The Bennett Tigers didn’t have a strong showing in their first season playing in Class AA last year.
Now reloaded, the Tigers had an opportunity to show they could hang with the best of the best in Section VI’s highest classification as they visited Clarence for their Week 3 matchup.
Bennett made a statement taking down the Red Devils 34-7 Friday night improving to 2-0 in Class AA and 2-1 overall this season.
“I think that Class AA is wide open and there is a lot of competition,” Bennett coach Steve McDuffie said. “I don’t think that we’re better than anyone. We can win or lose on any given day. The key is to grind and get better every single day.”
The Tigers scored on the game’s opening drive. Junior Djae Perry took a big gain inside the five-yard line before finishing it off with a one-yard score.
Clarence responded soon after as senior Jack Putney found Cole Harris streaking down the field for the 37-yard touchdown to tie the game with four minutes left in the first quarter.
After missing him on the play-action earlier in the game, Bennett junior Aaron Smith threw over the middle connecting with senior Jakari Nettles for a 59-yard touchdown giving the Tigers a 14-7 lead at the half.
The Tigers defensive line – led by Nettles, classmates Anthony Tedesco and Jihad Loynes along with sophomore Jeremiah Williams – took over the game in the second half putting pressure on Putney and forced a couple of Clarence three-and-outs.
“You can have the best skill players in the world,” McDuffie said, “but if you don’t have any dogs up front you’re in for a long day. They played tough. We’re kind of fortunate that this year we’re seeing an increase in numbers. So, we were able to get some bodies in there to give them a blow.”
Bennett’s control of the game in the trenches began to transfer to the scoreboard when Semaj Clemons went up the middle for a 25-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
That was followed by a Red Devil fumble on the ensuing kickoff which gave the Tigers the ball in the red zone. A 26-yard change-of-direction run from junior Ja’Vair Walker set up a one-yard scoring run for classmate Justin Campbell.
Later, the Clarence offense was backed up inside its own five-yard line. The Bennett defense once again got pressure in the backfield and forced a pick-six by sophomore Devotie Pompey to seal it.
Clarence falls to 1-2 (0-2 Class AA) and will look to rebound when they visit Lancaster next week Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Bennett will head to Williamsville North Friday night for a 7 o’clock kickoff.