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Stewart leads West to Victory

The annual battle of Kenmore came back home Saturday afternoon after being played at Tonawanda High School last year.

In the first game to ever take place on one of the new turf fields in the district, the hosting Blue Devils held off rival Kenmore East 21-18 in a Class A North matchup.

Both teams were looking for something to hang their hats on after going 1-5 this season.

That and properly opening the new turf field into the rivalry were motivating factors for the Blue Devils.

“We were both in the same situation, but you throw the records out in this game,” Kenmore West head coach John Haynes said. “Something that we talked about in the locker room was to leave a lasting memory for our team and our seniors. So, they won their first game on the new field and the first game against their rival on the new field.”

The game got off to a slow start both offenses had trouble getting first downs.

The Kenmore West defense made a big stand late in the first quarter stopping Bulldogs’ tailback D’Anzo Young on fourth down and short.

After the defensive stand, the Blue Devils showed some life. Joe Stewart got going picking up a first down. West quarterback Andrew Fron connected with Jacob Poumitt for 10 yards. Fron then took it himself putting Ken West in the redzone as the second quarter began. Stewart finished off the drive with a 12 yard touchdown run to give the Blue Devils an 8-0 lead.

Kenmore East found life as the ensuing kickoff went out of bounds and they started the drive on their own 35-yard line. Bulldogs’ quarterback Nate Murdie found Nick Coburn for 12 yards and moved East across midfield. Ken West extended the drive on a roughing the passer call, moving the ball to the Blue Devil 29 yard line. Murdie then found Coburn for another big gain, giving the Bulldogs first and goal. Murdie took it in himself for 4 yards on the keeper. After a failed two-point conversion, West remained on top, 8-6.

Stewart began the next drive with a 17 yard run to put the Blue Devils in East territory. He then got the ball to the Bulldogs’ 4 yard line taking a toss from Poumitt on the hook-and-ladder play. Ken West’s Eddie Vona scored on the next play, running it in from 4 yards out, putting his team up 14-6.

Stewart lead the way on the ground for Ken West with 98 yards.

Stewart, a junior, is a player with big play capabilities according to Haynes.

“He’s a heck of a football player,” Haynes said. “He’s been plagued with injuries but when he gets the opportunity to get going anything can happen on any play.”

The Bulldogs came right back as Young made a big catch to bring his team to the Ken West 30 yard line. A few plays later, Ja’Micheal Henderson got his team in the red zone on a jet-sweep. The drive was capped off when Murdie placed a pass right in the hands of Brandon Baker for a 17-yard touchdown reception. The Bulldogs again failed the two-point try, and were down 14-12 at the half.

In the third quarter neither offense could get the ball in the end zone as they combined for three turnovers.

Kenmore West lost a big opportunity, as they fumbled the ball inside the Bulldog 5-yard line.

Ken East took their first lead of the game early in the fourth quarter as Murdie threw a dump pass to Young who took it 56 yards down the left sideline for the score.

But the Blue Devils came firing back on the next drive. Faisal Ahmadi began the next drive with a big run up the middle to get West to midfield. The Bulldogs defense helped Ken West by committing a personal foul after a 9-yard run by Stewart bringing the ball to the KE 30 yard line. The Blue Devils took back the lead as Stewart caught a short pass from Ahmadi and turned it into the 26 yard score that proved to be enough for Ken West.

The Blue Devils defense sealed the deal with interceptions on each of Kenmore East’s final two drives.

According to Stewart, Kenmore West received a visit from a motivational coach that helped them come together and get ready for this game.

“We had coach DeSantos in from Las Vegas in all week at practice and he helped us come together,” Stewart said.

Although the Bulldogs were looking for a win, the score shows they are miles up ahead of where they were as they lost this game 63-12 two years ago and 41-6 last year. Many of the seniors on the team played and started on those teams.

Ken-East head coach Pat Veltri is proud of the way this senior class has fought through the adversity.

“I’ve been with these group of seniors since seventh grade,” Veltri said. “When you look back these are group of kids that helped turn the program around. They set the tone in the locker room, how we practice and how we conduct ourselves off the field. It’s a really great group.”

The Blue Devils were finally able to finish a game after losing their last four games in the final couple minutes.

“We haven’t really finished all year but today we came out and finished,” Haynes said. “Defensively we haven’t strung it together but they stood up when they needed to. I’m excited for the kids.”

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