ORCHARD PARK – Lucus Brown is a problem for opposing defenses.
On the basketball court – and apparently – on the football field.
Medina found out the hard way.
The Salamanca senior caught three passes for 80 yards – including a pair of game-changing touchdowns – as the Warriors beat the Mustangs 36-23 in a wild Section VI Class C championship game Friday afternoon at Highmark Stadium.
“He’s a special kid. He’s grown up in front of our eyes,” Salamanca head coach Chad Bartoszek said of Brown postgame. “He has so much talent that you have to keep giving him opportunities.”
Stefon Diggs is usually the wide receiver making awe-inspiring plays at the home of the Buffalo Bills.
Brown would’ve made him proud.
With Salamanca, Class C South’s No. 1 seed, clinging to a one-point lead midway through the third quarter, Warriors junior Cory Holleran intercepted a fourth-down pass and returned it to the Medina 28-yard line. On the next play from scrimmage, Salamanca junior quarterback Maddox Isaac lofted a ball down the sideline in the direction of Brown. Fighting with Kaedon Cleveland all the way down the field, Brown fended off the Mustangs senior with his left arm and then hauled in the pass with his right arm as he fell into the end zone to give the Warriors a 23-16 lead.
“Me and him were fighting one on one. It was over my shoulder … I caught it and secured it,” Brown said. “It was an unbelievable catch.”
The Warriors faked the point-after kick, and Isaac – the holder – was tackled while looking for an open receiver. He left the game with an injury and didn’t return.
That left the Salamanca offense in the hands of senior Jaxson Ross.
He did not disappoint.
With 1:38 remaining in the third quarter, Ross capped a quick, five-play drive with a 4-yard touchdown run to give the Warriors a 30-16 lead.
“Maddox is a warrior, he’s fighting through. You saw what he can bring. We had to move over to Jaxson. On the flip side, we had to take (Jaxson) off the defensive side,” Bartoszek said. ” … Those two guys continue to battle and continue to lead.”
Medina, Class C North’s No. 1 seed, quickly fought back, marching 62 yards in just three plays covering just 1:12 of game time. Cleveland caught two passes from quarterback Julian Woodworth for 59 yards and then on first-and-goal, Christian Moss scored on a 3-yard run to make it 30-23 after Cole Callard point-after kick.
“Medina is so big and strong up front. That counter game, they run it so well, we just had to weather the initial push,” Bartoszek said. “We were able to keep responding and I think that allowed us to get some field position.”
The Mustangs got the ball back after a Salamanca three-and-out, but on fourth-and-3 from the 49-yard line, Warriors senior JT Auman broke up a pass to give the ball back to his offense.
“JT is a kid who could be getting 20 carries a game, but he does all the dirty stuff, all the little things,” Bartoszek said. “He’s always in the right spot. He switched from linebacker to cornerback mid-year. JT Auman is just one of those kids that keeps this thing rolling.”
Again, Salamanca wasted no time capitalizing. On second-and-10, Brown caught a pass from Ross over the middle and raced away from a pair of defenders to turn it into a 49-yard touchdown.
“He’s a huge piece of our team. He makes big plays all the time,” Ross said. “With Lucus Brown, it’s going to be a touchdown.”
Down two scores, the Mustangs took over with 8:29 remaining, but another Auman fourth-down pass breakup ended any thought of a comeback by Medina – which shut out Falconer/Cassadaga Valley/Maple Grove and Southwestern in its first two playoff games before allowing 36 points Friday.
“JT was making huge plays all day,” Ross said. “I give it to the boys in the secondary, when (Medina) needed to pass we made plays.”
That left the Warriors just over five minutes to kill before celebrating their 10th sectional championship and first since 2001.
“This feels so good. This feels amazing,” Ross said. “We’ve worked for this our whole lives. We’ve been dreaming of this since we were kids.”
Salamanca will take on the winner of today’s Section V championship between Le Roy and Attica/Alexander in the Far West Regionals at noon next Saturday at Williamsville South High School.
“We obviously have bigger goals, but this is a milestone,” Ross added. “This is a step to greatness … a step toward history.”
NOTES: Salamanca’s Zach Trietley scored on a 61-yard screen pass from Ross and Isaac ran for an 11-yard touchdown in the first half, but Medina led Salamanca 16-14 at halftime. Arlen Newark’s 25-yard field goal gave the Warriors a 17-16 lead with 9:43 left in the third quarter. … Ross and Isaac combined to complete 14 of 26 passes for 308 yards and three touchdowns to go along with an interception. … Medina ran for 179 yards, but just 28 after halftime. Moss led the way with 14 carries for 93 yards. … Salamanca’s Keegan Hardy was named the Cross Training Athletics Big 5 Character Athlete of the Game for the Warriors.
Salamanca 7 7 16 6 – 36
Medina 6 10 7 0 – 23
Med-Woodworth 1 run (pass failed)
Sal-Trietley 61 pass from Ross (Newark kick)
Med-Cudzilo 18 pass from Woodworth (Callard kick)
Sal-Isaac 11 run (Newark kick)
Med-Callard 25 FG
Sal-Newark 25 FG
Sal-Brown 28 pass from Isaac (run failed)
Sal-Ross 4 run (Newark kick)
Med-Moss 3 run (Callard kick)
Sal-Brown 49 pass from Ross (kick failed)