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Kennedy shines as Trojans bounce back with 36-12 win over Gators

The Southwestern Trojans came up just short a week ago in an epic game against the Fredonia Hillbillies, which resulted in the third Southwestern loss of the season on the road by two points or less.

But when the Trojans win, especially at home, they win big — and that’s what happened Friday night.

The Southwestern Trojans defeated the Allegany-Limestone Gators by a score of 36-12 in a Class C South high school football contest on Charles A. Lawson Field at Southwestern High School on Friday night.

“We play better at home, that’s a given. We always defend our home field,” said Southwestern head coach Jake Burkholder.

After a stellar second half a week ago that nearly brought his team back from a three-score hole on the road, Southwestern quarterback Aidan Kennedy picked up right where he left off on Friday night, with a passing line of 19-for-31 for 269 yards and four passing touchdowns, despite two interceptions. He also had a rushing touchdown and an interception defensively.

“It’s great having a leader like that, especially when it’s your quarterback who leads you down the field,” said Burkholder.

Kennedy opened the scoring on Friday when he hit Cameron Lemk for a 50-yard touchdown pass. With just under one minute remaining in the first quarter, it put the Trojans up 7-0.

Defensively, Kennedy showed his athleticism with an interception to give his team the ball right back near midfield. Then later on in the ensuing drive, five minutes after his first touchdown pass, Kennedy found Matt Pannes in the end zone for his second passing score of the game.

Southwestern (4-3, 3-2) then recovered an onside kick and added a 30-yard field goal by Neves Hoose to extend the lead to 17-0, which held at the break.

Allegany-Limestone (3-4, 1-4) recovered an onside kick themselves to begin the second half, then marched down the field 46 yards over the first 4:27 of the period, capped off by a 3-yard touchdown run by Kevin Edwards-Hardy. After a missed extra point, the score was 17-6 in favor of the Trojans.

Kennedy threw the first of his two interceptions on the next drive, on a deep ball intended for Jameson Walsh that was snared by Allegany-Limestone’s Andrew Giardini. However, within seconds, the Trojans forced a fumble and recovered the ball already inside the red zone. Kennedy took advantage of the short field and punched in a 6-yard rushing touchdown to put the Trojans ahead comfortably once again, 24-6 with 3:41 remaining in the third quarter.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Allegany-Limestone quarterback Gabe Ramadhan crossed the goal line on a quarterback sneak from one yard out to cut the Southwestern lead to 24-12.

The Trojans appeared poised to answer quickly, as Kennedy drove his team into the red zone within a minute of the Ramadhan touchdown, but the Gators came away with an interception in the end zone by Anthony Decapua. Though once again, the Gators weren’t able to turn the turnover into points, as the Trojans forced a punt.

Kennedy went for the dagger on a 35-yard deep ball to Pannes, who was wide open in the end zone, but dropped the easy touchdown. Not shaken by the mishap one bit, Kennedy went right back to Pannes on the next play and he reeled it in for the score in the back of the end zone to extend the Southwestern lead to 30-12.

“(Pannes) is a hard worker. That drop, I knew he would beat himself up about that, but I knew he could get open again,” said Kennedy. “I knew he wouldn’t drop it twice. He’s a playmaker.”

With the ball up by 18 with under two minutes to go, Southwestern kept the offense at full force with a playoff points tiebreaker in mind. Kennedy finished off his day with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Lemk with 53 seconds left to cap off Southwestern’s fourth victory by at least 20 points.

“It all comes down to the point differential,” said Burkholder, who cited playoff implications as to why he kept his offense running rather than kneeling to run out the clock.

As a result of the final score, Lemk and Pannes each finished with two receiving touchdowns on the night.

“They work their butts off during the week making sure they are on the same page with me,” said Kennedy of his two leading receivers. “It makes the game a lot easier on me being able to rely on them, but it’s more than them. Everyone on the offense, they do a good job throughout the week.”

Kennedy also frequently extended plays on Friday to find his weapons for big plays, which he credited his offensive line for.

“My offensive line did a great job giving me the time to throw,” said Kennedy.

The Gators finish off the regular season on Thursday night when they host the Chautauqua Lake/Westfield/Brocton Thunderbirds.

The Trojans end the regular season on Friday when they host the Golden Cougars of Cassadaga Valley/Falconer/Maple Grove.

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