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Bennett Makes Statement With Historic Win Over Lancaster

This one wasn’t just for the Bennett High School football program. This one was for the city.

For the first time ever, a Buffalo Public School team beat Lancaster as the Tigers ended the Legends’ 24-game local winning streak with a wild 42-35 come-from-behind victory on Thursday night at All High Stadium.

“This is a monumental moment not only for Bennett High School but also for Buffalo Public Schools,” Tigers coach Steve McDuffie said.

Bennett won a back-and-forth game, scoring the last three touchdowns of the contest to improve to 4-0 in Class AA. Lancaster has dominated Class AA since the start of the 2016 season.

“We thought we could win but we knew we were going to be in a dogfight,” McDuffie said. “Lancaster’s a great program; they haven’t lost in three years, so we knew we were going to have to rise to the challenge. But I always tell the kids, if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. I’m so proud of them.”

Bennett Tigers Celebrate following their 42-35 win over Lancaster Thursday 9/27/18 Cal Phillips/WNYAthletics

Bennett and Orchard Park- the Tigers’ Week 5 opponent – are the lone remaining unbeaten in AA. But Bennett has wins over Lancaster, Williamsville North and Clarence and seem to be the front-runner amongst large schools.

“We’re the team to beat now,” Bennett running back Justin Campbell said. “Now we have to go harder in practice, stop playing around at times and we have to take everything seriously.”

A back-and-forth game saw the Tigers down two scores on two different occasions in the second half. But when crunch time arrived, Bennett proved to be ready for the challenge.

The Tigers took the lead for good with 6:22 left on a 62-yard touchdown run by back D’Jae Perry, who rushed for 275 yards and two touchdowns on the evening.

My line blocked it good, I found a hole and I knew I had to take it to the house,” Perry said.

Lancaster QB Jason Mansell Cal Phillips/WNYAthletics

Lancaster took an early lead on a 62-yard TD connection from Jason Mansell to Brian Martin but the Tigers bounced back immediately with a 42-yard scoring run by Campbell and a two-point run by Austin Grimes.

Quarterback Aaron Smith then tossed a 17-yard TD throw to Grimes and a two-point throw to Devontie Pompey, giving Lancaster its first two-score deficit since a 2016 game at Orchard Park.

But as expected, the Legends had an answer as Mansell threw touchdown passes to Nick Meara and then Shawn Davis to give Lancaster a 21-16 at halftime.

Mansell threw his fourth TD of the day early in the second half, a 9-yarder to Ethan Jurkowski.

Perry responded with a 54-yard TD run but Davis responded by returning the kickoff 83 yards for a Legends touchdown.

From there, though, it was all Bennett. Semaj Clemons scored from 10-yards out and then Perry gave Bennett the lead with his electrifying run. Smith extended the lead late on a fourth-down run as the Tigers won a battle of wills.

Semaj Clemons of Bennett Cal Phillips/WNYAthletics

Bennett stopped Lancaster’s high-powered offense three times down the stretch to secure the historic win.

“It means a lot,” Perry said. “I’m excited. I want to go party, but you know, school tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, Lancaster lost its first game against a Section VI foe since the 2015 Section VI semifinals against Kenmore West. It was the first regular season loss for the Legends since a Week 6 setback that same year to OP.

“I’m extremely proud of these kids,” said third-year Lancaster coach Eric Rupp after his first regular season loss. “To win 24 straight sectional games is an unbelievable accomplishment. Credit to Coach McDuffie and Bennett, they were the better team tonight.”

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