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Published: September 05, 2009 11:18 pm     

HS FOOTBALL: GI loses shootout with Will. South

By Jonah Bronstein
Niagara Gazette

GRAND ISLAND — The home fans had to have been entertained, if not satisfied.

In a crucial Class A matchup to start the season Saturday, visiting Williamsville South outlasted Grand Island 32-29.

South’s star quarterback Joe Licata broke a 39-year-old school record with 377 passing yards as the Billies won here for the first time since 1995. Licata also threw four touchdown passes to three different receivers.

“We’ve been waiting for this game for nine months,” said Licata, the son of Starpoint principal Gil Licata. “I felt comfortable back there. My line gave me a great amount of time and the coaches called great plays for me.”

Grand Island drove into South territory twice in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t score the go-ahead touchdown. The Vikings fumbled at the 25 at the 6:44 mark, then on a fourth-and-8 from the 40 with about a minute to go, coach Dean Santorio dialed up a double-reverse flea-flicker that almost resulted in a touchdown, if not for a diving deflection by South’s Marc Coppola.

“It really came down to one possession,” Santorio said. “We had the ball in the end and had a chance to win it and came up a little short. Really, (Nick Kellner) was open early. But the kid made a nice play getting back late.”

The Vikings took the lead on another trick play late in the third quarter. Quarterback Joel Klock whipped the ball out to Tom Dzielski in the flat, who fired downfield for a 59-yard touchdown pass to Pat Gallagher.

“The double pass was set up pretty nice, we kind of had the field position we wanted, short side of the field. We got out to the wide side, we made a great throw, and Gallagher did a great job exploding to the ball when it was in the air,” Santorio said.

The Billies took the lead for good on the next series, though, when Licata found Kevin O’Connell in the end zone for the second time. O’Connell gained 114 yards on 11 catches. Phil Stasiak picked up 137 yards on seven grabs.

Grand Island opened the scoring when Chris Gibney tried to make an Alex Neutz-style one-hand stab-grab but ended up tipping the ball into the hands of Kellner for a 25-yard touchdown.

Licata, who is being recruited by Notre Dame, his coach said, responded with a 55-yard bomb to Coppola. Peter Benoit put Grand Island back ahead with a 17-yard field goal, but O’Connell came back with his own deflected touchdown reception to make it 13-10 early in the second quarter.

Allen Knight built the Billies’ lead with a 10-yard scoring run. The Vikings scored with 1:14 left in the half when Klock found Kellner on a slant and he ran 39 yards to the end zone.

South opened the second half with a 12-play, 70-yard drive that ended with Licata lobbing the ball across his body and off his back foot into Mike Lang’s hands in the end zone. On the second play of Grand Island’s ensuing possession, Andy LaLande ripped off a 61-yard touchdown run to make it 25-23.

Klock was 12-of-25 passing for 169 yards, two touchdowns and an intercepted heave at the halftime horn. Kellner caught six balls for 104 yards and two touchdowns. LaLande had 128 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Chris Moody led the Vikings with 14 tackles and Brett Dlugosz made 13.

“I think we got out of our kids what we expected,” Santorio said. “We lost a lot of good kids from last year, but we’re confident in the kids that came back and came up from the JV and they showed that they are capable of playing well.”