It’s been a few years since Orchard Park has played football at that stadium on the other side of town. With the Section VI race in Class AA as wide open as ever this year, the Quakers seem to believe this year would be a good time to get back to the top.
Orchard Park made a statement on Homecoming, rolling to a 28-0 win over Bennett in Class AA action on Saturday afternoon.
“Class AA is anybody’s game this year,” said defensive back Jacob Shul, who had three interceptions to earn the team’s Big Play Chain. “To come out and beat a team that knocked us out last year, and to beat them like that, that says something.”
Shul’s performance headlined a huge performance by the Quakers’ defense that kept a Bennett team – that came in averaging 27.3 points per game – off the scoreboard. OP also got a measure of payback after last season’s 51-27 loss to the Tigers in the sectional semifinals.
“When you play a team as dangerous as Bennett, it’s just really old-school, sound gap integrity,” said Quakers coach Craig Dana. “You don’t want to get too fancy, you just want to play solid football. One or two or three guys can’t tackle their guys, we needed 11 guys on the ball. We did a great job of pursuing the ball.”
Offensively, the Quakers were led by a strong passing game. Quarterback Jack Sharp threw for 295 yards and four touchdowns. After missing the last two games to injury, Tristan Lancaster led the team with six catches for 77 yards and a score. Jonathon Lander had four catches for 54 yards and two TDs; Charlie Bartolotti caught four passes for 49 yards and a TD. Peter Liberatore had six catches for 49 and Kegan Mancabelli had five catches for 35 yards.
Defensively, Mike Pataky earned the “Bit Hit Hammer” with a team-best 13 tackles, including 5 1/2 for loss. Lander added 6 1/2 tackles and Shul and Levi Rothemberger had 4 1/2 apiece. Eddie Irizarry had the team’s lone sack.
It all came from a good week of practice,” Shul said. “We studied the sets they were in and there were so many times during the game where we knew where the ball was going to go before it even went there.”
Orchard Park moved to 4-0 overall and 3-0 in Class AA. After three wins against rebuilding teams, the Quakers showed they can compete with anyone on Saturday.
“This is big,” Sharp said. “Our whole team, we all felt disrespected. They were all saying we can only beat bad teams, this, that … We came out really motivated. We wanted this more than them and we came out with the dub.”
Meanwhile, Bennett fell to 2-2 overall and 2-1 in Class AA. The Tigers have now played large-school challengers Clarence, Jamestown and OP and have a date with three-time defending champ Lancaster waiting next week.
“We couldn’t get anything going and I give Orchard Park all the credit,” Bennett coach Steve McDuffie said. “They were the better team today. We’ll see them again (possibly in the playoffs) and when we see them again, I’m confident it’ll be a different game.”
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