Bennett outlasts Legends for Three-Peat
In a very physical matchup at Highmark Stadium, the Bennett Tigers defeated the Lancaster Legends 20-7 for the Section VI Class AA Football Championship.
The Defensive war of attrition commenced with the Lancaster defense holding Bennett to a 3 & out and the Tigers’ defense returning the favor forcing a turnover on downs after a big sack from Jazier Fluker in Lancaster territory.
The Tigers took advantage of the good field position and scored the first points of the day on a 13-yard touchdown run from Ja’Meer Thomas. E’Ryan Lawrence then took in the two-point conversion in to give Bennett an 8-0 lead over the Legends in the first quarter.
Lancaster QB Alex Krupa was intercepted by Demari Clemons on the Bennett 37 yard-line on the next Lancaster offensive drive,
However, after a couple of penalties on the Tigers, the Lancaster defense forced Bennett to punt and took over on their own 45. After another turnover on downs, the Bennett offense set up shop for Thomas who combined for 26 yards on his first two carries of the drive. After another first down run from Thomas, Lawrence ran 15 yards tiptoeing down the sideline to the pylon for a rushing touchdown, giving the Tigers a 14-0 lead with just over five minutes left in the first half.
Lancaster looked to answer back with a long 11-play drive until the Legend offense was met by a stout Bennett defensive stand that held Lancaster to yet another turnover on downs at the Bennett five-yard line with just 21 seconds left in the first half.
Bennett went into the locker room with a 14-0 lead thanks to their 110 yards on the ground and despite being 0-3 on third downs in the first half.
On the other side, Lancaster struggled to reach pay dirt even though they were 4-7 on third down conversions and had 73 yards in the air.
Lancaster received the second half kickoff and constructed a methodical, eight-minute, 71-yard drive. A 4th down penalty by Bennett deep into their own territory gave the Legends a second chance - which they did not miss - with Jayden Colon scoring on a run from one yard out to cut the Bennett lead in half.
After the ensuing kickoff, Bennett took possession at their own 48-yard line and drove down the field in a hurry thanks to a 35-yard pass from Sherrad Bennard III that Lawrence somehow brought in after two Lancaster defensive backs deflected the pass just before it fell into his hands. Two plays later, Lawrence finished off the job with a two-yard rush for a touchdown putting the Tigers up 20-7 over the Legends at the end of three quarters of play.
Lancaster would then force another Bennett punt and tried to put together another 11-play drive but a big sack by Fluker and Delshon Taylor forced Lancaster into a passing situation with under six minutes left in the contest.
However, the Legends were not going down without a fight after junior Nathan Myers recovered a fumble on his own 35-yard line giving his the ball back with 2:57 on the clock.
The Lancaster offense then went on a passing spree that saw Krupa deliver an 18-yard strike to John Gang while taking a big hit in the pocket. Krupa then hit on five of his final seven passing attempts but ultimately his final completion to Blake Minsterman on 4th down, came up short and the Legends.
The Bennett defense was impressive forcing six turnover on downs on eight of the Legends' offensive drives, with the other two ending in the Clemons interception and the only Lancaster touchdown on the evening.
The offense called upon Thomas and E’Ryan all day long and they did not disappoint. Lawrence lead the Tigers in scoring with two touchdowns on the ground while also contributing in the receiving game.
The Class AA Champion Bennett Tigers will represent Section VI in the Far West Regional on Saturday 7 p.m. at Williamsville South High School.