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Bennett’s historic season ends in State title game

(SYRACUSE, N.Y.) – Both teams were on a quest to win their first ever football state championship Saturday when they stepped onto the field. Unfortunately, for the Bennett faithful the Tigers fell to the Carmel Rams at the Carrier Dome, 42-12.

The ground attack from Carmel along with their defensive line carried the team to victory. Carmel had 257 total rushing yards and five touchdowns on the ground, while only having 51 passing yards on just seven passes.

The Rams’ defensive line shut down Bennett’s run game quickly and held senior running Dominic Allen to 39 yards on 13 carries. He came into the game with 2,323 rushing yards and 24 touchdowns.

“They were a better football team than us today, can’t take nothing away from their kids. I want to say congratulations to them. Congratulations to their coaching staff,” said Bennett head coach Steve McDuffie.

Carmel stopped the run game right away. From there Bennett incorporated more passing plays. On their second possession, junior quarterback Antonio Davis III felt pressure off his right side and the Carmel defense forced a fumble.

The Rams’ Dominick Telesco recovered it inside the 10-yard line; that led to senior running back Josh Massi to run it up the middle for a three-yard score to give Carmel a 7-0 lead.

On the ensuing possession, Bennett showed promise on offense as they used designed pass plays to get their key players open. They went down the field and converted on a fourth and two in Carmel’s zone, but ultimately the drive ended in a turnover on downs.

In the second quarter, Carmel set up a drive that would lead to a 21-yard rushing touchdown from senior Dylan Shields. Shields ended the night with three rushing touchdowns. Before the score, Carmel faced a fourth and short at midfield, the punting unit came out, but the snap went to Shields. He picked up some blocks along the left hash and converted the first down.

The scoring continued in the second half for Carmel. On their opening possession in the second half, the Rams pulled another trick up their sleeves as Andrew Fiore found T.J. Fusco wide open for a 38-yard touchdown pass.

Down by 21, Bennett’s offense showed some signs of life. Davis III showed off his arm and connected with Ahmad Bradberry for a 53-yard touchdown.

However, Shields would get his second touchdown on Carmel’s ensuing possession to go back up 28-6.

Bennett grabbed another score on a Davis III 1-yard rushing touchdown, but the Carmel offense never flustered and kept being aggressive.

Even though Bennett didn’t come away with a state title, the season that they’ve completed was one for the ages for their program. The Tigers defeated Lancaster in the Section VI AA Championship, ending the Legends’ five-year reign.

Bennett defeated McQuaid Jesuit after the game was postponed due to COVID-19 issues wih McQuaid. Four days later, they traveled to Cicero-North Syracuse for the state semifinals and defeated the Northstars on their home turf.

Allen, Torey Anderson, Braderry are three of the biggest players that have played their final football high school game, but Bennett looks promising for next season.

Davis III, Jamario Toliver, Delshon Taylor and Rashard Perry will all return.

Defensively, Bennett will bring a challenge to Western New York next year. Perry ended the season with 118 tackles and 24 sacks while Jayden Lewis was phenomenal as a cornerback, getting 12 interceptions and scoring eight defensive touchdowns.

McDuffie is confident that this team can back to the Carrier Dome next season. If they do he’ll make sure that his team will be more prepared than ever.

“Pay a bit more attention to the detail of the game and next time when they get to this point in general, that will have a different outcome if they stay a little bit more focused at practice and they play a bit better,” McDuffie said.

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