A clash between two Class AA powerhouses saw the Lancaster Legends defeat the Orchard Park Quakers 43-20 on a humid night at Foyle-Kling Field in Lancaster.
The win, which catapults the Legends to a 3-0 record, was at first sloppy due to multiple turnovers, but the team picked up steam late in the first quarter and earned a victory over the school they defeated in last year’s Class AA final in convincing fashion.
“It was a little slow-going at first – we took some penalties and we had a couple of turnovers – but our defense was great and our special teams were excellent,” Legends coach Eric Rupp said. “Our kids played really well tonight.”
Conversely, it was a game that Quakers coach Gene Tundo felt that his team had a good chance of winning, but self-inflicted wounds – including turnovers, special teams mistakes and just 155 yards of offense – didn’t allow his team to win.
“We’re young, but we can’t use that as an excuse,” Tundo said. “The mistakes we made didn’t help and we couldn’t move the ball on their first-team defense, but give credit to (Lancaster). They’re pretty good.”
After a fumble recovery and an interception marred the Legends’ first two drives, Lancaster’s fortunes swung on one play. With 4:10 remaining in the first quarter, linebacker/fullback Joe Andreesen blocked a 26-yard field goal attempt by the Quakers, and the Legends became energized instantly.
“Special teams were huge for us tonight,” Rupp said. “We put a ton of work into our special teams – just as much, if not more than what we do on offense or defense – and you can’t lose sight of the fact that it’s one of the three phases of the game. It made a big difference for us.”
“We knew that (Orchard Park) had a really good kicker, and if they got in field goal range they’d try to get those three points,” Andreesen said. “We worked all week long on blocking field goals, and it was a good thing we did. Our gameplan on special teams worked perfectly.”
Shortly thereafter, Andreesen scored on a four-yard touchdown run and the rout was on. Another blocked field goal on the Quakers’ next drive – this time by Legends linebacker Ben Damiani – led to a 75-yard punt return by Max Giordano a short while later to put the Legends up 15-0 at the half.
Early in the third quarter, the Quakers shot themselves in the foot by losing another fumble. Once again, the Legends capitalized with a 17-yard touchdown run by Andrew Hersey.
An impressive one-handed touchdown catch by Nic Bruce from the one-yard line put the Quakers on the board – it was the first touchdown the Legends’ starting defense had allowed this season – but by then it was too late. Hersey scored again from five yards out and Andreesen added his own second rushing touchdown of the day at the start of the fourth quarter.
Rupp credited Lancaster’s offensive line for his team’s success in running the football on Friday night.
“Our line was tremendous tonight as well,” Rupp said. “They’ve been improving every single week. We have three new starters on that unit this week and they just keep getting better and better. It certainly showed out there.”
Damiani recorded a pick-six a little while later to seal the deal for the Legends. David Perkins and Jason Keck each reached the end zone later in the fourth quarter for the Quakers.
Up next on the docket for the Legends are the Niagara Falls Wolverines, and Rupp knows that his Lancaster team will need to be prepared for physical challenges the Wolverines bring.
“Niagara Falls is usually one of the most physically tough teams we play all year,” Rupp said. “They have it all – size, strength, speed, you name it. We’ll enjoy this victory now, but on Monday we’ll have to put it away and get ready for a fight with the Falls.”