Weekly Feature

2018-10-11 / Sports

East, West to enter finale unbeaten for first time

Football rivalry

In the 49 years since the West Seneca School District split into East and West branches, there has never been a football rivalry game where both squads entered the contest with identical undefeated records.

That changes Friday.

Both the Class A-3 Trojans and the Class A-1 Indians have yet to taste defeat this season, and both have compiled their undefeated records with a similar panache that has seen them win in landslide decisions more often than not. Through six weeks, East has outscored its opponents a collective 235-76, while the Indians have outscored theirs a collective 248-22.

Needless to say, fans from both schools should expect quite the wild ride when the game kicks off at 7 p.m. Friday.

“It’s the No. 1 team in Western New York and in the state, for that matter; who else would you want to play to tune up for the playoffs?” East coach Jim Maurino said. “Our schedule has challenged us every week so far, and it’ll have us prepared for the long run. We’ve been winning games with discipline, toughness and effort this season, and we’ll need that to continue to have a shot on Friday.”

In previous years, the game would’ve carried extra weight as a divisional clash. With this season’s split into three divisions in Class A – and West and East residing in different divisions – it’s just bragging rights that are on the line. But, with the pride each squad has in its respective program, townwide supremacy is certainly enough motivation for both clubs.

“It’s always a challenge to play them, and then you tack on the emotion of playing against your buddies and playing under the pressure of it being two 6-0 teams; it should all make for a great game,” West coach Mike Vastola said. “When you think about it, what a great way this is to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the district’s split into East and West. I think it’s going to come down to the last whistle, but no matter how it shakes out, I think this is a great thing for the town for us to both be 6-0. I just hope we do the town proud.”

Going into Friday’s game, each squad has its own distinctive weapons they’ll try to deploy. Both clubs have solid quarterbacks guiding the way offensively, though they’re a study in contrasts. East’s Shaun Dolac is more apt to use his legs than his arm, having rushed 107 times this fall for 912 yards and 13 touchdowns. Dolac certainly has the ability to keep teams honest through the air, though, completing 21-of-39 passes for 272 yards and three touchdowns.

West’s Maurice Robertson, meanwhile, has done the bulk of his damage through the air, completing 44-of-77 passes for 914 yards and 12 touchdowns despite missing the first game of the season. Robertson has also scored five times on the ground, gaining 240 yards on 33 carries.

Juston Johnson remains West’s top threat through the air, catching 17 passes for 476 yards and five touchdowns. Kyle Haettich has been especially productive when targeted, scoring touchdowns on six of his 11 receptions while gaining 289 yards. Bryan Ball has also caught three touchdowns and gained 112 yards overall on his 10 total receptions.

“We’re just going to approach it like it’s any other game,” Maurino said. “You could sit there and say a million different things about it, but in the end I think we just need to keep doing what we’ve been doing. If we can block and tackle on Friday, and win the turnover battle, I think we’ll like what happens in the end. We know they’ve got some good kids over there at West, so we’re going to have to game play to stop what they like to do.”

Jesse Pfeiffer, meanwhile, is East’s top producer through the air, catching nine passes for 143 yards and a touchdown. Zach Arnone has helped keep the opposing defenses honest as well for East, gaining 244 yards and scoring five times on 43 carries.

West’s ground game has been led by John Speyer, who has gained 654 yards and scored six times on 67 carries.

“East is going to keep us guessing defensively, so we’re going to have to be ready to adjust on the fly,” Vastola said. “They present a lot of unique challenges, and that’s why they do so well. It’s going to take a lot of extra effort and extra film study so that we can play fast and anticipate what’s coming before it actually does.”

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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