BUFFALO — For the second week in a row, the Vikings were beaten by an impressive performance from the opposing quarterback.
After watching Williamsville South standout Joe Licata score five times last weekend, Grand Island (1-2) came up short in a 36-29 shootout against the McKinley Macks (2-1) at Riverside Stadium in Buffalo on Friday. The game featured some big passing plays early and some close calls late.
“We got beat on more big plays than we could create,” said Grand Island coach Dean Santorio. “It’s as simple as that.”
McKinley landed the first blow with a two-yard scamper from quarterback Markell Ingram after a fluke completion set the Macks up on the goal line. A Ingram pass intended for Godfrey Adiges bounced off his hands and right into Jonathan Flanagan, who took it 59 yards to the two yard line. A QB pass to Dante Thompson made it 8-0 Macks early.
Grand Island countered with a two yard touchdown run from Ben Tomkins, which was set up by a 51-yard Dzielski pass to Nick Kellner.
Kellner would make the game’s next big play as well, picking off a Ingram pass and setting the Vikings up on their own 35 yard line. Dzielski made it 13-8 Vikings with a 52-yard touchdown pass to Pat Gallagher. The speedy running back made the catch at the McKinley 40 and made a Mack miss, then picked up a blocker while racing down the left sideline.
Nate Benoit added a 33-yard field goal to make it 16-8 Grand Island, but the Macks would storm back with a 20 point second quarter on the strength of their quarterback’s arm.
Ingram started with a 47-yard touchdown throw to Stephon Johnson right down the middle of the field. After a Vikings punt, Ingram found Johnson again with a spectacular 86-yard touchdown pass down the right sidelines for the score. Ingram led Johnson with a pass that went over 50 yards in the air, and after a fingertip grab the speedy receiver took the ball to the end zone for the impressive score that made it 20-16 Macks.
The Macks quarterback finished the day 7 for 23 with 219 yards and two touchdowns, as well as rushing score. He also threw two interceptions to Grand Island DB Nick Kellner. His play gained him plenty of praise from both head coaches.
“What can I say?” asked Macks coach Edward Wilson. “He’s a man, that’s all I can say.”
Ingram’s long spirals left the packed crowd at Riverside Stadium gasping, putting perfect passes over the Grand Island secondary and into his receivers’’ arms.
“He’s a fantastic quarterback,” Santorio said. “The balls he threw on the fly and in the post, you can’t throw them any better. The one down the right sidelines for that long score, he probably threw it 60 yards and it was right on the money.
“That doesn’t happen that much in high school football,” Santorio added.
After the teams exchanged punts, Marquise Williams intercepted a Tom Dzielski pass and returned it 47 yards for the touchdown to make it 28-16 Macks. Williams jumped route and stepped in front of a pass intended for Kellner, then raced to the end zone for the big score.
McKinley opened the second half with another touchdown drive to open up a 20 point lead. Kwame Duah’s two yard score made it 36-16 Macks and put the pressure on Grand Island to answer in a hurry.
That pressure would boil over, as Dzielski forced a pass on Grand Island’s first play from scrimmage that was intercepted by Blane Wilson.
However, the Vikings senior would settle down and lead the comeback on the next drive. Dzielski found running back Pat Gallagher in the end zone for a 12-yard score after another long completion to Kellner. The extra point made it a 13-point game midway through the third quarter.
Kellner would come up with another big interception late in the third, setting the Vikings up on the Macks six yard line. Dzielski would find the senior in the end zone on the next play to bring the Vikings within seven, and that deficit would stand after a bobbled snap on the extra point.
Still, the score left the Vikings down just as score to start the fourth quarter.
“When you get down 20 points in the second half ...You could fold up your tent and go home,” Santorio said. “We didn’t do that, so I was proud of them in the second half.”
Grand Island would have a number of chances to tie the game in the fourth, but the Macks defense would hold strong. Dzielski would fumble on a third and seven from the Vikings 44 with under seven minutes to play, but they would get the ball right back after a Kwame Duah fumble.
The Vikings tried to get creative with an option pass, but Nick Kellner’s poorly thrown ball was intercepted with 5:48 to play. They would get the ball again with 1:01 left after a McKinley punt, but Dzielski was unable to engineer the game-tying drive.
Despite the loss, Santorio said he appreciated his team’s resilience in the second half.
“To give yourself two drives to tie it or win it in the fourth quarter when you’re down 20,” Santorio said, “I guess that’s all you can ask for when you’re playing a good team.”
For McKinley the win is another statement in their inaugural foray into Section VI football.
“We just wanted to come out and do the best that we could and show everybody that Harvard Cup football is willing to play,” coach Wilson said. “Tonight, we showed that.”