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South Park gets ‘Sparked’ to victory

Donte Ridgeway may have already been a member of the South Park football team, but Friday he officially earned the right to be called a ‘Spark’.

The senior came up with a spontaneous pick-6 for South Park early in the second quarter leading the Sparks to a 36-6 win over the West Seneca East Trojans in the Section VI Class A football semifinals.

As soon as the ball entered the quarterback’s hands Ridgeway knew exactly what the play call was. He jumped in front of where the pass was going and intercepted the ball with open space in front of him for the 70-yard touchdown return.

“I watched a lot of film on that play and when I saw it I just went for it,” Ridgeway said afterward. “It started us off.”

The play came as it seemed the Trojans had the upper hand. The West Seneca East secondary had made two big plays in the end zone stopping the previous Sparks’ drive.

The Trojans were then moving the ball pretty well downfield. Niam Bonnor started the drive with a big run to the East 40-yard line. East was helped when the Sparks’ secondary took a pass interference penalty moving the ball past midfield. Jacob Maurino did a complete change of direction and picked up big yards to bring his team to the South Park 33-yard line.

Ridgeway’s heads up play gave the Sparks an 8-0 lead and almost all the momentum at the half.

The second half got off to an unlucky start for the Trojans as the opening kickoff went out of bounds, twice. South Park decided after to have East go back five yards and rekick. On the third attempt, South Park sophomore Jaysen Armstead picked up the ball and powered his way to the East 35-yard line.

The Sparks were able to capitalize on the field position a few plays later as Clarence Thomas took a dump pass 23 yards pushing the South Park lead to 14-0.

West Seneca East found their rhythm from the first half and began to move the ball. The Maurino brothers brought an old-backyard play in the game as Jared hit Jacob on a double pass for 15 yards getting the Trojans into the red zone. However, a few plays later the drive came to an end as Dayquan Anderson came with a pick in the end zone.

On the ensuing drive, Anderson caught the ball in the opposite end zone extending South Park’s lead to three scores at the end of the third quarter.

Lotrell London added on two more scores with runs of 13 yards and 55 yards.

Jacob Maurino and the Trojans squeaked in a score with under a minute remaining.

In the first meeting between the two teams in week 6, the Trojans led 21-0 at the half, but ended up losing 36-21. Friday night’s game was very similar as the Sparks were again the far better team in the second half.

“We went into halftime at 8-0 and we liked where we were at, but South Park played better in the second half,” West Seneca East head coach Jim Maurino said. “We pulled everything out but we couldn’t get into the end zone.”

For Maurino the loss also marked the end of his sons’ Jacob and Jared’s playing careers at West Seneca East.

“It’s been an enjoyable three years being able to watch them grow in the game,” Marino said of coaching his sons. “I have certainly cherished these moments with them.”

With the win, South Park makes their third trip in four years to the Sectional final.

Jeremiah Sanders, who is the only current player that was on the 2015 state title team, has always expected to make his way back to the stadium.

“It’s a little more exciting this time because I’m a senior now,” Sanders said. “I always envisioned coming back after the first time, so it’s exciting that we did it.”

According to Sparks’ head coach Tim Delaney, this shows that South Park football is becoming one of the best programs around.

“We had a lot of carryover from the 2014 team to 2015, but this is pretty much a whole new group,” Delaney said. “It’s great to be back. It shows that we’ve got the program to this point that this is the expectation is to always to play well in the playoffs.”

The Sparks will face West Seneca West next week after they defeated Iroquois 35-14 in the other Class A semifinal matchup Friday night. The Section VI Class A Championship game will be at 6:30 pm next Saturday at New Era Field.

It will be a reunion of sorts for Sanders who played last year with Indians’ quarterback Matt Myers and wide receiver Juston Johnson.

“I’m facing two familiar faces but it’s nothing we can’t handle,” Sanders said. “We know their weakness and strengths and we’re going to do our best to stop them.”

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