A first-quarter touchdown and a fourth-quarter goal-line stand allowed the Kane Tornadoes to claim the Olean Youth Football League Pony Championship in their first year as a league member.
The championship put the finishing touch on a season in which the Tornadoes had to win their final regular season game to get into the playoffs and then had to overcome the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the South Division to reach the championship game.
North Division champion Cuba, N.Y. provided the opposition for South Division Champ Kane on a cool, sunny fall day on the artificial turf at Bolivar, N.Y. High School this past Sunday. Cuba won the opening coin toss and elected to go on offense against the tough Tornado defense. The Rebels were able to move the ball on their first series and advanced into Kane territory before the Tornado defense stiffened and Kane took over on downs at their own 40. Behind the effective running of Raymond Maze, J.T. Stewart and Ange Costanzo, the Tornadoes moved steadily down field chewing up both yardage and time. Stewart culminated the drive with a five-yard TD run and the Tornadoes took a 6-0 lead as the first quarter ended.
The second quarter was an exercise in defense as both teams struggled to move the ball. The Tornado defensive ends Maze and Stewart, tackles Trinity Clark and Eric DeLong, nose tackle Delsin Hillard, linebackers Costanzo, Cyrus Novosel and Reed Williams and defensive backs Danny Baker, Noah Blankenship and Alec English had not given up a point in three straight games and were playing like they expected to make it four as they gave the Rebel offense no room to maneuver. Cuba's defense matched the Tornadoes' effort as they gave ground grudgingly and kept the Kane offense off the board for the balance of the first half. Costanzo ended the final Rebel threat of the half as he picked off a pass and headed for the pay dirt. A desperation tackle kept the Kane linebacker out of the end zone and the half ended with the Tornadoes clinging to a 6-0 lead.
The third quarter opened with the Tornadoes in possession but unable to sustain a drive. The teams then traded possessions with neither team able to gain an advantage but field position began to change in Cuba's favor as time wound down in the quarter. Forced to punt from deep in their own territory, Kane's Williams had his punt blocked by a strong Cuba rush. Costanzo recovered the ball at the Kane nine but short of the first down marker and the Rebels took over in great field position. A first down run netted seven yards for the Rebels, but on second down from the Kane two-yard line, DeLong broke through and separated the Cuba quarterback from the ball. Maze came up with a key fumble recovery and the Tornadoes had dodged a bullet and regained possession as the third quarter ended.
The fourth quarter proved to be a contest of intensity and desire between two teams who wanted desperately to become a champion. Starting in the shadow of their own goal line, the Tornadoes were able to gain a little breathing room before giving up the ball. Taking over near midfield with roughly six minutes left in the game, the Rebels began to march toward the Tornadoes' goal line and with just over four minutes to play, they had a first and goal at the Tornadoes' seven-yard line. A first down run put the ball at the Kane one-yard line and the Rebels looked poised to tie the game. The Tornadoes defense refused to give in however and in the next three plays, the Rebels were held to no gain and losses of three and four yards by the swarming Kane defense. The Kane offense took over at their own eight-yard line with four minutes left in the game determined to move the ball and take time off the clock. The offensive line of tight end Jake Goldsmith, tackles Chase Moore and Austin Guy Eschrich, guards Clark and Novosel and center Tyler Pacheco went to work and started moving the Cuba defense backward. With the line taking care of Cuba's defensive front, the Tornadoes put the ball in Costanzo's hands. Behind lead blocks from Stewart and Maze and receivers Austin Pierson and Ben Reynolds, Costanzo rumbled for 30 of his 46 yards on the day and the Tornadoes had taken three minutes and two seconds off the clock. Taking over at the Kane 35 with 58 seconds and no time outs left, Cuba was left with few options. The swarming Kane defense took care of those options and three plays later the Tornadoes were champions.
See full article by purchasing the Oct. 26 edition of The Kane Republican.