Jay Sirianni, Southwestern head football coach, was named the Buffalo Bills & National Guard HS Football Coach of the Week #9 after his Trojans edged Fredonia 27-24 in overtime in the Class C semifinals last weekend. Sophomore Tanner Hoose kicked a 28-yard field goal to win the game.
"He has kicked seven field goals this year," Sirianni said. "He hit one earlier in the game."
Fredonia started the overtime on offense but Southwestern held the Hillbillies on downs.
"I was thinking that if we could just move the ball forward we'll kick a field goal," Sirianni said.
Southwestern fell behind 17-3 at the start of the fourth quarter but stormed back to tie the game at 24-24 at the end of regulation.
The Trojans started their comeback when Jake Swan caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Jake Pilling to pull the Trojans within 17-10. Sophomore Kevin Bellardo scored on a 14-yard run for a touchdown to pull the Trojans within a point at 17-16 but the extra point was blocked.
Fredonia then returned the ensuing kickoff to the Southwestern four-yard line and scored one play later to pull ahead 24-16 with just 5:00 left in the game.
"All week we were telling the kids 'Don't panic' if things go wrong," he said. "Even when they returned that kickoff, no one panicked."
Sirianni said that even trailing by 14 points in the 4th quarter did not upset his players.
"The kids were calm and had patience," he said. "The assistant coaches were whispering in my ear, telling me to stay patient. The players can never see your coaches get worked up. They need a constant, calm influence. Things will always go bad, but the key is to weather the storm and keep moving. That's character right there."
With 2:57 left, Pilling scored a touchdown on a 36-yard run and then tossed a two-point conversion pass to Swan.
Southwestern had one last chance to win the game in regulation but Hoose missed a 38-yard field goal.
"We had told Tanner that he might get another chance," Sirianni said. "This week's word of the week was "opportunity." To give that kicker another opportunity to win the game was pretty amazing."
Hoose was not the Trojans' kicker at the start of the fall.
"Nick Swanson was our kicker but he hurt his ankle in the second game of the season," Sirianni said. "He's just cleared to come back now, but Tanner has earned the position."
Sirianni, a 1993 graduate of Southwestern, was named a second-team All-League quarterback when he was a senior. Sirianni's father, Fran, was the Trojan's head coach from 1976 until 1984.
"He was an assistant coach when I was playing," Sirianni said. "He's always been a part of the program and he still is."
After graduating from high school, Sirianni attended Mount Union College in Ohio, where he was a reserve quarterback and was a part of a National Championship team in 1996.
"I learned so much football at Mount Union," he said. "The biggest thing I learned was how to win."
After graduating from college, Sirianni coached at Maple Grove with Curt Fischer for two years and won a New York State title in 1998. He then worked as an assistant coach at Alfred University under Dave Murray before spending a year in Maryland at Arundel High School.
In 2002, he was offered a teaching job at SW and worked as an assistant coach under Chris Krantz.
"Chris is the one who really got the program turned around," Sirianni said. "Southwestern made their first appearance at Ralph Wilson Stadium in 2001 under Chris. I took over the program in 2003 and was lucky enough to follow him."
This week, Southwestern will make their seventh appearance at The Ralph in nine years.
"We're all very proud of what's happening here," Sirianni said.
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 Sirianni being named the week nine Buffalo Bills & National Guard High School Coach of the Week winner, the Trojans football program will be given the $2,000 awarded by the Bills and the New York National Guard.
Bills & National Guard Coach of the Week Winners:
Week 1: Steve McDuffie, Bennett Tigers
Week 2: John Faller, Sweet Home Panthers
Week 3: Dennis Gilbert, St. Joe's Marauders
Week 4: Jason Marsh, Salamanca Warriors
Week 5: Dick Diminuco, Alden Bulldogs
Week 6: Rick Tomm, North Tonawanda Lumberjacks
Week 7: Kraig Kurzanski, Williamsville South Billies
Week 8: Rich Harris, Kenmore West Blue Devils
Week 9: Jay Sirianni, Southwestern Trojans