The Sweet Home Panthers and the Kenmore East Bulldogs came into Saturday afternoon looking to prove they weren’t the teams they were last year. Both teams showed they were improved from last year but it was the Panthers who came out on top winning by a score of 50-21.
The Panthers had a disappointing 2015 campaign as they went 2-9, missing the playoffs and ending their steak of 9 consecutive appearances in the Section VI final. The Bulldogs are coming off an 0-9 season in which Ken East had to forfeit the first game of the season due to not having enough players and battled with the issue all season.
“(2015) was the worst season in Sweet Home football history probably…everyone wanted to turn that season around…it showed” said Joe Torrillo. Tom Rivera echoed that message “I could tell everyday, everyone in practice wanted this win (in 2016)”.
The game got off to a quick start as Nate Faller took the opening kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown. Philip Orange responded back by taking the ensuing kickoff 75 yards and the Bulldogs took advantage of the strong field position as QB Kahlil O’Neil took it in himself to give the Dogs the 7-6 lead. On the next drive, Derek Simons picked off Joe Torrillo which led to a 14 yard pass from O’Neil to Ja’Micheal Henderson for a 14-6 lead at the end of the 1st quarter.
Henderson had three kickoff returns that went over 50 yards, as well as two receiving touchdowns. “That’s a guy that we know we can put him in space and he makes plays” said Head Coach Pat Veltri.
After that, the Panthers took the game over. Tom Rivera ran in for his first touchdown at the end of the first quarter. In the 2nd quarter, Torrillo found receiver Melvin Williams for 32 yards to take an 18-14 lead and the Panthers never looked back.
Rivera had 3 touchdowns on the day. Two of them were 50+ yard runs. “I trust my line, I trust my quarterback…my line makes big holes and I follow them” said Rivera.
At halftime the Panthers led 32-14. Sweet Home picked up where they left off in the 2nd half. Ryan Harris opened the scoring in the 2nd half with his 1st of 2 touchdowns for the day.
The Bulldogs had some success as they were given great field position off a great Henderson return, but a Steven Hark fumble ended the drive for Ken-East. In the 4th, the Bulldogs added a score as O’Neil found Henderson again for a 15 yard touchdown. But that was not enough as the Panthers got one last score with 7 minutes left in the game.
Despite the loss Veltri was happy with how his team played and believes the scoreboard may not entirely reflect on how Kenmore East performed, “A lot of improvement from 2015” said Veltri, “(we) gave up 50 points, it’s not a good thing but a lot of them were on big plays, where we missed tackles…a lot of simple things”.
Sweet Home (1-0) now looks forward to next week as the Panthers host their first ever ‘Friday Night Lights’ game against West Seneca East (0-1). “It’s going to be a great opportunity to come out under the lights for our school” said Torrillo.
Kenmore East (0-1) will host Class A North defending Champ, Starpoint (0-1), next Saturday back at Clint H. Small Stadium.
For more information on both of these teams head to their team pages:
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