ORCHARD PARK - Before their 2010 Sectional championship, the Fredonia Hillbillies had gone 25 years without one.
They are certainly hoping the wait will be much shorter this time around.
Their first chance at another title comes today as the Hillbillies (7-2) take on Cleveland-Hill (7-2) at 1 p.m. at Ralph Wilson Stadium in the Section 6 Class C championship game.
The Fredonia Hillbillies will take on the Cleveland-Hill Golden?Eagles today at?Ralph Wilson?Stadium for the Section 6 Class C?high school football championship. Pictured are the Fredonia Hillbillies. They are, in front from left, Steve Mignoli, Zach Odebralski, Jude Gardner, Jonathan Hannah, Hunter Halberg, Weston Ley, Tyler Cassidy and Sean Sluberski. In the second row are Damien Degolier, Zack Gloff, Sebastian McAfee, Tyler DiRusso, Garret Johnson, Cody Smith and Jake Panasci. In the third row are Coach Kyle Yelich, Joe Gilvin, Matt McCarthy, John Piper, Nick Nocek, Zach Buckley, Taylor Engel, Dustin Wickmark, Nick Johnston and Coach Bob Ball. In back are Coach Greg Betts, Jin Kim, Trent Thompson, Tory Grupa, Chris Saden, Brett Seekings, Matt Stebbins Willie Ray and Coach Mike Marshall. Missing is Coach Kenny Betts.
Fredonia defeated Cleveland-Hill, 15-8, in Week 5 at the Orange Bowl.
In that game, the Hillbillies defense shined as they held the Golden Eagles' running back Brandon Thomas to just 34 yards on 16 caries.
Thomas is Cleveland-Hill's top threat as he has rushed for 1,030 yards and 17 touchdowns this season.
"We have two good ends who stopped their run game the first time," Fredonia coach Bob Ball said of Christian Saden and Nick Nocek. "The reason we did so well was they tried kicking the ends out, but that's the strength of our defense and we took that away. I'm sure they will have adjustments for it. At this point, all we can do is prepare for what we think they are going to do and make the adjustments (today)."
Nocek leads the team with 86 tackles while Saden is the team's third leading tackler with 56 stops.
Since their Week 5 loss to Fredonia, the Golden Eagles have gone 3-1. They handled Amherst, 38-8 the following week before falling to JFK, 29-28 in the final game of the regular season. In the playoffs, Cleveland-Hill defeated Salamanca, 28-21 and handled Wilson 42-7 last week to advance to Ralph Wilson Stadium.
"We were still trying to figure out exactly who we were in Week 5," Cleveland-Hill coach Glen Graham said. "We have been playing much better football since that time. I think one of the things that hurt us in Week 5 was we put ourself in tough field positions. I also remember we were able to rally a bit at the end. I liked how our guys competed right to the end. We are anticipating a tough football game like it always is with these guys."
As for Fredonia, it has gone 4-0 since its Week 5 showdown with the Golden Eagles. The Hillbillies blanked JFK 21,-0 the following week and then defeated Dunkirk, 21-14, in Week 7. In the playoffs, Fredonia has outscored its opponents, 28-6, behind the play of its defense.
See FREDONIA, Page B3
"They have to keep us in the game," Ball said of his team's defense. "We are a defensive team. That's our strength. We want to score points on offense, but we don't want our defense to defend a short field. We have to be smart on offense and play good special teams and let our defense do the job. I have no doubts our defense can get the job done.
"If we get in the red zone, we have to punch it in," Ball continued of the offense. "Our red zone offense has to get better. Last week we had two shots and penalties took us out. Our offense is keeping us in the game, but we have to help our defense out a little more."
An example of that was Jude Gardner's 46-yard touchdown scamper last week against JFK to give Fredonia a 7-0 advantage.
"That was a big play," Ball said. "He got two good blocks and made two guys miss. Those type of plays you need at some point along the way. When the opportunity presents itself, we have to take advantage."
The offense is led by Weston Ley who has rushed for 884 yards. Zach Buckley has rushed for 501 yards and Tyler Cassidy is at 299 yards.
"We have good speed," Ball said. "We can match speed with anybody. We like turf. We are a turf team. It's the first time this year we have been on it. The field conditions shouldn't decide the outcome of the game."
"We are pretty good mirrors of each other," Graham concluded. "All the teams you see in Class C, we are most like each other in speed and athleticism. It's tough to beat teams twice in one year. If they beat us on Saturday, they will have to have earned it. We are going to come out and play our very best and make it a good contest from our end. Our team is playing so much better than it did in Week 5. That gives us confidence."
Saden, a senior captain, will try to help the younger players prepare for what to expect.
"You get quite a rush going down the tunnel with the entire field in front of you," he recalled from the 2010 championship game. "Your adrenaline gets going and you just want to be out there on the field. You get most of the nerves out in warmups. Then you're thinking about doing your job and executing ... Just enjoy the experience and play your best game, and don't worry about nerves. If we do our best, hopefully we will come out on top."