Dunkirk faces crucial road test in Newfane today

OBSERVER File Photo Dunkirk’s Rocky Radcliffe (5) carries the ball during a game against Eden/NC earlier this season. The undefeated Marauders travel to Newfane today for another league contest. Kickoff is at 2 p.m. in Newfane.

While the rest of the local teams were out fighting for a win Friday night, Dunkirk was at home, resting up for a crucial Class B3 showdown with Newfane.

Today, Dunkirk attempts to move to 4-0 in the league as the Marauders make the nearly two-hour drive up to Newfane to take on the Panthers.

Newfane (1-2) began the year in a battle with Fredonia/Brocton. Though the Hillbillies prevailed, Newfane has proved to be the most challenging foe in the division on Fredonia/Brocton’s 3-0 league record so far. Newfane continued to impress, with a 35-8 beatdown of Burgard, followed up by a narrow 7-6 loss to Tonawanda — a team that Dunkirk trailed to late in the fourth quarter of their matchup before a 24-22 Dunkirk win. Dunkirk head coach Mike Sarratori knows Newfane will be a tough test for the Marauders.

“We’re in for a battle,” said Sarratori. “Newfane knocked the socks off of Burgard, who is a very athletic team. They played Tonawanda close, as well. … We’re going to have to play our best game of the year by far to get the win.”

Newfane features an option offense, which relies heavily on running back Jaden Heers — a 6-foot-1, 240 pound junior.

“They feature him,” said Sarratori. “We have to get to him in the backfield. He’s without a doubt the center of our game plan defensively. We can’t let him get going past the line of scrimmage, because he’s tough to take down.”

Another player to watch for on Newfane is no. 25 Reese Casinelli. Sarratori called the senior receiver/defensive back “a heck of an athlete.”

Offensively, it comes as no surprise that Dunkirk’s focal point is the play of its offensive line. However, in this matchup, it is especially crucial, with Newfane’s defensive lineman no. 24 Jordan Sherman manning the middle of the line.

“Control 24 is what I’ve been preaching all week,” said Sarratori. “Our offensive line has to control the nose on their defensive line. We need to win the battles on the offensive and defensive lines to come away on top.”

After a pair of blowout victories in Week 1 and Week 3, Sarratori said, “When we play mistake-free football, we’re tough to beat.” He added, however, that when his team loses focus and discipline, it leads to mistakes like the Marauders had against Tonawanda, which Dunkirk narrowly escaped with a win.

The distractions will be minimized on the long trip, as Dunkirk plans to arrive early for the Saturday afternoon game. Sarratori added that “it helps with the game being on a Saturday, so the kids won’t be tired after the end of a tough week at school.”

The Marauders have also had three weeks to adjust since Tywon Wright suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 1. Angel Reyes and Rocky Radcliffe have each become more involved in the backfield to take the weight off Quantavis Kleckley’s shoulders. Still, Sarratori has said previously that Kleckley is one of the best running backs in Western New York, if not the whole state of New York. It would be a surprise if he is not heavily involved in the game plan today.

Dunkirk will sit atop Class B3 with a win today. With the Hillbillies looming at 3-0 in the league, Dunkirk can’t afford to let anything slip away if the Marauders want to come out on top of Class B3.

Kickoff is at 2 p.m. today at Newfane High School. Follow along on Twitter @bradencarmen and @TheObserverNY for updates throughout the game.