GRAND ISLAND — Grand Island had no trouble scoring touchdowns on Saturday afternoon. Problem is, neither did Williamsville East.
The Vikings (2-3) fell short in a 38-37 shootout at a cold and rainy Masters Field on Saturday. An interception in the end zone ended Grand Island’s chances to score a go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter, and a bit of luck helped the Flames to kill the clock and take the win.
Grand Island struck first with a 11-yard touchdown run from Pat Gallagher, but Williamsville East would answer on its first play from scrimmage. An 85-yard touchdown run by Kyle Evanetski put the Flames within one after a missed extra point.
The Grand Island defense was unable to keep Williamsville East out of the end zone, especially after its own offense scored. Allowing 38 points at home once again exposed a defense that has been a cause for concern for Vikings head coach Dean Santorio.
“It’s been a concern from the second week on,” Santorio said. “We’re just not playing well defensively at all. The best we can do is try to get better.”
Will East took a seven point lead after another big touchdown run from Evanetski. The 6-foot, 235-pound running back bowled over several tacklers on his 14-yard rumble to the end zone, and a Jordan Briceland two point conversion made it 14-7 Flames.
The combination of the bruising Evanetski and the speedy Briceland did plenty of damage for Williamsville East. Evanetski finished the game with 180 yards and two touchdowns, while Briceland chipped in 90 yards rushing and three two point conversions.
“They’re a great running duo,” Flames coach Chris McDuffie said. “Jordan Briceland and Kyle Evaneski ran very hard and they ran very tough. Those two guys are outstanding football players.”
The Flames preference for two point conversions served them well in the end, and its quick-strike ability put the pressure on Grand Island and quarterback Tom Dzielski.
Dzielski responded in the second quarter with a pair of touchdowns to wide receiver Nick Kellner. The first, a 16-yard strike over the middle, tied the game at 14, while the second came after a bit of controversy.
With under two minutes left in the half, Dzielski led the Vikings down the field and inside Flames territory. Facing a third and 20 at the Williamsville East 30-yard line, Dzielski lofted a pass down the near sidelines that was grabbed by a diving Pat Gallagher in the end zone. The catch was ruled a touchdown by the sideline official, but while the Vikings lined up to kick the extra point the officials ruled the pass incomplete.
The incompletion made it fourth and 20, but Dzielski put another perfect pass down the opposite sideline to Kellner, who made a leaping catch in the end zone to give the Vikings a 21-14 lead at the half.
Dzielski finished the game 31 of 40 for 364 yards with four touchdowns and interception. His head coach said he couldn’t ask for more from his senior quarterback.
“I think we moved the football through the air and did some nice things,” Santorio said. “Tom had a nice game.”
The teams traded punts to open the second half, but Williamsville East took the lead on a Trenton Miller 10-yard touchdown pass to Mike Sarcinelli. Another two-point conversion gave Williamsville East a 22-21 lead, but Dzielski answered right back with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Eddie Krecisz. A pass to Pat Gallagher gave the Vikings the two-point conversion and a seven point lead with five seconds left in the third quarter.
Will East would grind the ball down the field and set up for another Miller touchdown pass, this time to tight end John White. The 13-yard pass gave the Flames a 30-29 lead after another two point conversion with 8:21 left in the game.
Grand Island thought they finally broke through after Dzielski led them down the field again for yet another score. Three straight completions put the Vikings into the end zone again, with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Steve Vitello. The two point conversion gave the Vikings a 37-30 lead with 7:03 left in the game, but it was a lead they wouldn’t hold for long.
Will. East’s next play from scrimmage was another long touchdown, this time in the air. Quarterback Trenton Miller found Kyle Wistner at the Vikings 40-yard line. He shook a tackle at the near sideline and raced to the end zone for the 75-yard touchdown. A two point conversion gave Will. East a 38-37 lead and put the ball right back into Tom Dzielski’s hands.
Still, after seeing his offense come up big, Santorio was disappointed with his squad’s lack of defense.
“I really thought when we got that last score ‘OK, we got the last one and we can get over the hump here,’ ” Santorio said. “But it just didn’t happen.”
Dzielski and the Vikings defense got another chance to score, and the senior drove the Vikings down the field like he had all game. However, on first and ten at the Flames 19-yard line, a Dzielski pass headed for Kellner in the end zone was intercepted. It was as close as the Vikings would come to retaking the lead, but Santorio said he doesn’t blame his quarterback for the loss.
“Ultimately, they made a play where we couldn’t make one,” Santorio said. “I’m not mad at Tom for the interception. They finally made one stop and we hadn’t made any.”
Williamsville East ran down the clock thanks to a heads up play by their quarterback on fourth and seven with less than three minutes to play. A Miller pass was batted down at the line of scrimmage, but the quarterback caught the football before it fell to the ground and raced down the sidelines for the first down.
“It’s frustrating that happens, we can’t make a play on them on fourth and seven,” Santorio said. “We didn’t make plays defensively, so that’s what happens.”