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Legends Have Just Enough Grit To Survive Bennett In Sectional Final Rematch

Eric Rupp spent all week talking about grit leading up to a rematch of last season’s Class AA Section VI championship game.

When it mattered the most, Lancaster sure showed a lot of that.

The Legends defense came up with two red zone stands in the final three minutes and escaped with a 27-22 win over Bennett in Class AA action at Foyle-Kling Field.

“We knew it was going to be a dogfight,” Lancaster linebacker Matt Marshner said. “We’ve been preaching all week that it was going take grit tonight. We had to have mental toughness and today we brought it.”

The game ended after Bennett quarterback Devotie Pompey was taken down inbounds at the Lancaster five yard line by three Legends with five seconds left and the Tigers out of timeouts. The final seconds ticked away and the Legends stormed onto the field in celebration.

“Fortunately, they didn’t have any timeouts left,” Rupp said. “I was just saying, ‘Please tackle him in bounds and wind that clock.”

Lancaster senior Shawn Davis started out on fire and the Legends went up 20-0 in the first quarter. The Tigers battled back all night long – but came up five yards short.

“Sometimes that happens,” Bennett coach Steve McDuffie said after his team fell to 2-3 overall and 2-2 in Class AA. “We’ll give all the credit to Lancaster. We battled for it and fought back and I was proud of the kids for it, but Lancaster was the better team tonight.”

Early on, it looked like Lancaster was going to be the far-superior team. The Legends stormed out to an early 20-0 lead as Davis hauled in a 21-yard TD pass from Jason Mansell. On the ensuing Bennett possession, he intercepted a pass and returned it 27 yards for another score.

Mansell added a 21-yard TD strike to Ethan Jurkowski with 30 seconds left in the first quarter and it looked like the Tigers were in store for back-to-back blowout losses.

Bennett didn’t see things that way.

The Tigers got back into it with a 27-yard TD throw from Pompey to Lamont Pulliam and then Djae Perry showed he’s past the leg injury that slowed him last week against Orchard Park. The standout ran in for a 10-yard TD four minutes later and then added a one-yard run in the fourth quarter. He topped 100 yards for the game, ran in the two-point conversion after Bennett’s first two touchdowns, and was a force on defense all night long as the Tigers kept on coming.

“We knew they were going to keep coming,” Lancaster linebacker Conor Mahony said. “We knew Djae can run the ball. We just had to keep our pursuit on him.”

Bennett took over at its 28 with 7:16 left and marched down the field – the biggest play a 43-yard throw from Pompey to Devonte Prince on fourth-and-10. But the Legends held firm and Bennett turned the ball over on downs with 2:24 left at the Lancaster 10. The Legends went three-and-out and Bennett started at the Lancaster 40 and got to the 20 on a Pompey run and then to the 10 on a facemask penalty.

But in the end, the Legends had just enough grit to survive and improve to 4-1 overall and in Class AA.

“It was nerve-racking because we knew we had to get a stop and they have a bunch of great athletes,” Davis said. “We knew we have 11 guys, we all love each other and we had to have that black shirt mentality. We had to have each other’s backs.” That sets the stage for a game many have been looking forward to all season long.

Lancaster is set for a huge Class AA home game against undefeated Orchard Park (5-0 overall, 4-0 Class AA). The Quakers are the last visiting team to win at Foyle-Kling back on October 9th, 2015. The Legends have won four straight in the rivalry, including a 27-7 win in the 2016 sectional championship game. Since then, Lancaster has rolled off 19 straight home wins.

“It should be a great game,” Rupp said. “It could decide the division. It should be an electric atmosphere, it’s going to be televised, and I’m looking forward to it.”

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