For Schalmont head coach Joe Whipple, the story has been all too familiar.
Get a big lead, then watch as the other team comes back, hoping the Sabres’ defense will make that final key stop.
On Nov. 12, the Sabres built up a 25-0 lead after the opening possession of the third quarter, only to see the Peru Indians cut that lead to 25-20 with one minute to go and the ball.
This time, the big play came from freshman defensive back Nick Gallo, whose hit on Indian receiver Tyler Murphy jolted the ball out of his hands, with teammate Jean Gomez covering up to secure a trip to the Class B Final Four.
“They have a lot of good players, and we knew that the pass was coming at some point,” Gallo said. “I was in zone coverage on the half of the field near our bench. I happened to be in the right spot at the right time and was able to put a clean hit on the receiver.”
“I just wanted to stop them anyway that we could and get the ball back for my team,” Gomez said. “My only thought was to get to the ball and cover it up. I was so happy.”
“We have had this happen three or four times this year,” Whipple said. “Peru really fought back, which is a great statement for their program. Nick has done a great job and has made several big plays for us as a freshman.”
Gallo also had one of four first-half interceptions, which included picks on the first three possessions by the Indians.
“Without those, you don’t know what happens,” Whipple said. “In high school, football is a game of momentum, and that was huge for us early on.”
In the opening half, the Sabres scored on a 10-yard option run by quarterback Nico Nicoletti following a first play interception by Devon Willis. Nicoletti then scored on a 44-yard run following interceptions by Gallo and Alex Hildebrand, who caught the third touchdown on a 25-yard pass from Nicoletti to give the Sabres a 19-0 halftime lead after Nicoletti ended the half with an interception.