OBSERVER photo by Tim Frank
Salamanca’s Payton Bradley catches the game-winning touchdown pass with 6 seconds remaining as the Warriors beat Le Roy 21-13 in the Class C Far West Regional on Saturday at Williamsville South High School.
WILLIAMSVILLE — Payton Bradley was winless last season as the quarterback at Cattaraugus-Little Valley.
Now he’s a hero in Salamanca.
The Warriors sophomore tight end caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Maddox Isaac with 6 seconds remaining as Salamanca beat Le Roy 21-13 in the Class C Far West Regional on Saturday afternoon at Williamsville South High School.
“I’ve dreamed of this moment my whole life. I never got the opportunity there,” Bradley said of his time with the Timberwolves. “All love to them, but I really love it here. I’m just so excited to be here.”
“He’s done everything right,” Salamanca head coach Chad Bartoszek added. “He gets an opportunity like that to make a huge catch; it’s fantastic for him.”
The victory sends the Warriors into next Saturday’s New York State Public High School Athletic Association semifinal against Section IV Waverly at Cicero-North Syracuse High School. The Wolverines beat Section III Adirondack 49-8 in another quarterfinal.
“It’s crazy. I’ve only played in these games in basketball … I’ve never gotten anywhere close to this in football,” Isaac said. “I’ve been playing since I was just a kid dreaming about this.”
Tied at 13-all, Salamanca took over at the Le Roy 47-yard line with 2:07 remaining. Senior JT Auman ran for 7 yards on first down before Isaac ran a keeper to the right side of his offensive line and broke free for 24 yards, dragging tacklers for the final 10 yards, down to the 16-yard line.
“I’m not losing this game,” Isaac said of his thoughts during the run. “I was predetermined to keep on fighting no matter what.”
With just over a minute left, junior Zach Trietley picked up a yard before Isaac lost a yard on second down.
Following a timeout with 10 seconds remaining, Isaac took a shotgun snap and briefly looked at his outside wide receiver, junior Lucus Brown, who was covered. Isaac then threw over the middle to a wide-open Bradley, who made the biggest catch of his life.
“They were on us. They were taking away L.B. and Carmine, Arlen (Newark) was out. They knew where we were going. They had a good set for us,” Bartoszek said. “We were trying to sneak one through the seam a series before and we didn’t run it right. We were able to do it there and it just worked out. It parted, it worked. A pressure-packed situation … players making plays.”
“You have to be ready, but you also know when times are tough they call on … the guys they trust. … It was nice to step big when needed,” said Bradley, who transferred to Salamanca prior to the school year and had just three catches for 50 yards prior to Saturday. “He was supposed to check on me and I was wide open.”
“I loved the call,” Isaac added. “We were beating them outside the whole game, just pounding the outside and then we snuck one right down the middle.”
Le Roy, which took a knee on the ensuing kickoff, then tried several laterals after a quick pass on first down, but a penalty flag flew and the ball was eventually fumbled as the clock ran out.
Oatkan Knights senior Andrew Strollo gave his team a 7-0 lead late in the second quarter with a 1-yard run, but Salamanca answered two drives later. On fourth-and-5 from the Le Roy 45-yard line, Isaac connected with Newark down the Oatkan Knights’ sideline for a touchdown that tied the game after Newark’s point-after kick.
The score remained tied through halftime until Le Roy regained the lead midway through the third quarter. Warriors senior punter Jaxson Ross was ruled down after fielding a low fourth-down snap on one knee and the Oatkan Knights took over at the Salamanca 33-yard line. Seven players later, on fourth-and-goal, Strollo powered into the end zone from 4 yards out to make it 13-7, but the point-after kick was blocked.
Two drives later, the Warriors answered on their first play when Isaac ran around the right side of his line for a 33-yard touchdown.
“Seeing them overplay so much on the outside, just finding these little seams,” Isaac said, ” … I was running for my life, just having fun.”
“Their defense was taking away some of our quick-pass game. We had to run the quarterback,” Bartoszek added. “He’s the game breaker when he gets the edges … the touchdowns and the big plays.”
With a chance to take the lead, Salamanca’s point-after kick was also blocked, which sent the game to the fourth quarter tied 13-13.
The Warriors nearly took the lead on their penultimate drive, but a fourth-down throw in the end zone went off of Brown’s hands. After a Le Roy three-and-out, Bradley and Isaac made sure Salamanca’s final drive of the game would not be the final one of their season.
“They believe. At halftime they were down on themselves because they didn’t play up to their standards,” Bartoszek said. “They’re getting ready to roll … it’s the final four.”
NOTES: Isaac led Salamanca with 11 carries for 96 yards to go along with four completions for 96 yards through the air. … Defensively, Trietley was in on 14 tackles, junior Kyler Warrick was in on 11 tackles and junior Kyle Lecceardone was in on 11 tackles and had an interception. … For Le Roy, senior Tony Piazza ran for 81 yards and Strollo ran for 63 yards.
Le Roy 7 0 6 0 – 13
Salamanca 0 7 6 8 – 21
LeR-Strollo 1 run (Currin kick)
Sal-Newark 45 pass from Isaac (Newark kick)
LeR-Strollo 4 run (kick blocked)
Sal-Isaac 33 run (kick blocked)
Sal-Bradley 16 pass from Isaac (Hoag pass from Trietley)