Homecoming heroes: Dunkirk wins league title, moves to 6-0 by beating Albion

OBSERVER Photo by Justin Goetz Dunkirk’s Jaziah Rivera stiff-arms Albion defender Brilliance Johnson during the Marauders’ 18-15 victory Friday night at Karl Hoeppner Field.

For the first time in 43 years, the Dunkirk Marauders have won a league title, as they dropped the Albion Purple eagles (5-1, 4-1), 18-15, Friday night at Karl Hoeppner Field to sew up the Section VI B-2 championship.

“It’s special for myself personally and these kids deserve it,” Dunkirk head coach Mike Sarratori said. “They’ve been working their tails off in the program for four years and they just keep growing. And we started freshman and sophomores, a lot of them, on both sides of the ball (Friday) and they did a heck of a job.”

Dunkirk (6-0, 4-0) also celebrated its Homecoming Night, and did so with a bit of bend-but-don’t-break defense, keeping their faithful on the edge of their seats up until the final minute of the game, when the Marauders’ defense corralled the Purple Eagles’ Ugene Harrison on 4th-and-3 at the Dunkirk 25-yard line to help seal the win.

“Our defense bent a little bit, but coach (Bob) Krenzer had them in the right spots when they had to be and they made the plays,” Sarratori said. “Again, this is a very special group of kids.”

Clinging to a three-point lead with 5:48 to go in regulation, Dunkirk’s defense hung in and made plays when it had to, stopping an Albion drive that started at the Purple Eagles’ 12-yard line and went for 10 plays before Harrison was stopped to turn the ball over on downs.

“Our kids sucked it up,” Sarratori said. “(Albion) is a very, very good football team.”

Dunkirk fell behind quick, 7-0, as Bryce Pritchard broke loose of a Dunkirk tackler in the backfield and then ran free for 75 yards for the game’s opening score. With the extra point, the Purple Eagles had the early lead with 10:42 left in the first quarter.

“It was just little breakdowns,” Sarratori said. “But those are things we can correct like tackling form and tackling technique and breakdown of assignments. But that is stuff that can be corrected.”

Like they have for the past two-plus seasons, the Marauders had an answer as they went on a 13-play, 79-yard drive that was punctuated by a 1-yard plunge by quarterback Jazzy Rivera.

“We don’t stress on it,” Sarratori said, referring to when his team falls behind on the scoreboard. “We tell them, ‘we’re good.’ That’s our little saying, and no matter what, we have to stick together as a family, and they’ve been doing it.”

However, Dunkirk’s two-point try failed, and the Marauders, who chewed 7:38 off the clock on the drive, were down 7-6 with 2:57 left in the opening frame.

Dunkirk forced Albion to punt on its ensuing drive and took over at their own 20-yard line with 11:50 left in the second quarter. From there, a combination of Quantavis Kleckley, Tywon Wright and Rivera helped Dunkirk to a 12-7 lead with 6:58 left in the first half, as Rivera scored his second touchdown of the game, again from 1-yard out.

“We just really started to decide we were going to come off the ball,” Sarratori said. “We simplified things up front and stopped folding and crossing and we decided that if we were going to win (the game) we were going to go man-to-man and try to block them.”

The score went unchanged the rest of the second quarter and the whole third quarter, but that doesn’t mean both teams didn’t have their chances. Dunkirk sustained a drive deep into Albion territory before a Rivera fumble gave the Purple Eagles the ball at their own 5-yard line while Dunkirk halted another long Albion drive to keep the score 12-7.

“Basically we had a roll pass and he had the option of throwing it or running it, and he read it correctly,” Sarratori said of the play that led to Rivera’s fumble. “(Albion’s defenders) came to him and he was going to pass it, but he dropped it. But hey, it was a little bit of a wet ball, but we’re good.”

Dunkirk was able to put some distance between itself and Albion early in the fourth, as Kleckley, who finished with 219 yards on 22 carries, chewed up 63 yards on three carries, including 36 on the Marauders’ final touchdown of the game.

“He’s a bruiser,” Sarratori said of Kleckley. “Him and Tywon (Wright), the both of them. And we mix in some of the quicker kids here and there, but those two are tough running backs and Kleckley had a helluva game.

“He definitely has a different style,” Sarratori added of any comparison to last year’s star running back Alton Ingram. “But they’re similar. Kleckley is going to want to run over you a little more. Alton would run over you, but hey, I’ll take them both.”

Albion came right back on its next drive, as the Purple Eagles needed just four plays to go 66 yards to cut the score to 18-15. Pritchard found Harrison JaQuees for 41 yards on the third play of the drive to put the Purple Eagles deep in Marauders’ territory, before Harrison raced around the right end for 14 yards and a touchdown. After Demetrius Gardner added the two-point conversion, Dunkirk’s lead was just three with 8:40 remaining in the fourth quarter.

From there, the defenses took over, with Dunkirk making the final stand to wrap up it’s first league title in over four decades while also securing its third-straight playoff birth.

“The city loves it, our school loves it and if we can do anything to help keep the momentum going and the good feelings going, we’re going to try and do it,” Sarratori said. “The fans are great to come out here and watch us and stick with us. We’re praying we can keep this thing going so we can have the same parties that we did last year.

“Here’s the thing, we’re buying into it and we’re a family,” Sarratori added. “And we keep stressing loving each other and not giving up on each other. Once we start giving up on each other, it’s over. But we’ll never give up on each other.”

Up next for the Marauders is their annual rivalry game against Fredonia-Westfield-Brocton, which will be played at 7:30 p.m. at Karl Hoeppner Field next Friday night.

“We’ve got the weekend off and we’re going to get ready for Monday’s practice,” Sarratori said of his message to his team. “But let’s enjoy this.”

NOTES: Malique Carter finished the night with 8 tackles, including a sack for the Marauders… Peyton Moreland had 7 tackles and 1.5 sacks in the win… Dunkirk racked up 309 yards on 45 attempts… Albion was led by Pritchard, who finished the night 183 yards on 36 carries.