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Miracle Finish Gives Lancaster Win at Orchard Park

Lancaster junior Jake Michalski couldn’t believe his eyes, couldn’t believe his luck and couldn’t believe his speed. And nobody could believe the finish on Saturday at Orchard Park.

Down a point, Michalski recovered a blocked punt and returned it 42 yards for a stunning-game winning touchdown with 30.2 seconds left in the fourth quarter as the Legends stunned the host Quakers 42-35 in front of a packed homecoming crowd.

“I just saw the ball floating there and I just grabbed it and booked,” Michalski said. “Oh my gosh. I thought they were going to catch me. I’m a lineman, I’m usually slow. But somehow I had the speed to break away.”

Just moments earlier, it looked like a special teams miscue was going to end Lancaster’s hopes of an undefeated season. After LG Castillo’s 79-yard touchdown reception with 2:10 remaining brought the Legends within a point, a low snap on a wet field caused a missed conversion attempt, leaving the host Quakers with a 35-34 lead.

Orchard Park recovered the onside kick but went three and out. That set the stage for Lancaster’s seventh – and biggest – blocked kick on the season.  The Quakers tried a quick punt, but the Legends got penetration and the punt deflected off the back of an OP player into the arms of Michalski.

“Just amazing,” said Lancaster junior quarterback Ryan Mansell, who threw for 356 yards and three TDs. “So many different swings of momentum in that game. We got the right break at the right time. Special teams have been amazing for us all year.”

When Alex Barbaro intercepted a desperation Dillon Janca pass, the Legends moved to 5-0 overall and 3-0 in Class AA South.  The win was Lancaster’s first over Orchard Park since 2009.

“You couldn’t dream of a better finish,” Castillo said. “My brothers and I, we stick with the plan. We just knew this game was going to go all four quarters.”

As usual, Castillo proved to be worth the price of admission. The standout senior and University of Oklahoma baseball commit finished with eight catches for 257 yards and two touchdowns and also caught a two-point conversion.

His colleague on the other side, junior Max Giordano, caught  four passes for 54 yards and his 32-yard touchdown catch with 9:17 left in the fourth quarter gave the Legends a 28-27 lead. But Janca drove his team down the field.  Josh Dahl gave OP the lead with 2:47 left on a five-yard touchdown run.

It took Lancaster all of two plays to respond with the TD to Castillo.

“He’s just an animal,” Mansell said of Castillo. “Any time he’s on the field, we’re going to be throwing him the ball as many times as we can.”

Zach Samborski ran for 105 yards and a touchdown and Andrew Hersey added 57 more rushing yards and another TD for Lancaster.

Janca finished with 302 yards and two touchdowns – both to Matthew Honer.  Janca and Nico Rapino also had short TD runs for the Quakers (3-2 overall, 3-1 Class AA South).

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