NEWS - For photo, click Buffalo News.
Grand win in Class A as Vikings pummel
The Panthers had won the last three Section VI Class A football championships, starting each by wearing their green uniforms for a semifinal win on their home field. But Friday night, the white-clad Vikings were the only thing to see on a snow-white field, routing their way to a 42-0 stunner.
Junior Mike Blocho scored three touchdowns as the Vikings, ranked fifth in The News large school poll, claimed a 35-0 halftime lead over the sixth-ranked Panthers. Grand Island (8-1) scored on its first two possessions, returned a punt all the way and had two turnovers lead to touchdowns as it pounded Pioneer (6-3).
"It was kind of a magical night," said second-year Grand Island coach Dean Santorio. "Our kids played with a lot of desire. The kids did a fantastic job tonight. You can draw up all kinds of stuff but nothing's going to work unless kids execute. Every kid executed what we wanted them to do."
Frigid temperatures didn't keep the Vikings from celebrating by giving Santorio a Gatorade shower on the sidelines while fans chanted, "Stadium! Stadium! Stadium!" That would be Ralph Wilson Stadium, where next Saturday Grand Island will play the winner of today's semifinal of Iroquois at Sweet Home at 3 p.m. in the Class A championship. It is Grand Island's 10th trip to the stadium.
The Vikings won their regular-season meeting at Pioneer, 14-13, in Week Four.
"It was slippery ground, but we got great blocking, great offense, great defense," said Blocho. "We thought it was going to be a tough game."
Blocho ran 17 times for 96 yards behind crushing blockers, scoring on runs of 5 and 12 yards. The first came after an awesome opening drive by the Vikings as they coverted three third downs in moving 67 yards in 13 plays. Two of the third down conversions were nice connections from quarterback Chris Sica to Josh Bernardoni.
"We just marched down the field and put it in," said junior Mike Bull. "It really set the tone."
Bull's 10-yard TD put Grand Island up 21-0 on the first play of the second quarter, and three series later Blocho deftly returned a punt 75 yards for a 28-0 lead.
Pioneer could have run out the clock in the final minute of the first half, but on third and 10 at their own 3, the Panthers took a timeout with 42.7 seconds left and then tried a pass play. Bull picked off Chad Lindsley's attempt and easily ran it in 8 yards for a score and a 35-0 game. Grand Island tacked on a passing touchdown in the third quarter, with Sica finding Mike Feathers in the back left corner of the end zone on a 13-yard score.
The GI defense didn't allow Pioneer across midfield until the fourth
quarter, and that was only to the 46-yard line. The Vikings also kept
Pioneer pinned in their own end behind the strong kickoffs of senior
Feathers, who twice came a few yards of clearing the end zone.