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Legends Use Big Second Half to Win Fourth Straight Class AA Title

Photo courtesy of Cal Phillips 

The Lancaster Legends had revenge on their minds entering the Section VI Class AA title game against Orchard Park.

After losing 21-20 earlier in the season to the Quakers, the Legends knew they’d have to play a near perfect game to claim their fourth sectional title in a row. They certainly weren’t perfect, but they got the job done.

No. 5 Lancaster overcame four turnovers as Cody Phillips scored the game-winning touchdown with 51 seconds to play to defeat No. 1 Orchard Park 23-17 in the Section VI Class AA title game on Friday night at New Era Field.

“It was kind of our revenge tour,” Lancaster coach Eric Rupp said. “Starting off against Clarence, they beat us by one, and then going down to Jamestown was tough. This one, obviously, things didn’t go our way the second half in week six, but we made up for it in the second half today.”

In a defensive battle of a first half, a 30-yard field goal from Tom Hollander gave Orchard Park (8-2) a 3-0 lead in the first quarter thanks to strong field position from a muffed Lancaster punt.

Two more first half Legends fumbles stopped the offense from getting anything going, but despite it all, they only found themselves trailing 3-0 at halftime.

“The message [in the locker room] was just defense, keep doing what you’re doing,” Rupp said. “Offensively, lets take care of the football, maintain our blocks up front, and just execute.”

The Lancaster (8-2) turnover problems didn’t end in the first half.

On the opening kickoff of the second half, another Legends fumble gave Orchard Park great field position in Lancaster territory, and they took advantage, as Jack Sharp punched it in on a quarterback sneak to put them up 10-0.

Then, finally, the Legends got some momentum.

Shawn Davis, who muffed the punt in the first quarter, ran the ensuing kickoff back 83 yards to get Lancaster on the board and back within three points, 10-7. Then, just over five minutes later, Jason Mansell connected with Dominic Fulciniti on a 14-yard touchdown strike to give the Legends a 14-10 advantage late in the third quarter.

“I think we just needed that one big play. Shawn, bouncing back, getting that huge kickoff return, that really just got us going.” Mansell said. “Zero points in a half is unacceptable, but we knew we just had to stick with the game plan and that’s exactly what we did.”

The Quakers responded however, as Sharp ran in another score to put Orchard Park back in the lead 17-14 in the fourth quarter. Clark Whiteside knocked through a clutch 29-yard field goal to tie the game at 17-17 with 3:34 left in the game.

While Phillips tallied the game-winning score, it was Ethan Jurkowski who made the big play for Lancaster. Jurkowski got to Sharp on a blitz, forcing and recovering a fumble deep in Orchard Park territory with under three minutes to play that set up the eventual touchdown.

“We showed a lot of heart. Things didn’t go our way in the beginning at all, and we were disappointed in that, but we kept our heads high,” Jurkowski said. “Our locker room at halftime, nobody was down … we showed heart all the way to the end.”

With the victory, the Legends advance to the NYSPHSAA Class AA quarterfinals, which will be played at 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 16 at The College at Brockport. They will face off against the winner of the Section V Class AA title game between McQuaid and Aquinas.

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