yards and three touchdowns.
The game didn't start the Falcons' way, as Javon Ford led Lockport down the field on a 10-play, 70-yard drive, which he capped off with a 16-yard run to the end zone. The Lions used nine rushing plays, including six QB keepers by Ford, on the drive. The two-point conversion was no good, and, after the first drive, Lockport led 6-0.
After a relatively quick, no-huddle drive by Lockport, Nixon gathered his defense and got players to calm down and adjust.
After the Wheatfield offense went three and out, Lockport came back onto the field looking to go up by two possessions.
Kevin Cannon sacked Ford on first down, and, three plays later, the Lions turned it over on downs at the Wheatfield 37-yard line.
Wheatfield walked down the field on the Lions defense, going six plays with Josh Brown capping the drive with a one-yard touchdown run. After a successful two-point conversion, Wheatfield took its first lead of the season, 8-6.
The Wheatfield defense made the Lions turn it over on downs again the next drive and, once the offense got the ball, Parks took care of business. His run of 25 yards got the Falcons to the four-yard line. That's when Brown took the handoff from Parks and bulled his way in from four yards for his second touchdown. Brown finished with 55 yards and the two touchdowns.
After an unsuccessful fake field goal, Wheatfield led 14-6.
Lockport answered back, though. After a good return on the kick, Ford ran it in from 19 yards out, capping a seven-play drive. After a successful two-point conversion, it was tied up at 14.
Each defense held the other in check for their respective drives. Lockport averted a huge mistake, as a punt that was muffed and recovered by Wheatfield was called back for an illegal procedure.
Just before halftime, DeWolf grabbed a carry from the 36-yard line and took it to the house for the touchdown. After the extra point, the Falcons went into halftime up 21-14.
The Falcons came out the locker room starting right where they finished. Four plays and four big runs was all it took. DeWolf carried it in from the 21 for his second touchdown of the day, to give Wheatfield a 29-14 lead after the two-point conversion.
Lockport's Nico Haney wasted no time as he took the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown. The conversion was unsuccessful, but the Falcons too a nine-point lead, 29-20.
The return didn't seem to affect the Falcons, though, as they marched 64 yards down the field, ending in a Parks seven-yard scramble for a touchdown. He successfully passed to Nick Stott for the two-point conversion, putting N-W up 37-20.
The Falcons combined for 126 yards on the two drives, and Nixon said that's what his team is all about.
"That's our M-O. We wanna run the ball, we wanna be physical, and you could see that," he said.
After holding the Lions again on fourth down, the Falcons offense came back onto the field and just missed on a trick play. Parks pitched to Thomas Peltier, who was in motion, and, as Peltier was running to his left, the lefty lofted a pass down the field to Joe Lozina that just missed being a big play.
After a good punt return, Lockport scored after two Xaviar Barber runs. After a Ford two-point conversion, the Lions inched closer, down 37-28.
Near the end of the third quarter, Parks ran for a 26-yard gain, but came out of the game momentarily due to injury. Without Parks in, Brown, Stott and DeWolf carried the team down the field again, with DeWolf getting his third touchdown of the day to make it 43-28.
Lockport wouldn't go down easy, as Barber and Ford led the Lions on a scoring drive following another good kick return. Ford ran in for another touchdown from two yards out, but was unsuccessful on the two-point conversion, making it 43-34, Falcons.
After a failed onside kick by Lockport, the Falcons looked to run the clock out by pounding the ball. But after two plays, the Falcons fumbled and gave it back to the Lions.
Ford completed a pass deep down the field, but it was called back due to a penalty. Nevertheless, after two runs for a combined 28 yards, and then three plays, the Lions faced a fourth and four. Barber bolted to his right, down to the 11-yard line, for a 32-yard gain. Ford found Cullen Snyder on the next play for a touchdown and, after the successful two-point conversion, it was 43-42 Wheatfield.
Lockport lined up to kick on the ensuing kickoff, and from the sidelines Lockport coaches were yelling, "Make sure you get under it." The kick was high, but too far, and Wheatfield was able to fall on it and then lineup in victory formation.
The final read Niagara-Wheatfield 43, and Lockport 42.
Nixon said his biggest concern heading into the season was how in shape his team would be come week one. He noticed in years prior the team would get into game shape too late into the season. He said he felt his team looked good this time around, but it could get better.
"I think we can get into a little bit better shape, and keep continuing our conditioning, but yeah, I did (think we looked better)," he said. "Lockport came out and ran their mayday offense on us and we had to be ready to roll, and our guys were ready to go on both sides. We were well-enough conditioned for today, but we gotta be in better condition for next Friday."
The end of this week brings on a tough task for the Falcons, as they travel to Orchard Park High School. The Quakers are known as one of Western New York's elite programs year in and year out. The Falcons will battle the Quakers at 7 p.m. Friday.

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