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Lancaster Opens Rupp Era With Big Win at Williamsville South

Eric Rupp was admittedly nervous as his era as Lancaster High School’s head football coach got underway. That feeling lasted for about 15 seconds.

Junior Kyle Backert returned the opening kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown and the Legends were off to the races and a season-opening 31-14 non-league win at Williamsville South.

“My stomach was in knots all day but that play calmed me down … a little bit anyway,” Rupp said with a laugh.

The big-play opening was a continuation from a record-setting 2015.

The points came fast and furious for Lancaster last year when Rupp was the offensive coordinator and in his first game as the head man at the varsity level featured more of the big plays – and big-play men – seen a year ago. To start 2016 against the always-powerful Billies, Zach Samborski topped 100 yards as usual, LG Castillo set another record, Max Giordano was all over the place on offense, defense and first-year starting quarterback Ryan Mansell settled in nicely and fired a pair of TD passes.

“It feels pretty good,” Rupp said of his first career varsity win. “Thee kids have been working hard since February for this. It feels great to start the season with a win. But we have to watch the film because Friday night is going to be a challenge.”

Jamestown will visit Foyle-Kling Field on Friday and the Legends can only hope to start as strong in Week 2 as they did in Week 1. After Backert’s big return, Williamsville South’s first drive ended quickly as star QB Josh Foster’s first pass was tipped and intercepted by senior Alex Barbaro. South’s defense stood tall and the Legends had to settle for a 25-yard Giordano field goal.

For a lot of the first half, the Billies continued to play tough on Samborski – who ran for a team-record 1,339 yards and 22 touchdowns last year – but the visiting sideline was confident that would only last for so long. And when Giordano ended a South drive with an interception at the Lancaster 3-yard line in the middle of the second quarter, the Legends turned to their workhorse starting at an end zone that was – briefly – 97 long yards away. Four Samborski runs later, the standout senior was in the end zone after a 76-yard run for a touchdown.

And true to his character, Samborski immediately deflected the glory.

“The O-line did really well there,” Samborski said. “I got to the second level, saw an opening and just kept going. The O-line did real well against a real tough defense. They threw a lot at us and but all the guys stepped up for us tonight.”

South immediately answered Samborski’s score. Billies quarterback Josh Foster found receiver Mark Worthy for an 84-yard touchdown that got the large home crowd fired up again. But the backbreaker for Williamsville South came on Lancaster’s first record-setting play of 2016. Driving late in the first half with no time outs, Mansell fired a short pass to Castillo, who officially became Lancaster’s all-time leader in career receiving yards as he found his way into the end zone for a 15-yard score with just five seconds left before halftime.

“The play before the half all we have to do is tackle that dude in bounds,” Billies coach Craig Kurzanski said. “They can’t set the ball on the hash so time’s going to run out. It’s tough.”

Samborski finished the game with 134 yards on 14 carries. Mansell, who steps in for the record breaking Dan Speyer, was 11 for 16 for 171 yards to go with his two TDs and also ran for 27 yards. Giordano, who scored Lancaster’s only second half TD on a 15-yard connection had three catches for 58 yards.

He also had one of three Lancaster interceptions, joining Barborsa and Brett Beetow. For South, Foster finished with 285 yards passing and 40 yards rushing. Chris Nelson had six catches for 130 yards, including a late 50-yard TD.

“We’re going to be OK,” Kurzanski said. “We competed great, we weren’t pushed around out there. If you look at the game, Lancaster’s supposed to be pretty good, and I thought we were toe-to-toe. That’s an All-Western New York running back.

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