When Albion takes to the New Era Field turf late Friday afternoon to face WNY Maritime it will mark the Purple Eagles 11th championship game appearance at the stadium in the 40 year history of the Section VI football playoffs.
The Purple Eagles long history at the stadium began with the inaugural sectionals in 1979 when Albion rallied to nip Springville 13-12. Dan Monacelli caught a 78 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Jeff Klips in the third quarter and then kicked the extra point for the margin of victory. Monacelli then locked up the narrow win with a late game interception.
Albion went on to claim sectional championships three more times over the next eight years defeating Frewsburg 49-14 in 1981, Silver Creek 35-6 in 1983 and Salamanca 15-8 in 1987.
In the romp over Frewsburg sophomore quarterback Ken Burke threw four touchdown passes including three to David Austin and one to Ken McNeil. McNeil also ran for two touchdowns and Austin one.
Interestingly the Frewsburg lineup included future Penn St. and Buffalo Bills star linebacker Shane Conlan.
In the victory over Silver Creek now senior quarterback Ken Burke had another big day again throwing for four touchdown passes including two to Dan Bartlett and one each to Jason Zicari and Ron Klatt. He also ran for one TD.
Albion then had a narrow win over Salamanca. Quarterback Bill Mitchell completed a 38 yard touchdown pass to Ray Callicutt and Kurt Jaeger added the extra point kick in the first quarter. The Purple Eagles got what proved to be the game winning score in the fourth quarter on an 8 yard touchdown run by Bray Nauden and a two-point conversion pass from Mitchell to Mike Hughson.
Albion’s title game win streak was then ended in 1988 by rival Medina as the Mustangs claimed a narrow 14-7 win on a pair of touchdown runs by Jim Snyder. Chris Rogers scored the Purple Eagles touchdown.
The 1990’s saw Albion drop narrow decisions in three trips to the stadium losing 27-26 to Williamsville South in 1990, 21-12 to Lackawanna in 1993 and 28-21 to Springville in 1996.
Deadlocked at 14-14, Will South outscored Albion 13-12 in the decisive fourth quarter to claim the slender win. Albion quarterback Brad Pritchard ran for one touchdown and passed to Ray Callicutt for another. Callicutt also ran for a TD and caught a pass from Lee Froman for another.
Lackawanna built up a 21-6 first half lead to key the ’93 win over Albion. The Purple Eagles touchdowns came on a run by Ocie Bennett and a pass from quarterback Kevin Babcock to Brent Leddon.
Against Springville, Albion rallied for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter but the comeback bid fell just short. Quarterback Peter Smith ran for two touchdowns and passed to Shawn Callicutt for another for the Purple Eagles.
Interestingly, it took a wild 35-28 overtime semifinal win over Lackawanna to earn Albion a trip to the finals. Demetrius Bennett ran for the winning TD in overtime. Bennett ran for a total of three scores and Smith passed to Callicutt for two more.
The dawn of the new century saw Albion drop a 41-19 decision to Lackawanna in 2000. Brandon Munson scored two touchdowns for the Purple Eagles, the first coming on an 83 yard kickoff return in the opening quarter. Quarterback Tony Mayes ran for the other TD.
Albion’s last stadium appearance in 2002 saw the Purple Eagles drop a narrow 14-6 decision to Olean. Bubba Newsome scored Albion’s lone touchdown.
The Purple Eagles will now end that 17 year drought between stadium appearances and will also look to end that 32 year title game victory drought when they face Maritime at 5 p.m. Friday in the Class B championship game.