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Legends slay Spartans, repeat as Section VI champs

The Lancaster Legends took down the Williamsville North Spartans 35-6 at New Era Field to win their second straight Section VI Class AA championship.

The repeat was a goal that the Legends set out to accomplish from the beginning of summer practices, according to coach Eric Rupp – and it was done in a fashion Rupp approved of.

“We played incredible tonight,” Rupp said. “At first we struggled a bit up front, but we made some adjustments and moved the ball well afterwards. Our guys did a great job.”

“This feels great,” fullback Joseph Andreessen said. “It’s a huge stepping stone towards our bigger goal, and our coaches prepared us really well. We’ve got a tight group here and hopefully this ride doesn’t end until we potentially get to states.”

The game also featured Legends quarterback Ryan Mansell breaking Dan Speyer’s school record for career passing yards with a 167-yard performance through the air.

“To be honest, that record was broken because of my teammates,” Mansell said. “We’ve got a lot of great athletes all over the field, and my job is to get them the ball in space. That’s on them.

“Personally, that record doesn’t really mean anything to me. Winning back-to-back sectional championships speaks for itself, and that’s really how I would like to be remembered here – redefining Lancaster football.”

Rupp credited Mansell’s success to his intelligence and his ability to diagnose opposing defenses.

“Ryan’s done a tremendous job managing our offense,” Rupp said. “He seldom makes bad reads, and a lot of our offense is based on run-pass options. He does a great job reading defenses and deciding what we do at the line of scrimmage.”

From the opening kickoff, everything seemed to go Lancaster’s way. Bryce Benham’s interception off of Spartans quarterback Joe Nusall in the first quarter gave the Legends excellent field position, and Kyle Backert cashed in with a 10-yard touchdown reception to make the score 7-0.

On the ensuing drive by the Spartans, a poor snap and a botched handling of the punt allowed the Legends to take over at the Spartans’ three-yard line. Andreessen then took advantage of the miscue with a one-yard run to increase the lead to 14.

After each team exchanged punts, the Spartans then drove down the field to reach the red zone. However, the exchange between Nusall and his center on fourth-down went awry, leading to a fumble and the Legends recovering.

“Credit to Lancaster, they played better than we did,” Spartans coach Mike Mammoliti said. “We can’t blame anyone else except ourselves for those miscues and turnovers. I’m proud of our guys, and I’m looking forward to building off of this next year with our younger guys.”

A few plays later, Mansell and wide receiver Max Giordano connected on a long passing play to set up Lancaster at the Spartans’ 11-yard line. On the play, Mansell found himself on the receiving end of a huge hit by a Spartan defender, but Mansell knew that as one of the team’s leaders, he had to shake it off and lead his teammates to victory.

“If a team’s going to line up and rush six or seven guys, one of them isn’t going to be accounted for so I’ve got to get the ball out fast and take a hit,” Mansell said. “For a 30 or 40-yard gain, I’m willing to take that hit every time.”

Andreessen got his second one-yard touchdown run of the night on a direct snap shortly thereafter.

A pair of touchdown runs by Andrew Hersey in the third quarter gave the Legends a comfortable 35-0 lead. From there, the Legends’ defense went to work. Their pass rush recorded seven sacks – led by Ben Damiani with three – and allowed just one score, a 12-yard touchdown pass from Nusall to Jacob Orlando late in the fourth quarter.

“Our defense stifled them all night long,” Rupp said. “It was an extension of what they’ve done all year, really. They’ve been dominant on that side of the ball, and hopefully they can continue to do that moving forward.”

The Legends now look to check another box off of their “to-do” list – pick up a win at the AA regional championships at SUNY Brockport next Saturday and perhaps make a run to the state championship in late November.

“The ultimate goal is a state championship,” Mansell said. “I think last year, we had the mindset of just wanting to win a sectional championship and going from there, because we hadn’t done that since 1999.

“This year? Yeah, we’re obviously super-excited to go back-to-back, but this isn’t the ultimate goal. We want to get to states and we need to win next week to continue going there. We know whatever team comes out of Section V is going to be the best team by far we’ve played against, so it’ll be tough, but we’re looking forward to it.”

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