Weekly Feature



2018-10-11 / Sports

Football team drops undefeated Bennett 23-22

by TAYLOR NIGRELLI
Reporter

Orchard Park football got perhaps its biggest win of the season Friday when it dethroned undefeated Bennett with a 23-22 victory. It was an impressive bounce-back win for the Quakers (5-1) after a blowout loss to Williamsville North last week.

“The teams in Class AA are all really good, so to play Bennett, who had beaten Williamsville North and Lancaster, was a good test for our guys,” Orchard Park coach Craig Dana said. “I was pleased with the way kids played the whole game.”

The Tigers have one of Western New York’s strongest rushing attacks, coming off a 300-plus-yard game on the ground against Lancaster the previous week. But Orchard Park’s defense held Bennett to 158 yards on 30 carries and also forced two fumbles. It was a disciplined effort by the Quakers. Michael Pataky led the way with 11 tackles.

“We knew going into the game that it had to be 11 guys, team defense, everyone had to trust in their teammate,” Dana said. “You can’t leave your spot, or those running backs are going to find a hole and they’re going to exploit it. Everyone had to stay sound. We talked about gap integrity all week long and staying home. Our guys did that and we held their three running backs in check. Our defense just played solid all four quarters.”

Offensively, the Quakers did not gain many yards but took advantage of their opportunities. After falling behind 6-0 due to a turnover deep in Quaker territory, Jack Sharp found Pataky from 6 yards out for a touchdown early in the second quarter. Tom Hollander kicked an extra point to make it a 7-6 lead.

Bennett would score again to go to halftime up 14-7. They’d return the opening kickoff of the second half to extend the lead to 22-7. But Orchard Park started to fight back later in the quarter when Sharp took off and found the end zone from 4 yards out. He hit Pataky for a two-point conversion to come within 22-15. The score would remain that way until there was 2:26 left in the game. Sharp hit Archie Bartolotti for a 10-yard touchdown and then a two-point conversion to give the team a 23-22 lead.

“We put up 23 points and scored three touchdowns against a really good football team,” Dana said. “We moved the chains and had some big conversions on third and fourth down to keep the ball moving. We protected the football. We had a turnover early in the game where we gave them the ball on our 10-yard line and they scored four plays later. But other than that, we took care of the ball. We were able to keep our composure. When it really mattered, Jack Sharp, Archie Bartolotti and Mike Pataky made some huge throws and catches for some touchdowns and two-point conversions.”

The Quakers have been in plenty of close games this season. The team has been trailing or close in the second half pretty much every game. This experience has allowed the team to be prepared for a game like this. They were not in an unfamiliar position.

“I think our team this season has been put into some adverse situations,” Dana said. “Some of them we’ve caused ourselves and some of them, we’ve had to fight through. I think being in those situations and trusting in your teammates and working through those early in the year helped us at that moment, having been in that position before.”

The Quakers have a huge game this Friday night against Clarence. A win would clinch a playoff spot for Orchard Park. The Red Devils need to win this game to stay in playoff contention. Though Clarence has lost some close games this season to the best teams in Class AA, they are far from a pushover.

“Clarence is a good football team,” Dana said. “I think people forget how competitive AA is. We’re all going to play each other. They have already played Lancaster, Bennett and Williamsville North. We’re next on the list. They’re a good football team. They’re fighting for their playoff lives. They need this win to keep their playoff hopes alive. So are we, because if we lose Friday and then we happen to lose week eight, we’re out of the playoffs. So, we could go from winning and having a good seed in the playoffs, to not being in the playoffs. This game is really important. All of our league games this year have been huge. It was a great team win for our guys and something to build upon.”

email: tnigrelli @beenews.com

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