Black Knights bounced

Silver Creek-FV falls, 24-7, in Class C semis against Cleveland Hill

OBSERVER Photo by M.J. Stafford Cleveland Hill’s Aaron Wahler (10) scores on a two-point conversion while pursued by Silver Creek-Forestville’s Angel Caraballo (22) during a Class C high school football semifinal Saturday in Cheektowaga.

CHEEKTOWAGA — The Silver Creek-Forestville Black Knights threw a scare into top-seeded Cleveland Hill early in Saturday’s Class C high school football semifinal, but ultimately fell 24-7.

The cold, wet weather, the run-heavy styles of both teams and the grass of Cleveland Hill High School’s Carl J. Kuras Field made for a contest with a hard-hitting, muddy, classic feel. SC-F hung in there for a while, but the bigger, faster Eagles gradually established their authority.

“I think our kids played great. The conditions didn’t help us,” Silver Creek-Forestville coach Sean Helmer said. “We would have liked to have thrown the ball a little bit. I guess that wasn’t in our future today.”

The Black Knights looked to be in early trouble when they got stuffed on their first possession and a poor punt gave Cleveland Hill the ball on the Silver Creek 47-yard line. But the Eagles saw it wouldn’t be like their previous game — a 60-10 romp over Allegany-Limestone — when a tough Black Knights defense forced them backwards and into punting formation.

“I thought we tackled well, we were physical, we adjusted pretty well,” Helmer said of his defense.

Angel Caraballo got the ensuing SC-F drive off to a good start with a 19-yard dash to the Cleveland Hill 45. After another first down, a pass interference penalty put the ball on the Eagles’ 20-yard line. A 14-yard Caraballo set up a Black Knights’ first-and-goal, but an Eagles defensive stand drove Silver Creek back, keeping them from reaching the end zone.

However, the ball was still deep in Cleveland Hill territory, and Silver Creek-Forestville capitalized. Silver Creek’s Dom Jamison fell on a third-down fumble on the Eagles’ 5, and the Black Knights punched the ball into the end zone two plays later on a Caraballo dive off left tackle. Austin Eggleston’s extra point gave the Black Knights a 7-0 first quarter lead.

The Eagles responded on their next possession, which straddled the first and second quarters. Aaron Wahler gained yards in chunks, including carries of seven and 15 yards, before springing through a hole on the right side and dashing for a 35-yard touchdown virtually untouched. Wahler also converted the two-point attempt, this time taking the ball wide to the left, for a lead his team would not relinquish.

The Black Knights converted a third and 13 on their next possession when Tom Galfo found Macadam Gadewoltz for a 21-yard pass, but eventually punted.

“We’ve got the kind of kids who can match up with what most people can do offensively,” Cleveland Hill coach Glen Graham said. “Silver Creek-Forestville’s a pretty good football team — we had to not avoid any gaps, we had to not make any mistakes or let them get many chunk plays, and we did a pretty good job of that.”

Cleveland Hill’s Javon Thomas then flashed some superior speed, outrunning everyone on a 69-yard touchdown run. Wahler showed some game of his own on the two-point try, cutting back to his right after running into a wall of defenders on his left and scoring to make it 16-7 just before halftime.

Helmer said of his team’s early touchdown, “We got some momentum. Those things help in high school football.” However, “the score at the end of the half for them — no different. That stuff hurts.”

Cleveland Hill did something that could have hurt them at the start of the third quarter, when they tried a fake punt on fourth and 10 and the Black Knights stuffed it on the Eagles’ 31-yard-line. Silver Creek-Forestville wound up going four-and-out, however.

Then, Cleveland Hill went on another smash-mouth, ball-control drive that took up most of the rest of the third quarter and basically sealed the game. A 14-yard carry by Wahler on third and 2 kept it going, and Chris Diem eventually finished it with a 5-yard touchdown carry. Wahler then made his team 3 for 3 on two-point conversions — but unlike his previous conversion, he flashed strength, not speed, to bull over two defenders and give his team a 24-7 advantage.

“They ran power I (formation), they’re huge up front and they put three huge backs in the backfield. That’s nice when you have that,” Helmer said. “They basically just outmanned us in the end… at some point it just is what it is.”

“Our offensive line did a great job. … They’ve got a great (defensive) front on Silver Creek-Forestville,” Graham said. “I thought our kids just did a good job of wearing them down.”

A promising fourth-quarter drive by Silver Creek featured a 15-yard pass from Eggleston to Galfo on a gadget play that got the ball to Cleveland Hill’s 20. But Brett Kochanski picked off a Galfo pass with 4:02 remaining, and Cleveland Hill ran out the clock from there.

Cleveland Hill, the defending Class C champion, will attempt to defend its title Saturday against Southwestern at the Bills’ home stadium, New Era Field. Silver Creek-Forestville finishes its season 6-3 — it had a six-game winning streak after starting 0-2.

“I’m more than happy for our guys. I thought they played hard,” Helmer said.