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Trojans Finish off the Bennett Tigers

The Bennett Tigers jumped out early with a quick scoring drive to start the game but the Greece Athena Trojans of Section V took over from there, scoring 36 unanswered points on their way to a 41-12 victory over Bennett for the NYSPHAA Far West Regionals Class A Football Championship.

“I’m really proud of the kids, we played a real tough team. I thought we played really tough on the perimeter, it was a great team effort,” said Greece Athena Head Coach Rob Cerone.

The Tigers were confident and excited as they marched 66 yards down the field in just under a minute and a half on the first drive of the game. Senior Isaiah McDuffie found the end zone on a 12-yard run to get the game’s opening score.

McDuffie ran the ball 13 times for 124 yards and two touchdowns. The senior will be playing linebacker at Boston College next year.

However, on the next drive, the undefeated Trojans showed that they had quick strike capability of their own.  Greece Athena quickly moved the ball 75 yards in less than a minute to score. QB Ta’von Granison ran it 63 yards for his first score of the game.

Granison went 12 for 20 for 148 yards and three touchdowns in the air. He also had two touchdowns on the ground for the Trojans.

“I just came and played football. Coaches tell me to come out and play my game,” said Granison. “I did what I had to do to help the team win.”

After a strong defensive stand by the Trojans, senior Kenny Speed returned the Tiger punt to the Bennett 15 yard line. Speed ended up finishing the drive a play later with a 9-yard touchdown run.

Speed caught six passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns, and ran in another.

“He’s just such a great competitor. He’s 5′ 5″ 155 pounds but he’s elusive, got great hands and a knack for getting open,” said Greece Athena Head Coach Rob Cerone.

The best chance Bennett had to get back into the game was at the end of the first quarter as senior Marcelus Toliver was able to give the Tigers 1st and goal from the eight yard line. However, the Tigers were driven back four yards and could not convert the drive into points.

Even though they were out-matched, there was no quit in the Tigers. At the end of the third quarter, Bennett scored its final touchdown, possibly ever, as McDuffie found the end zone one last time in a Tiger uniform on a 21-yard run.

The Buffalo Public Schools have decided to phase out Bennett High School due to poor academic performance. Football was the only team left under the Bennett name, as other student-athletes play for Middle Early College.

Due to an outcry from alumni, the school is being reinstituted to the Computer Academy of Technological Sciences at Bennett. Freshman began walking the halls at Bennett for the first time in three years.

However, at this point it looks like the Bennett name for football is still going away.

“Maybe it was the last time as Bennett Tigers, but I expect we will be back in some sort of fashion,” said Bennett Head Coach Steve McDuffie.

After the game, McDuffie was incredibly proud of his team and gave props to Granison and the Trojans. “We’re going to walk out of here with our heads held high,” said McDuffie. “(Granison) is just a great player and he proved to be too much for us today. Greece Athena is a great team.”

Next week in the State semifinals, the Trojans will face Section III’s Whitesboro at Cicero-North Syracuse High School on Friday at 8pm.

Greece Athena has never been to the Far West Regionals let alone the state semifinal before. The last time they won Sectionals was in 1981 before there was a state tournament.

“This is uncharted territory,” admitted Cerone. “But this is cool, we’re excited so we’re going to keep playing hard.”

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