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Mancabelli’s five scores power Orchard Park past Will North

Kegan Mancabelli didn’t suit up for the Orchard Park Quakers in their 32-29 loss to Williamsville North one week ago. On Friday night, the senior returned to action against the Spartans for a rematch, this time in a Section VI Class AA quarterfinal clash.

He proceeded to make up for lost time, and then some.

Mancabelli tallied all five Quaker touchdowns, including four in the first half, to lead No. 5 Orchard Park to a dominating 38-7 road victory over No. 4 Williamsville North to advance to the Class AA semifinals, where top-seeded Bennett awaits.

“He’s one of the best football players in the area,” Orchard Park coach Craig Dana said of Mancabelli. “He should be a Connolly Cup finalist, he’s doing it on offense, defense, special teams … Kegan is very dangerous, he had an unbelievable game today. We just used him all over the field.”

The Quakers got on the board with just over nine minutes to play in the first quarter after a botched snap on a Spartan punt rolled all the way out of the endzone for a safety. On their ensuing possession, Orchard Park quarterback Ben Gocella connected with Dylan Evans, who made an impressive, contested catch on a 42-yard deep ball. Despite rainy conditions, the Quakers didn’t stray much from their signature passing attack.

Mancabelli would finish the drive with his first score of the day on a one-yard dive to make it 10-0, and it was all Quakers the rest of the way.

“We knew we weren’t letting that team beat us again,” said Mancabelli, who finished the day with 99 total yards on four receptions and four carries. “Coach is calling the plays, I’m just getting the ball and running. My teammates are making it for me.”

Mancabelli finished off two more Quaker drives with similar four- and six-yard rushing scores, as the senior got the edge and sprinted into the endzone on both occasions, to make it 24-0 early in the second quarter. His fourth score came on a 13-yard catch and run, giving Orchard Park a 31-0 halftime advantage.

What killed Orchard Park in their loss in Week 8 was their inability to defend against North’s rushing attack, as they gave up 353 yards and five scores. In the wet conditions, one would have expected the Spartans to have the upper hand once again – but it ended up going the complete opposite way, as the Quaker defense stifled Will North and forced five takeaways, along with a blocked punt.

“They were running all over us last week and we really stepped up and stopped them,” Mancabelli said. “We were aligning better. Last week we were making a lot of mistakes mentally, we weren’t in the right spots and this week we were.”

Mancabelli’s fifth touchdown came on a 28-yard deep ball in the third quarter from Gocella to make it 38-0. The Quakers’ talented junior quarterback that led Section VI in both passing yards and touchdowns in the regular season ended the day 8-for-16 for 176 yards, good for 22 yards per completion.

Will North’s lone points of the game came with just over four minutes to play, when quarterback Mitch Kelly scampered 17 yards into the endzone on a designed run. Mistakes and turnovers doomed the Spartans early, and with their typically strong run game never getting going, it culminated in their season coming to an end.

WNY Athletics was unable to reach North coach Paul Palizay for comment postgame.

As a meeting with No. 1 Bennett looms in the Class AA semifinals for Orchard Park, the Quakers can take solace in the fact that they were the only team to defeat the Tigers in the regular season – a high-scoring 51-36 affair in which Gocella threw for 419 yards and six touchdowns back in Week 4.

Dana and his team know, however, that going on the road to earn a trip to Highmark Stadium for the sectional finals will not be a cakewalk.

“(Bennett) is just unbelievable … they’re a really good football team,” Dana said. “Rashard Perry is one of the best players in the area, the state. (Dominic) Allen has the most yards, but all their running backs are so dangerous … it’ll be a fun semifinals.”

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