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Vikings raid historic night for Ken-East

It was a night of celebration.

Friday night lights had finally made its way to Kenmore East. The renovated stadium with lights, turf and a new scoreboard was rededicated to legendary coach Richard “Sparky” Adams.

But after the pre-game ceremony Grand Island had a celebration of their own, defeating the Bulldogs 42-7 in Section VI Class A North action.

It was the long plays killed that the Bulldogs the most Friday night.

Grand Island took control of the game late in the first half on an 87-yard pass from quarterback Cam Sionko to wide out Zane Johnson. The long pass gave the Vikings a 21-7 lead that they never let go.

The Bulldogs showed some nervousness to start the game. Ken-East fumbled the opening kickoff and the Vikings recovered the ball inside the Bulldogs’ 20.

Grand Island capitalized on the favorable field position. The Vikings quickly took it down to the goal line before Sionko followed his offensive line into the endzone for the one-yard score.

Sionko scored five of the Vikings’ six touchdowns in the win. The junior is in his third year on varsity but after splitting time with Connor Buzby last season, it was all on his shoulders tonight.

The quarterback was in a good mindset for Friday night.

“I don’t get real nervous,” Sionko said. “I felt pretty confident today. I was playing cool, calm and collected.”

After the first drive, the nervousness went away and the Bulldogs battled back.

Late in the first quarter, Grand Island took advantage of another Ken East mistake. Johnson made a nice play on the ball and picked off Bulldogs’ quarterback Nate Murdie. Only a few plays later Sionko found Thomas Cecere on a screen pass, who took it 51 yards for the touchdown to give Grand Island the 14-0 lead after the opening quarter.

Ken East settled back in and went up-tempo to start the second quarter. Murdie connected with Brandon Baker for 40 yards and got the Bulldogs inside the red zone. The offense kept moving the ball down field until Murdie threw it up in the endzone and Baker came down with it to put the Bulldogs on the board.

On the ensuing kickoff, Kenmore East went for the surprise onside kick. They converted and suddenly had the ball at midfield and the momentum.

The Bulldogs once again moved the ball down field, but the Grand Island defense stood their ground and ended any hopes of an upset for the Bulldogs that would’ve given the Bulldog faithful more to celebrate.

The Bulldogs would have wanted to be able to win Friday night, but after going 1-17 in the last two seasons Kenmore East head coach Pat Veltri wanted to see his team begin to compete. Veltri thought his team made strides from 2016 and that his players left everything out on the field.

“I think they were hesitant to start the game. They let things happen and then play,” Veltri said. “I saw huge improvement tonight. In the third quarter, we were gassed. Everyone who could give gave.”

It was a bit worrisome for Grand Island head coach Dean Santorio who felt that the game was getting dangerously close until the touchdown at the end of the first half.

“We got off to a little bit of a slow start, but give credit to them (Ken East). They played tough, physical and at times won at the line of scrimmage,” Santorio said. “We got the big score late in the first half and made plays in the second half to extend the lead.”

Sionko and the Vikings continued to dominate as fatigue set in for the Bulldogs in the second half.

The junior QB led a long drive to start the third that ended on a five-yard TD pass to Jason Breeden.

The Grand Island defense forced three turnovers in the win. Leading the charge on defense for the Vikings were ends Frank DePalma and JJ Wilkes.

Nick Anzalone had a 75-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.

Grand Island (1-0, 1-0) will have its home opener against North Tonawanda (0-1, 0-1) next Friday night. The Bulldogs (0-1, 0-1) are back at home as they host the Williamsville South Billies (1-0, 0-0).

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