FALCONER — Cassadaga Valley/Falconer began Friday night’s homecoming game about as hot as a team can, but the early fireworks were not enough to hand visiting Southwestern its first loss.
The Trojans (4-0) rebounded from two first-quarter interceptions and an early special teams miscue, rolling the rest of the way to a 41-7 Class C South win over the Golden Cougars (1-4) to secure a postseason berth.
The home crowd was brought to its feet on the first play of the game, when Landen Mower hauled in the opening kick at the 20-yard line and ran all the way to paydirt to make it 7-0 Cassadaga Valley/Falconer.
“Mow has his good days and this was one of them,” head coach Dan Greco said. “The kickoff return, we have worked a whole lot of special teams this week because we know that they have good special teams. Our kickoff return takes timing. You have to hit the spot right when the blocks are made and he did it. It took us all year to do it but we finally hit a special teams touchdown.”
Mower was able to hold off a pair of sprinting defenders on that play, and kept his hot start going with an interception of quarterback Aidan Kennedy on the Trojans’ first offensive series.
“Then he made a nice interception,” Greco said of Mower. “I think what happened was they didn’t see him and had (Kennedy) put some air on it the guy he was throwing for was behind him. It could have been a touchdown but it ended up being an interception.”
With wind swirling in heavy gusts, Kennedy took some time to adjust on Friday, as the junior was picked off on his second series of the day when Dalton Caldwell won a positioning battle at his own 20-yard line.
“It’s not how you want to start, but our kids overcame that which helps us out going into playoffs,” Southwestern head coach Jake Burkholder said.
Kennedy started to warm up his arm before getting on the bus back home at Charles A. Lawson Field, where the wind was even more intense than it was at Bill Race Field at gametime.
“He’s a great athlete and a great quarterback, has a good head on his shoulders,” Burkholder said of Kennedy. “He knows when he makes a mistake and he is able to overcome that. We were going into the wind and a couple of balls hung up a little bit. He has to keep them a little lower when we are going into the wind like that. Coach (John) Kinder did a great job of working with him as well and was able to kind of real him back in and get him on track. He stays focused and doesn’t get down in the dumps.”
Cassadaga Valley/Falconer was unable to take advantage of those turnovers, gifting the Trojans a first down at the opposing 30-yard line to set up the equalizing score.
Matt Pannes would keep the drive alive with a first-down catch, before Zishan Munir blasted his way forward for 8 yards.
Munir would push the pile forward for a 1-yard score on the next play, and the Trojans would double-down after the extra point with an onside kick that was recovered by Calvin Ricker.
With another short field in hand, the Trojans converted on another fourth down, this time thanks to a catch by Ashton Mathews.
Garrett Swan would make it 13-7, hauling in a 23-yard pass from Kennedy on an inside slant for Southwestern’s second touchdown of the night.
Starting their next drive at the 50-yard line, Kennedy and Swan would hook up again for the third score of the night, this time on a 51-yard catch-and-run off a wide-open post route.
Complementing the improved play of Kennedy was a consistent effort all night by Munir out of the backfield.
Rushing 24 times for 151 yards, the senior finished off runs from 2 and 4 yards out for this second and third touchdowns of the night.
“Our O-line puts in a lot of work, coach (Mark) Arnold does a great job with them,” Burkholder said. “Zishan runs really hard. Obviously last year behind Tywon (Wright), he didn’t get as many carries. This year with the short season and the way things have been going we have just been putting the ball in the air a lot. He’s earned his time and is a hard runner. That was evident tonight. We just have to rely on him, especially in windy conditions, things like that.”
Kennedy would end his night 13 for 23 for 222 yards through the air in addition to eight carries for 38 yards and a touchdown.
Calvin Ricker led the Trojans defense with 10 tackles.
Southwestern will now wait for the result of today’s matchup between Clymer/Sherman/Panama and Southwestern to determine the postseason seeds.
SOUTHWESTERN 7 20 14 0 — 41
CASSADAGA VALLEY/FALCONER 7 0 0 0 — 7
CV/F–Mower 79 kickoff return (Paladino kick)
Sou–Munir 1 run (Hoose kick)
Sou–Swan 23 pass from Kennedy (Hoose kick)
Sou–Swan 51 pass from Kennedy (Hoose kick)
Sou–Munir 2 run (kick failed)
Sou–Kennedy 1 run (Kennedy pass from Pannes)
Sou–Munir 4 run (kick failed)