Week five of Section VI football kicks off with a Class AA showdown between the Bennett Tigers and the Lancaster Legends from All High Stadium on Thursday night.
Bennett has made their mark in Class AA so far this year. They head into the matchup sporting a 3-1 overall record including a 3-0 mark in conference play. The Tigers are coming off of a 24-21 win last week at Williamsville North that saw them claim victory with a Hail Mary pass on the last play of the game.
“When I think about it now, it puts me back on that emotional rollercoaster that we all experienced that day,” said Bennett Head Coach Steve McDuffie. “It was one of those moments that every kid on the team and every coach on the coaching staff will remember for the rest of their lives.”
Lancaster heads into Thursday night 3-0 in Class AA and 4-0 overall. In week four the Legends defeated Clarence at home 31-22. However, Lancaster head coach Eric Rupp said the team’s biggest win to date came in week three against Will North.
“We had an early lead in that game and they came back,” Rupp said. “But we rallied in the fourth quarter and were able to pull out a win against a good team.”
Both Lancaster and Bennett have played Will North close and that’s very indicative of the level of competition in Class AA. The eight-team division has a number of good teams, especially at the top of the division.
“Everybody is good in AA,” Rupp said. “Hutch Tech, Will North and Clarence were all tough, there are no weeks off.”
Lancaster’s success has carried over from their 2017 campaign that took them all the way to the state finals. Despite the Legends losing 17 starters from last year to graduation, this year’s group learned a lot from the deep playoff run and that experience has benefitted them this year.
“Playing for 13 weeks last year helped us develop our technique,” Rupp explained. “Those guys essentially played six more games than most kids in Western New York, and to be able to work on their skills and technique over that time has been really beneficial.”
Coach McDuffie and the Tigers know that they’ll need to put out their best effort and stay focused against the defending sectional champs.
“They are a very explosive, well-coached team,” said McDuffie. “We are going to come out and play hard nosed football, stay disciplined and maintain our gap integrity, but I know this is going to be a dog-fight.”
A win on Friday would mark Bennett’s fifth victory in a row including their fourth in conference play, and Coach McDuffie didn’t downplay the significance of a victory.
“I think that if we find a way to pull off a victory this Thursday, it would not only be monumental for Bennett High School, but it would be also monumental for the Buffalo Public School programs in general.”
For Lancaster, they’ll have to stop Bennett’s high powered offense, a task that is easier said than done.
“They’re probably the most athletic team in AA,” coach Rupp said on his opponent. “They have speed, they have size, they have three good running backs and some big receivers as well. Their size and athleticism really sticks out.”
The winner of Thursday night’s contest will be in a tie for first place with Orchard Park for the Class AA division. Kick off at All High Stadium is scheduled for 7:30 P.M.
WNYAthletics Matt Zygaj and Jon Simon contributed to this report.
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