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Fredonia blanks Depew 53-0 in Division 2B semifinals

Fredonia quarterback Ella Koopman steps into the end zone against Depew in the Section VI Division 2B semifinals at the Orange Bowl on Thursday. OBSERVER Photo by Ashleigh Brown

It took only a minute to see that Thursday was Fredonia’s night. On just the third play of the game, Fredonia senior quarterback Ella Koopman connected with Keiliany Diaz down the far sideline for a 56-yard touchdown pass to put the ‘Billies ahead in the blink of an eye.

“We said before the game that we were going to come out strong and hard so that we’d have the weight lifted off our shoulders,” Koopman said. “To come out that strong with that great first drive gave us the momentum we needed to keep our energy going.”

Once 49 more minutes ticked off the clock, the ‘Billies had finality to what was a foregone conclusion for most of the evening.

Behind six total touchdowns from Koopman, the Fredonia ‘Billies made a statement in their final game at the Orange Bowl this season. Thursday’s 53-0 blowout of the Depew Wildcats in the semifinals clinched a spot for the top-ranked ‘Billies in the Section VI, Division 2-B Championship flag football game on Saturday.

“We talked about tonight really just embracing the moment, playing at home one last time, just getting out quick,” said Fredonia co-coach Nick Bertrando. “… For us to come out and really strike quick, that was a huge momentum builder for us.”

Fredonia running back Francesca Pucci looks for room to run. OBSERVER Photo by Ashleigh Brown

Fredonia (14-1, 1-seed) continued to pull away in the first half, while Depew (4-6, 5-seed) had more trouble moving the chains at all against the disciplined ‘Billies defense. Less than 10 minutes into the game, Fredonia led 14-0 after Koopman connected with Natalia DiPalma on a 7-yard passing touchdown. The ‘Billies got into position after a deep ball from Koopman to Makayla Tabone.

Then, on Depew’s next possession, Fredonia’s defense nearly got on the board itself. With Depew finally driving down the field, Paige Elliott picked off a pass inside her own 10-yard line. Elliott raced down her own sideline and came just a yard shy of a pick-six. Emma Patterson carried the ball over the goal-line on the next play for Fredonia’s third touchdown in less than 15 minutes of action on the customary running clock.

Elliott continued to show up for the ‘Billies in the first half, as she not only intercepted another pass later in the half, but she also caught a 6-yard touchdown from Koopman to extend the lead to 27-0.

“Paige has really just come on the entire season,” Bertrando said of Elliott, the emerging freshman two-way starter. “… She brings an intensity, a sense of athleticism, and also just a game awareness that really is phenomenal for a freshman athlete. We’re lucky to have her for a few more years.”

Elliott’s second interception gave the ‘Billies one final possession before the intermission, with just 33 seconds left at their own 31-yard line.

Even the clock couldn’t stop the ‘Billies.

After another deep ball to Diaz put Fredonia inside the 20-yard line, the ‘Billies were then just a yard away from the end zone after Elliott caught the ball near the goal line with just a few seconds remaining. The ‘Billies called a timeout, which allowed for one final play in the half, and there was no better option than to let Fredonia’s senior leader do what she does best.

Koopman kept it herself to dart into the end zone for her fourth touchdown in the opening half. The ‘Billies took a 33-0 lead into halftime on the strength of four Koopman touchdowns – the buzzer-beating rushing score and three passing touchdowns to three different receivers.

“I have such great players as teammates, they make my job so much easier,” Koopman said. “… I’m so glad that we get to move the ball around to different girls. That’s what makes our team very different from other teams. We have so many people that can go in and just do their jobs correctly.”

Fredonia added on three more touchdowns in the second half. First, a second touchdown of the night from Koopman to Diaz, followed by a Koopman carry on a pitch from misdirection down the Depew sideline for her sixth touchdown of the evening.

Diaz led all Fredonia receivers on Thursday with 106 yards receiving and a pair of touchdowns. The ‘Billies also celebrated the first playoff touchdown from Mikaela Sciarrino, a seventh grader, relieving Koopman at quarterback. Sciarrino eluded pressure and ran it in herself from 20 yards out.

The ‘Billies gave Koopman the final 10 minutes of the contest off, but six touchdowns in 80% of a game is quite an accomplishment for the Fredonia senior. Koopman finished 11-for-18 for 157 yards and four touchdowns through the air, with another 81 yards rushing on the ground with two rushing touchdowns.

“She has been a huge part of this with her play, but also just her leadership,” Bertrando said of Koopman. “She is the type of young female athlete that other girls should aspire to be. … The way she carries herself, the way she leads teammates through hard work and desire, but also the compassion she has with teammates – and she gets it done in the classroom too. … Young girls should really look at her and aspire to be that.”

Koopman, the Nazareth University women’s soccer commit now seeks a Sectional Champion patch as a football player, just as she earned on the soccer pitch with the ‘Billies.

“I’m so excited for our next game, the Blue Patch game. This is the pinnacle of the season. … This is what we were meant to do all season,” Koopman said.

Both coaches were proud that the defense finished off the shutout at home to send Fredonia into the title game feeling good about both sides of the ball.

“It feels great. I’m happy for the girls,” Fredonia co-coach Tim Kachelmeyer said. “They finished strong tonight.”

But Kachelmeyer, Bertrando, and Koopman all highlighted a more important zero to Fredonia’s credit, as the ‘Billies did not lose a game at home all year.

“We’re just really grateful for the seniors to be able to cap off their senior year saying they never lost on this field,” Bertrando said. “… That’s special for all of them.”

Koopman added, “It’s such a good feeling. This is what we’ve worked the whole season for. To go undefeated on our home field is such a great feeling.”

Fredonia now has a rematch with Iroquois in the title game on Saturday. The ‘Billies beat Iroquois 28-6 on May 4 in Fredonia. Saturday’s contest will be played on the neutral turf of Sweet Home High School at 7:30 p.m.

“We’ve set our sights on it since Day 1, competing for a Sectional title,” Bertrando said. “We’re excited to have the opportunity to do that on Saturday.”

“It’s not over until it’s over,” Koopman said. “… I just want to stay present in the moment and focus on a one-game win streak every game.”


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