Lew-Port's Fontanarosa sits atop WNY rushing chart

James Neiss/staff photographerLew-Port running back Gino Fontanarosa scampers for a touchdown in the first quarter of a game last Thursday against East Aurora. The senior is currently tops in WNY in terms of rushing yardage. 

Keep running the show Gino. Tt's a thing of beauty.

Lewiston-Porter running back Gino Fontanarosa has burst onto the scene with a stellar senior campaign. The Lancers' catalyst is currently leading Section VI with a whopping total of 887 rushing yards (177.4 yards per game) on 143 carries, which is an average of 6.2 yards per rush. He is one of three backs in the area to top the 800-yard mark thus far, alongside Pioneer's Tra'e Hill (832) and Iroquois' Blake Nolan (825).

Remarkably, 562 of those yards have come in the last two games alone. Fontanarosa exploded with a 39-carry, 336-rushing yard effort in a loss to Lake Shore, then followed that up with four touchdowns and 226 yards in an upset win over East Aurora.

This should come as no surprise, as he has put up video game numbers all season. Just ask Medina how tough it is to stop him; in a week one matchup, Fontanarosa totaled 258 yards (137 rushing, 121 receiving) and added three total TDs to cap it off.

He also has 134 receiving yards for the year, already putting him at 1,021 yards from scrimmage through five games. Add that to 11 total TDs (9 rushing, 1 receiving, 1 INT return), leading the team in tackles and his two picks on 'D,' and you've got the makings of one of the best single-season performances in Lancer football history.

Head coach Matt Bradshaw has had the pleasure of coaching up such a dynamic threat from the backfield. But what makes it even better for him is working with a young man of quality.

"First and foremost, it's always a pleasure to coach a great talent," Bradshaw said. "But it's better when that kid, when that talent is an even better kid off the field and that's Gino. He's just a great student, a great kid (and) obviously a great player. ... It's his work ethic. He's deserving of everything he's getting because he's putting the work into it. "

A year ago things were going to a much different tune. A wrist injury suffered in Week Two against Maryvale would cost Fontanarosa the entirety of his junior season. As expected, this initially put a damper on the back's attitude.

The Lew-Port team captain would then take things into perspective and tried to turn it into a positive.

"It was a little down-putting. (I) was a little sad at first," Fontanarosa said. "But then I was like, there's no need to be down. Just get back in the weight xroom, get stronger, get bigger, get faster, get back to work. Start practice and then go on from there."

Bradshaw can attest to that as well — he mentioned just how hard Fontanarosa "attacked that weight room" once the season ended, which helped the do-it-all back add 15 to 20 pounds of muscle. Bradshaw highlighted just how committed he remained to the team, even while resting and rehabbing.

"A lot of kids probably would've hung it up and went home or whatever after school," Bradshaw said. "But he came to every single practice and cheered for Frankie (Previte). ... That's just Gino. Gino's a great teammate."

Previte took over for Fontanarosa in his absence, putting up a solid 761 rushing yards, scoring five touchdowns and posting an average of 6.3 yards per carry in his sophomore season. He may not have been able to physically help out on the field, but Fontanarosa made sure to help Previte and his teammates keep their heads up even if he was unable to play.

"It's just the positivity, you've gotta spread it," Fontanarosa said. "Your teammates see you and (if) you're still positive, you spread it to others."

Bradshaw also talked about how Fontanarosa was one of the biggest supporters of Previte in times of need, especially during his big 189-yard, 3-TD tribute game just three days after his mother's passing.

"Frankie went through that personal situation last year and Gino was right there to console him, cheer him on and be there for him," Bradshaw said.

This has been a long road for Bradshaw and Fontanarosa, who have been working together at L-P even dating back to the JV level in 2016. Bradshaw has seen Gino's development in that time and the steps he's taken in his growth.

"He just gets better every year. ... He's very cerebral too. He's gotten smarter," Bradshaw said.

"You know football is a mental game. He's reading holes better and when to lower his shoulder. Last game was evidence — he actually made some cuts to the outside. Gino always looks to make the first contact and sometimes we like that because it's tough. But sometimes you've gotta run away from the guy. ... And Gino, I think, is starting to learn that.

"... I just think he's grown overall, physically and mentally, as a player in the three years he's been here."

When asked if he could have seen himself as Section VI's leading rusher from where he was at during this time in 2018, Fontanarosa simply laughed and said he would have been "shocked" by it. Like any great back would do though, he wanted to shoutout his big fellas up front on the offensive line.

"My offensive line ... I couldn't have asked for more," he said. "They do their jobs, they open holes for me and just bring me to daylight."

With two non-league matchups against Newfane and Penfield, the Lancers (2-3, 1-3 B-1) may find themselves on the outside looking in at the Class B sectional playoffs. Fontanarosa may be 113 rushing yards away from hitting 1K, but he would rather the 1,000-yard milestone come in helping Lew-Port end the season on a winning note.

"It would mean a ton just because (I'll do) whatever I can do to help the team," Fontanarosa said. "And if that helps us win, then that's what I'm gonna do. I would be so happy for that."

For more from sports reporter Khari Demos, follow him on Twitter @riri_demos.

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