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Bennett not going anywhere

Photo by Shawn Turri

The Bennett High School football team finally finished its climb last season, winning the first New York State championship in program history.

A number of big names from the last two seasons, which included back-to-back Class AA Section VI championships and state title game appearances, have moved on to the next level. But that doesn't mean the Tigers are going anywhere.

"Hey, we're going to be pretty good for a while," coach Steve McDuffie said after last year’s Section VI title game win over Lancaster.

And as the 2023 season gets underway, the beat goes on for Bennett.

With a reloaded roster, the Tigers used a balanced attack to open the season with a 28-6 road win over Lockport on Saturday afternoon.

E'Ryan Lawrence ran for 83 yards for the Tigers and had a touchdown both receiving and rushing in the win. Noah McDuffie and Ja'Meer Thomas also had rushing touchdowns for Bennett. Sherrard Bernard III completed 13 of 19 for 211 yards and a touchdown, much of that to Thomas who caught five passes for 112 yards.

Defensively, Kahmari Cook led Bennett in tackles with 10. Delshon Taylor had three sacks and Jazier Fluker two more for the Tigers. McDuffie and Lawrence collected interceptions.

Bennett was officially 7-6 last year after Section VI forced the Tigers to forfeit its first six games. Rather than pout about it, Bennett won its final regular season games and then rolled through the Section VI tournament as the No. 3 seed.

The Tigers then finished the climb to the top with a 42-8 win over Newburgh Free Academy in the state title game. Other than a 20-14 come-from-behind win over McQuaid in the Far West Regionals, every official Bennett victory last season was by at least 27 points.

"These kids are resilient and they've proven it over and over again,” McDuffie said. “When you have kids like that, it's just my honor and my privilege to coach."

The Tigers lost a bunch of key contributors to graduation, two to Division-I colleges in lineman Rashard Perry (Syracuse) and running back Jayden Lewis (Buffalo). But plenty of weapons remain and Bennett remains the team to beat in New York State.

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