Photo courtesy of Cal Phillips
In the frigid November air, the Orchard Park Quakers just couldn’t take advantage of Lancaster’s mistakes, falling to the Legends 23-17 in the Section VI Class AA Championship on Friday night.
If the loss could be summed up by a single reason, it would be a failure to take advantage of turnovers.
“You’ve got to take advantage when you have those opportunities,” Orchard Park head coach Craig Dana said. “We didn’t.”
The loss extends Orchard Park’s championship drought to four years while giving the Legends their fourth-straight Class AA title.
For two teams that scored the most points in Class AA this season, it was defense that set the tone early on before the offenses found their rhythm. They combined for just 164 first-half yards, but managed to turn things around with 318 combined yards in the second.
“Both halves were close,” Dana said. “It was tied in the final minutes and it was just two good teams going back and forth. It was a good game.”
The Quakers opened the scoring with a 30-yard Tom Hollander field goal early in the first, taking advantage of a muffed punt at the Legends 13 yard line. The fumble was one of three Lancaster turnovers in the first half that Orchard Park was only able to turn into three points.
Orchard Park was able to force another turnover on the opening kickoff of the second half, and made the Legends pay for the error as they capped a nine-play, 34 yard drive with a one-yard sneak by quarterback Jack Sharp to make it 10-0.
Sharp finished the game with 177 yards passing and two rushing touchdowns while running back Steven Kulikowsky rushed for 47 yards on 16 carries to lead the ground attack for the Quakers.
Down by 10, the Legends quickly answered back with a 65-yard kickoff return by Shawn Davis who had fumbled twice on prior returns. After punting the ball away, Orchard Park gave up the lead after a 14-yard strike from quarterback Jason Mansell to receiver Dominic Fulciniti.
With the Quakers knocking at the doorstep to retake the lead early in the fourth, a botched snap would give the Legends the ball back though they were unable to put any points on the board after the turnover. Orchard Park did manage to regain the lead with seven minutes left on Sharp’s second of the game to put his team up 17-14. After Lancaster forced a fumble deep in Orchard Park territory with the game tied, Cody Phillips scored the winning touchdown with just 51 seconds left.
“At the end of the day only one team ends the season with a win,” Dana said. “That’s what I told these guys, and they have nothing to hang their head on. It was a great season.
“Not having practice Monday is going to stink.”
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