John Faller, Sweet Home head football coach, was named the Buffalo Bills & National Guard Coach of the Week after leading his Panthers to a hard-fought 14-6 win over McKinley last weekend.
"I'm glad to have the recognition for our team and our kids," Faller said. "It's great for our program, but there are a lot of good coaches out there."
Both teams played stout defense in the game.
"The scoreboard and the statistics might put you to sleep, but the excitement was pretty high," said Faller. "Both teams were into it, and fans from both schools were into it. McKinley had a good crowd there and our side was pretty loud too."
Faller knew his team would be in for a battle against McKinley. The Macks had battled Sweet Home to a pair of close contests in 2010, including in the Class A semifinals.
"The McKinley kids played a great game," Faller said. "The coaching staffs from both teams had fun. It was heavily contested, there were a lot of good plays and a lot of hard hitting. It was everything that high school football was supposed to be."
The Panthers have now won 42 straight games against Western New York competition.
"It was a league game so that made it important," Faller said. "But right now, everybody is out to get Sweet Home. That's fine, we don't mind carrying that target on our backs."
Faller says that, despite the winning streak, his team is still unsettled at this point.
"We're still trying to find ourselves," Faller said. "We are working to find the right combinations at some positions. We're sound on defense but against a team like McKinley, any small mistake and they can hurt you."
Quarterback Jordan Johnson tossed a pair of TD passes to John Franklin to give the Panthers the lead. Johnson hit Franklin with an 11-yard TD pass in the 1st quarter. Johnson found Franklin again for a 36-yard scoring pass with :19 left in the third quarter.
The last five minutes of the game were fraught with tension.
"It really went back and forth," Faller said. "One play could have made a difference."
With 5:20 left in the game, McKinley scored to pull within 14-6 and after the touchdown, the Macks recovered the onside kick.
"Their fans went ballistic," Faller said. "Those stands were rocking."
The Macks threatened to tie the game when they drove inside the Sweet Home five-yard line with two minutes to play, but the Panthers recovered a fumble to end the threat.
"Our defense played strong the whole game," Faller said. "We had five turnovers and still won the game. That doesn't happen too often."
Faller has coached at Sweet Home for 36 years including stints at the modified, freshman and JV levels. He has been the varsity head coach for the last 26 years and has a record of 171-66-1.
Faller's teams have won five Section VI titles, including the last four in a row, and two New York State championships. Sweet Home had a 36-game winning streak ended in the NYS playoffs last year and they have a current streak of 42 wins over Western New York competition.
Faller has coached six players who went on to play Division I-A college football, including Keith O'Neill who won a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts.
Jordan Johnson will attend UB in the fall of 2012 and he has three former players (Marcus Johnson, Nick Christman and Ryan Wilson) currently on the roster of Division II Edinboro University, a member of the highly competitive Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC).
Each week during the 11-week high school football season a committee appointed by the Buffalo Bills will select a high school football head coach as the Buffalo Bills & National Guard Coach of the Week. Each honoree will receive a $2,000 donation to their high school football program from the Buffalo Bills Youth Foundation and New York National Guard. The eleven finalists are also eligible for the Buffalo Bills & National Guard High School Coach of the Year Award where an additional $2,000 grant for their high school's football program will be given.
As a result of Faller being named the week two Buffalo Bills & National Guard High School Coach of the Week winner, the Panthers football program will be given the $2,000 awarded by the Bills and the New York National Guard.
2011 Buffalo Bills & National Guard High School Football Coaches of the Week:
Week 1 Steve McDuffie, Bennett Tigers
Week 2 John Faller. Sweet Home Panthers