Far West Regionals
Class AA: Bennett 26, McQuaid 21
McQuaid suffered its third straight loss to Bennett in the Far West Regionals, this one in as heartbreaking fashion as you can imagine.
E’Ryan Lawrence powered into the end zone on a two-yard touchdown run as time expired to give Bennett a 26-21 win over the Knights.
Trailing 20-14 with nine minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, Will DiMarco connected with Dan Geen on a 34-yard touchdown on fourth and one to give the Knights a 21-20 lead.
After forcing a punt later in the quarter Bennett got the ball back with just under four minutes to play. Led by quarterback Sherrad Bennard III, the Tigers drove 88 yards to secure the victory.
John Harding had a pair of touchdowns for the Knights, one coming in the first quarter and the other in the third. He finished with 105 rushing yards.
Lawrence had a 65-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and had a long reception on the game-winning touchdown drive. Ja’Meer Thomas caught a 75-yard touchdown from Bennard in the second quarter. Bennard also ran in a quarterback sneak in the fourth quarter to give Bennett a 20-14 lead.
McQuaid (11-1) has now lost to Bennett in the Far West Regionals the past three years, losing 26-14 in 2021 and 20-14 in 2022.
“They’re a tough team,” said McQuaid head coach Bobby Bates. “They’re a physical team. They’ve got a lot of athletes. They’ve got kids who can make plays all over the place. They can stretch you horizontally. They can stretch you vertically. They play tough defense. They’re a really good team and the best to them as they move on in the states.”
McQuaid won the Class AA Section V title for the fifth straight year, which had never been done before in the area’s largest classification.
Class C: Salamanca 21, Le Roy 13
Payton Bradley caught the game-winning touchdown from Maddox Isaac with just six seconds remaining to send the Warriors to the state semifinals.
“There’s only one team in the entire state that’s going to end the season with a win,” said Le Roy head coach Michael Humphrey. “Unfortunately, it was not us. That’s a hell of a team, very well-coached. They stopped what we did best, which is run the ball off-tackle.”
The Oatkan Knights scored the game’s first touchdown in the second quarter when Andrew Strollo capped off a 62-yard drive with a one-yard rushing touchdown to make it 7-0.
Salamanca answered on the ensuing possession when Isaac found Arlen Newark on fourth and 5 from for a 45-yard touchdown to tie the game up at 7.
The Oatkan Knights got back in front in the third quarter, taking advantage of a Salamanca special teams mistake when a low snap was fielded by their punter with their knee on the ground.
Strollo plunged in another short rushing touchdown to make it 13-7, as the extra point was blocked. Strollo finished the game with 19 carries for 68 yards and two touchdowns. Anthony Piazza also had a strong game on the ground for the Knights, with 19 carries for 77 yards.
Faced with a short field, the Warriors answered with a 33-yard rushing touchdown by Isaac to tie the game up at 13. Salamanca’s extra point was also blocked.
The game stayed that way until the final minute of the game. With ten seconds to play, the Warriors went to the air as Bradley was wide-open in the end zone to give Salamanca the game. The Warriors converted the two-point conversion for a 21-13 final.
The Knights finish the season with an 11-1 record and their first sectional title since 2014.
“It means the world,” said Humphrey. “A sectional championship is something to be proud of and the fact that we made it to this regional game and had a chance to win means a whole lot to these guys, the community, and myself.”
The Oatkan Knights will graduate 14 seniors, whom Humphrey praised for their leadership.
“They obviously had the tangibles- big, strong, athletic, tough kids,” he said. “Off the field, they’ve been working at this since they were ten years old. The attitude that they brought every single day, that’s why we’re in this game. Every team’s got talent. These guys just knew what it took and that’s what I’ll remember the most about them. That’s what we’ll miss next year.”