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Published: October 23, 2009 10:58 pm

HS FOOTBALL: Late kick lifts Vikings in thriller

By Thomas Baldwin
Niagara Gazette

WILLIAMSVILLE — The adage could be as old as biblical passages, but it still holds true — revenge is sweet.

Nate Benoit capped a furious Grand Island rally late in the fourth quarter, booting a 42-yard field goal with only seven seconds left to give the Vikings a 23-20 victory over Williamsville South on a miserable night at District Field.

The win upped Grand Island to 5-3 after its fifth consecutive victory, and sends the Vikings into next weekend’s Section VI Class A playoffs against the West Seneca West-Iroquois winner.

“It was a great game, you couldn’t ask for anything more,” Grand Island coach Dean Santorio said amid a wild celebration. “The kids worked hard and believed in themselves. I am proud of the way we came back when it was 20-13, driving the ball right down the field. Then we did a great job in driving down there in the last minute.”

The Vikings trailed 20-13 but tied the game when Andy Lalonde banged in from the two with 6:47 left in the final quarter. Lalonde finished with 108 yards on 21 carries and had a pair of scores.

After holding South on its next possession, Grand Island, which got revenge for a season-opening 32-29 loss to South, only had a little over three minutes to work with and was 91 yards away from the South goal line. The drive stalled, but the Vikings got a huge break when South’s Phil Stasiak fumbled a punt at the South 48.

Grand Island again stalled, but Joel Klock — who finished 14-of-26 for 210 yards a score — coolly hit Steve Vitello with a 31-yard strike with 33 seconds left. Three plays later, the Vikings faced a fourth-and four at the South 26. The Billies called timeout to ice Benoit, who stepped up and drilled the ball hard. At first, the kick appeared it would not make it, but it barely crossed over the bar.

“I wasn’t sure (if I would make it,)” Benoit said. “I was nervous, and I just prayed.”

As big an episode of drama that was — there was still more.

South took over at its own 27 with seven seconds left. The Billies lateraled the ball successfully at least eight times before a South player fumbled and was on the ground at the Grand Island 46. The Vikings thought the game was over and players stepped onto the field of play. But the referees penalized the Vikings for having too many men on the field.

“We started celebrating and went on the field because the ball was fumbled, and one of their kids was on the ground touching it.” Santorio said. “We thought he should have been ruled down because he was touching the ball. Then they called us for having too many men on the field.”

With no time left on the clock South was awarded the ball at the Grand Island 31.

South’s Joseph Licata then threw a Hail Mary in the end zone to Tyler Kemper, but the pass fell incomplete and the game was over.

Scott Rogers had 11 tackles for Grand Island while Brett Dlugosz had 10.