By David Yarger
Over the past year, Niagara-Wheatfield and North Tonawanda High School have been battling on the field, with student-athletes showing pride for their respective schools. The two schools accomplished a few feats that made hometown residents proud to call the area home. With that, here is a recap of some of those accomplishments from the past year.
NT Hoops on Historic Run
On March 7, coming off a 60-54 upset win in the Section VI Class A1 finals versus Williamsville South, the North Tonawanda Lumberjacks defeated the Amherst Tigers, 58-51, to clinch the Section VI Class A title. When the game versus Williamsville South ended, players stormed the court, hugging their head coach, Ryan Mountain. The title was NT's first since 1961 and fifth in history.
Mountain was proud after the victory, saying, "It feels great. We really felt we were the better team, and we felt if we played our game, the NT way, we would win."
The win versus Amherst solidified the Jacks a trip to the Far West Regional game versus Section V Irondequoit. The Jacks were eventually defeated by the eventual state champions, but it was the first regional game in program history, something that meant a lot to the team.
After the loss, Mountain said, "It's been an incredible journey for two years, one that no one will be able to take away from this team. Obviously, 20 wins- most in NT history; highest-scoring team in NT history; and made it the furthest in a sectional run in NT history. All things that they've earned the right to walk tall with pride and confidence. When I say 'earned,' they earned it."
The Jacks finished the historic season with a record of 20-5, and earned a share of the Niagara Frontier League title along with the sectional run.
Falcons Golf Continues Winning Ways
On Oct. 10, the Niagara-Wheatfield golf team finished up another undefeated season at the Niagara Frontier League Tournament. The team's 23-0 record continued the program's winning streak of 68 straight matches. The team was led by freshman Anthony Delisanti, who won the tournament carding a 3-under, 69. Along with Delisanti, Nolan Codd and Nick Peters qualified for the Section VI tournament, carding 74 and 81, respectively.
Following the tournament, coach Tim Codd praised the showing from his team.
"The boys played really well again," Codd said. "We had Anthony come in at 3-under par, which in my years coaching, I've never had anyone come in that far under... It's been a good run. It's been fun with the guys and I'm very proud of what they did."
Over four years the Falcons have gone 88-1, and in Peters' six years as a starter, the team compiled a 121-10 record.
Nolan Codd, Delisanti and Peters will take a crack at the Section VI tournament at River Oaks Golf Club on May 21. The Falcons are looking to send another golfer to the state tournament in back-to-back years, after Matt Pawlak qualified last season.
Niagara-Wheatfield Hosts First Night Football Game
On Oct. 13, the Niagara-Wheatfield football team played a part in the school's first ever night home game at Terry Harvey Field. The Falcons lost to eventual Section VI Class AA runner up Williamsville North, but as coach Russ Nixon said to his team, it was a night the players would never forget. The historic night was also senior night and the beginning of the school's homecoming weekend. Prior to the game, students enjoyed food trucks, Kan Jam, dunk tanks and various activities before walking over to the football field. Senior football players and cheerleaders were honored on the field before kickoff, and after the ceremony the players headed back to the locker room for a unique surprise. Waiting for players in their lockers were brand new red jerseys to fit the night's theme: "Red out."
The night was largely put together with the help of alumnus Justin Gilmore, Buffalo Bills linebacker Preston Brown and the Niagara-Wheatfield football families' boosters.
On the historic night, Nixon said, "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. 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."
N-W Girls Volleyball Wins League, Makes Finals
In late October, Brandi Cochran's Falcons girls volleyball team captured the Niagara Frontier League title, something Cochran had been looking to do as a coach for 13 years. The team defeated Grand Island, 3-0, in the Niagara Frontier League crossover championship game.
The Falcons weren't finished, though, as they continued their hot streak into the sectional playoffs. After two more wins, the Falcons landed in the Section VI Class A title game, a first for the program. The Falcons didn't come up with the win, but Cochran said, despite the loss, the season was one for the ages.
"I told the girls to realize how incredibly proud they need to be of their team. They fought hard in that last match and, win or lose, they have to know they are a very talented team that is inspiring to watch," Cochran said. "I wanted to make sure they recognized how special this season was and what an honor it was to be league champions and to represent Class A in the section- al final match. I'm hoping they are proud of everything they've accomplished this year because I sure am."
The majority of the team will be back next season, as the roster had four seniors, eight juniors, one freshman and one eighth-grader.
Weir Wins NFL player of Year
This past soccer season, the Niagara-Wheatfield girls soccer team was led by Erin Weir, a freshman playing in her second season on varsity. Weir led the team with 18 goals and 10 assists, good for 46 points on the year. Along with the stats, Weir was voted as the Niagara Frontier League Player of the Year, a huge feat for just a freshman.
Early in the season, coach Pete Cerny said of Weir's play, "I think she's just beginning to find where she belongs with the team. She played varsity last year, and played very well, but this year there's a little bit more of a mature leader on the field, and it shows in her play."
Weir finished in the top-25 in points for all of Western New York, made fourth team for all of New York state, second team all-WNY, and first team all-NFL.