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Frank Wolf’s Section VI Class AA Final Preview

Orchard Park Quakers (8-1) vs Lancaster Legends (7-2)

Friday November 8, 2019

New Era Field | Orchard Park, NY

Kick-Off 8:00 P.M.

TV: Spectrum | Radio: www.mixlr.com/wnyathletics

It will be Orchard Park and Lancaster going head-to-head at New Era Field with the Section VI Class AA title up for grabs. It’s a repeat of a week 6 match-up in which the Quakers defeated the Legends 21-20 at Lancaster.

OP handed the Legends their second loss of the season and they did it without the services of senior linebacker Michael Pataky, who left the game after just a few offensive snaps. The Quakers rallied in the second half from a 20-7 deficit, thanks to a Tyler Pirritano pick-6 and QB Jack Sharp’s second rushing TD of the game.

Lancaster had lost a few weeks earlier in overtime to Clarence, both defeats were by a grand total of two points. So as tough as the loss to OP was to take, there was plenty of experience and talent left in the locker room to overcome those defeats. The Legends dismantled Depew a week after the OP game and then avenged the Clarence loss by defeating the Red Devils 23-17 in the opening round of the playoffs.

Last week they showed Jamestown who still ruled AA with a 28-7 beat down at Strider Field.

The Quakers lost to the Red Raiders a week after defeating Lancaster. Pataky was sidelined as was kicker Tom Hollander, their absence was felt as OP was unable to put any points up on two trips deep in the red zone. OP had no problem beating a Hutch Tech team that finished 1-8 in the first round of the playoffs but found themselves in a tough battle against a depleted Bennett Tigers squad, narrowly pulling out a 21-14 victory.

It’s possible OP was a little too confident heading into last week’s semifinal game. 2nd year Head Coach Craig Dana will make sure that the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed before the Quakers come through the tunnel on Friday.

The OP offense has started to balance itself out with the emergence of running back Steven Kulikowsky (2020). The senior tailback has had two straight 100-yard games and is averaging 5-yards per carry. Kegan Mancabelli is a nice compliment to Kulikowsky and carried a bulk of the snaps earlier in the season.

Sharp is about to eclipse the 2,000 yards passing plateau, has thrown 25 touchdowns and rushed for another six. Sharp’s favorite targets are Peter Liberatore, Jonathon Lander and Charlie Bartolotti but the tallest receiver is Tristan Lancaster at 6’4″, and he’s just as effective.

Pataky has been the team leader all season. Even when he was forced to the sideline the senior has been a cheerleader, water boy and chief motivator. The Quakers seem to have overcome the failures of the previous two seasons where expectations were not met. This is a different team that has found a way to battle through their demons with their heads held high and are in prime position to reclaim the Class AA title.

Lancaster, however, is not quite ready to give up the throne. Eric Rupp knows a thing or two about coaching at New Era Field; he’s undefeated in three straight title games as head coach. Between defensive stalwarts Conor Mahony, Matt Marschner, Josh Jelonek, Shawn Davis, Isaiah Littleton and Chris Shaver, the Legends are a tough group to move the ball against. They are especially difficult to throw against.

Offensively Davis is still a solid target for Mansell but others have stepped up this season as well and it has paid off big time. Ethan Jurkowski, Nick Castellana and Dominic Fulcinitti are among the group of players that have caught TDs. Gianluca Fulcinitti continues to be a tough cookie to bring down in short yardage situations and has been used in many different formations. Cody Phillips has seen a bulk of the carries for Lancaster, racking up 569 yards on 118 carries.

Mansell (’21) has been a much better quarterback this season and has done an excellent job in taking what opposing defenses have been giving him. Mansell has spread the ball around well to his receiving corps and has shown his mobility, rushing for 216 yards and five touchdowns. Mansell has thrown for over 1500 yards and 20 TDs.

This game will be won in the trenches as they usually are. The battle to watch on Friday night will be between the OP offensive line and the Legends defense.

Photo Credit | Mike Sage

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