B U F F A L O N E W S
Grand Island, Lackawanna move on
Section VI Football Finals: Winners at the Ralph advance to Far West Regionals in Rochester
By KEITH McSHEA
News Sports Reporter
Sweet Home had come from behind to win all season. With the Section VI Class A championship on the line, there was no way Grand Island was going to let that happen.
Grand Island's pair of Ryans - Ryan Harvey and Ryan Breier - led the way while junior James Rayhill again found his face mask in the middle of big plays as the Vikings beat Sweet Home, 20-14, Saturday afternoon before an estimated 600 at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
"Our kids just believed in themselves," said fifth-year Grand Island coach Dean Santorio. "I think it's the character of our ball club we've had to come back in games we let teams back in, and we've had to battle back, too. Our kids believe in their abilities. And they believed they could come out and win."
Grand Island (9-1) will take on the Section V (Rochester area) champion in the Far West Regionals Friday at 7:30 p.m. at St. John Fisher College. Geneva (8-1) played Victor (6-3) at 7:30 Saturday night in the Section V championship.
Sweet Home had trailed in five of its eight wins, and despite making several mistakes (four fumbles) it appeared poised for a comeback after a quick fourth-quarter drive that pulled the Panthers within 13-7. The five-play, 54-yard possession that lasted just 2:17 ended with Allen Douglas' 4-yard run with 7:39 left.
On their next drive, the Panthers were near midfield when Rayhill and Harvey (61/2 tackles, 72 rushing yards on 25 carries) stopped Quentin Hudson 1 yard short on a third-and-4 scramble. There were exactly two minutes on the clock when Hudson attempted to burrow to the left on fourth-and-1, but Rayhill led the way and the line pushed Hudson back for a loss and the Vikings took over.
Any chances of a Sweet Home desperation drive ended when Vroman fumbled a punt return - thanks to being tripped up by Rayhill - near the 5 with less than a minute to play. The ball bounced behind him and senior Bob Fiels covered it for a touchdown and a 20-7 lead with 53 seconds left. Hudson hit Alex DelleBovi for a 35-yard touchdown with 13 seconds left and the on-sides kick failed.
Sweet Home (8-2) beat Grand Island, 21-0, but that was eight weeks ago. The Vikings scored first and took a 6-0 halftime lead thanks to a 1-yard run by Breier (59 yards rushing, 41/2 tackles)
On the first play of the second half, the Vikings took advantage of a big Sweet Home mistake to make it 13-0. Rayhill forced a Vroman fumble of the long kickoff by senior Chris Miller (two touchbacks) and it was recovered by senior Josh Raiser at the Sweet Home 20. Five plays later, Breier was about to be tackled when he pitched the ball to his left to Harvey, who cut back to the right for a 10-yard touchdown.
"These guys, all these seniors, it's just one big family and we
play for each other," said Rayhill. "We just wanted to show
everyone we were the better team. Week Two, we didn't show that. We knew
we were the better team."