In 2016, people wondered if the talented Lancaster High School football team would get over the hump and get the program’s first Section VI championship of the century. The Legends did.

In 2017, folks expected them to dominate in Class AA. They did.

In 2018, with 16 starters graduated, folks figured the Legends would drop back to the middle of the pack. They did not.

Lancaster shut down Bennett’s high-powered offense from the second play on and claimed the large-school sectional title for a third straight year with a 17-6 win over the Tigers on Friday at New Era Field.

“It shows our program is strong,” said receiver Brian Martin, a member of all three teams. “We had so many people doubting us and here we are.”

Since the start of the 2016 season, Lancaster is 29-1 against Section VI teams. The lone loss came on Sept. 27 when Bennett ended the Legends’ 24-game local winning streak, rallying for a 42-35 victory at All-High Stadium.

Lancaster didn’t forget.

“For sure, it’s a game we wanted,” said Lancaster junior Ethan Jurkowski, who had three second-half interceptions. “That game lit a lot of fire under a lot of us. I’m proud of our team for the way we responded.”

On its first offensive play from scrimmage, Bennett showed its big play abilities. Lining up five-wide, D’jae Perry raced 90 yards for a touchdown.

But the Legends ground out an answer and Tim Gardner pounded it in from two yards out. Clark Whiteside buried the extra point for the lead and then extended it to 10-7 with a 32-yard field goal.

Much like the first meeting, Lancaster had a chance late to tack on points. Unlike last time, the Legends converted. Gianluca Fulciniti’s five-yard TD pass to Martin pushed the lead to 17-6 with six seconds left in the half.

“Gianluca is a running quarterback, most teams think,” Martin said. “But actually he has a pretty good arm. So we took advantage of that and he just threw a perfect ball.”

That extra touchdown meant a multiple-score lead and that allowed Lancaster to play it conservative and run the clock out. The normally pass-happy Legends ran the ball 23 times and threw it just five times in the second half.

For the game, Lancaster held possession of the ball for 29:53 of the game’s 48 minutes and ran 69 total plays compared to 38 for Bennett.

“Once we went up two scores I just wanted to run the ball and play great defense,” Rupp said. “I’m proud of how the kids responded after that first play.”

Brandon Wingard led the Legends in rushing with 106 yards on 23 carries and added 37 receiving yards on four catches. Fulciniti ran for 49 and Gardner 26. Jason Mansell completed 11 of 19 passes for 109 yards.

Conor Mahony had nine tackles, while Gardner and Dominic Chiarmonte each had sacks.

Aquinas will play McQuaid at 7 p.m. Saturday for the Class V championship. Lancaster will play the winner at 3:15 p.m. next Saturday at Clarence High School in the Far West Regionals.