Despite the loss, Falcons have a night to remember under the lights
By David Yarger
In his post-game speech coach Russ Nixon said, "This is a night you guys will never forget." The statement is fitting, as the Falcons made history playing the school's first game under Friday night lights at Terry Harvey Field.
The Falcons lost the homecoming battle with Class AA power Williamsville North, 49-14.
Although things didn't turn out the way N-W wanted to on the field, the hype for the game lived to its billing, as fans stormed the stands wearing red and showing their Falcons pride.
The evening started early with Falcon Fest behind the school. The event included food trucks, inflatable obstacle courses, Kan Jam, inflatable bumper bubbles and a dunk tank, which all provided fun pregame activities for students.
At 6 p.m., the school honored the senior cheerleaders and football players. Cheerleaders and football players walked with family out to mid-field where they were announced over the loud speaker, getting vast cheers from the crowd.
Following the senior night activities, the Falcons' football players headed back to the locker room where a surprise waited. Originally, the Falcons were planned to wear their normal black home jerseys. With the help of boosters, N-W grad Justin Gilmore and Buffalo Bills linebacker Preston Brown, the team was welcomed with new alternate red jerseys to fit the night's theme of "Red out."
After the team put their new jerseys on, they stood in the tunnel, getting ready to run onto the field for warmups. As music sounded, the Falcons entered through red smoke delivered by a fog machine and Wheatfield fans were ecstatic to see the new apparel.
Nixon said, even though the game didn't turn out the Falcons' way, it was still a tremendous night.
"This was awesome. The guys loved it, obviously not the outcome we wanted, but the effort was there, the fight was there. It was a game ... Just absolutely electric," he said. "With everything we were able to accomplish with the help of Preston Brown, Justin Gilmore and Lorna Peltier of the Niagara-Wheatfield families group; to have the lights, the speakers, the fog machine, the new alternate red jerseys, that they love and I love, it's a night they'll never forget."
Will North got up 21-0 early before Jordan Parks ran in from four yards to get the Falcons on the board. Parks also scored the second N-W touchdown in the third quarter, this time from three yards out. Parks finished with 15 carries for 123 yards and two touchdowns.
Coming out of the half down 21-7, the Falcons needed a spark to try and get the game moving their direction. Senior, Brandon Higgins' onside kick to start the half was recovered by freshman Zion Paige to put the Falcons in good field position to make it a one-possession game. The Falcons offense couldn't muster any points though, and turned it over on downs.
Nixon said, even if the Falcons would've put points on the board, it still would've been a tough game.
"It's still a battle, but we definitely wanted to get points there and I think it would've opened up the eyes on the other sideline a little wider," he said.
Josh Brown had a stellar night in the backfield for N-W. The senior fullback ran 13 times for 113 yards. Nixon said he's proud of his seniors, and they set an example for the younger players.
"These seniors, they're a great group. This is my fifth year with the program, so, I've gotten to see these guys really grow from being young kids to young men and I'm so proud of each and every one of them. They set a good tone and I'm really hoping our underclassmen take notes from them and are ready to get to work this offseason," he said.
Nixon's seniors include, Matt Alexis, Jacob Ambrosia, Kris Azzarelli, Bailey Braunscheidel, Brown, Justin Clyde, Joel Flegal, Higgins, Connor Henderson, Mitchell Linnan, Bryan Lucinski, Nick Mancari, Vincent Musolino, Alex Padilla, James Pierce, Chris Smyth, Justin Stickney and Nick Weir.
The loss eliminates the Falcons chances at a playoff spot, but the season is not over, as the team will likely play in the Funke Bowl Classic. Dates, times and locations for the games are still to be determined.
Niagara-Wheatfield, wearing the new alternate red jerseys, huddle before the first night game in N-W history.