The 97th season in Lancaster High School Football was one to remember as the Legends won the 2016 Section VI championship, the program’s first of the century.
The 98th year was even better. Lancaster reached the Class AA state championship game for the first time in program history.
Most of the mainstays from those two teams have graduated. But, rest assured, Team 99 has the same championship aspirations.
“Obviously the last two seasons have been great and we graduated a lot of people,” Lancaster coach Eric Rupp said in an interview with WNY Athletics editor Frank Wolf. “But I told the kids in our first meeting, players graduate but expectations do not. I expect to contend for a sectional championship every year.”
Lancaster went 22-2 over the last two years, including a 20-0 mark against Section VI clubs. Of those 20 local wins, only one game – the 2016 last-second win over Orchard Park on a last-minute blocked punt – was within 20 points.
Last year’s run to the state championship game and a competitive loss to powerhouse Troy put Lancaster football on the map statewide. Now it’s up to the next generation to continue the tradition under the raised expectations.
“The last two years, we know what it takes to get to the top of the mountain,” Rupp said. “That hadn’t happened in 98 years of football here to almost reach the peak so to speak, now it’s about getting one step further.”
Some of the greatest players in the history of Lancaster athletics – not just football – were a part of the legendary Classes of 2017 and 2018. Max Giordano, Joe Andreessen, Ryan Mansell, Andrew Hersey and Ben Mazur were just a few of those that graduated last spring after the likes of LG Castillo, Zach Samborski, Mason Mastrangelo and others.
“We lost a lot of guys that were dynamic for us,” Rupp said. “We’ve got a lot of holes to fill but at the same time, competition is a good thing.”
Among the positions that will see a new face will be quarterback following the graduation of Ryan Mansell, who re-wrote the record books as the team’s starter the last two seasons. Current junior Gianluca Fulciniti completed 4 of 5 passes for 21 yards in limited varsity action last season and will battle for this year’s starting gig with Jason Mansell, Ryan’s brother.
Possibly the two greatest wide receivers in Lancaster history walked off the graduation stage in the last two years in LG Castillo and Max Giordano. But a very good one returns this season for the Legends in senior Brian Martin, who will be the go-to guy this year. The 6-foot-5 Martin caught 17 passes for 358 yards and six touchdowns last season for Lancaster. Junior Shawn Davis will also step into the lineup as a slot receiver and cornerback. He was a key part of Lancaster’s historic run to the lacrosse state semifinals last spring.
Lancaster has had a 1,000-yard back in each of the last three seasons Andrew Hersey last year and Zach Samborski in 2015 and 2016. Those are big shoes to fill but Rupp said he has four guys worthy of the starting job this season. Senior Brandon Wingard appeared in 10 varsity games last season for the Legends, collecting 342 yards and a touchdown on 61 carries. Senior Tim Gardner ran for 40 yards on five carries in spot varsity duty last year. Senior Mitch Klima and junior Codie Scotland are also strong candidates in the backfield.
“We’re doing good,” Rupp said. “We’ve got 45 guys and the kids are really working hard. They know that doesn’t guarantee success but it gives you the opportunity to be successful.”
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