By Sam Wilson
Jason Marsh is still waiting for his first loss as head coach of Franklinville/Ellicottville. At this point, he’s hoping it won’t come anytime soon.
Marsh’s first year as the F/E’s head coach saw the Titans run through the regular season at 7-0, and a 35-0 semifinal victory over Salamanca sent his team to the Section 6 Class D championship game at New Era Field on Saturday.
Marsh never made it to the stadium as a head coach at Salamanca, but he’s coached in a handful of championship games as an assistant, under Rich Morton at SHS, then in recent years under Chad Bartoszek at F/E. And he still has fond memories of playing at then-Rich Stadium, having dressed all four years and starting three of them, in high school for Salamanca.
“I scored a touchdown right there,” Marsh said, gesturing toward the tunnel-side end zone during Section 6 football media day. “That’s the thing we want to do for these kids is create memories like that. Every time I walk into this stadium, I remember the touchdown I scored. You know what I mean? It’s kind of cool.”
Marsh’s team will attempt to make some memories starting at noon on Saturday against the defending state champion, No. 2 Clymer/Sherman/Panama (7-1). The Titans (8-0) got the better of the Wolfpack in Week 3 this year, taking a home game 24-8.
Tied 8-8 at halftime, a pair of third-quarter touchdowns made the difference in a game where the Titans outgained the Wolfpack 367-196, with a whopping 317 rushing yards.
“I think the key in that game was we surprised people with how physical we could play,” Marsh said. “I think the key to this game is continuing to be physical, but also to play mistake-free football. CSP is dangerous. They’ve got some really great skill football players that can hurt you in a minute, in an instant. So our key is to play mistake-free football. If we can do that, we can hopefully continue to have success.”
Likewise, CSP coach Ty Harper saw the line of scrimmage as the difference in their first meeting.
“I think it all comes down to the trenches,” Harper said. “They really took it to us the first time. They were more physical. We can’t play scared, we have to attack the line of scrimmage. (F/E quarterback) Logan Frank’s a great player. They’ve got some really nice skill guys, their defense is really well coaches and I think our inexperience got the best of us the first time we played them and also I think they were the more physical team. So hopefully it’s a little bit closer this time.”
The Titans have won by an average margin of 32.1 points (37.6-5.5) with a yard-per game margin of 244.2 (339.3-95.1). Frank runs the Titans’ offense as the leading rusher (907 yards, 15 TDs) and passer (27-of-44, 474 yards, 11 TDs, 1 INT). Tyler Clear has 10 total touchdowns (6 rushing) and 716 yards from scrimmage (592 rushing). Niklas Logel leads F/E’s pass-catchers with eight catches for 170 yards (21.3 per catch) and five touchdowns.
The Titans have an impressive 21 sacks on the season, led by Zack Wolfer (5.5) and Logel (5). Wolfer leads the team with 29.5 total tackles, followed by Wyatt Chudy at 29.
CSP’s offense, meanwhile, revolves around quarterback Gerrit Hinsdale and a handful of talented weapons. Hinsdale has 1,348 passing yards (78-for-143) with 21 touchdowns and four interceptions. Cameron Barmore leads CSP’s receivers with 33 catches for 589 yards.
Marsh knows the Wolfpack’s offense could get even more dangerous on a wide, NFL turf field on Saturday.
“They have a lot of speed and putting them on turf is only going to make them a little bit quicker,” Marsh said. “You start playing games late here in October, November and a lot of the fields are getting soft and wet and muddy, so they’re going to get out there and they’re going to be on a pretty fast track.
“They can get big games out of anybody in their skill players. They utilize their skill players really well. They spread the ball around, you can’t just take away one guy.”
Despite CSP’s impressive record, it had its own holes to fill after graduating 20 seniors last year.
“We knew that we were going to be young and a little bit inexperienced coming into the year,” Harper said. “We’ve just tried to get better every week and hopefully this week we’ll be a little bit more competitive with these guys than we were in Week 3.”
Marsh admitted the transition to F/E’s head coach has been easier than he anticipated, thanks to his team’s willingness to go along with him.
“Just because the kids were so receptive,” he said. “Once we got over the initial shock, the kids had a sense of calmness to them. That really helped us out. They were ready just to pick up and go. It was great that the kids showed confidence in me and we were able to just pick up and go. The kids were real receptive to the change. I think that was the big thing, the kids being receptive to it.”