Each of the last two years, Williamsville South ended McKinley’s season in the playoffs.
On Friday night, the Macks got some revenge – and a championship.
McKinley used a tremendous second-half effort to come from behind and win at Williamsville South, 20-14, to capture the Class A Central title Friday night before a homecoming crowd at District Field estimated at 2,000.
McKinley trailed, 14-6, at halftime, and despite their starting quarterback going to the sidelines with an injury, the Macks owned the second half to win the matchup of top 10 News large schools and league unbeatens.
McKinley, which was ranked eighth in The Buffalo News large school poll, is 6-0 overall and finishes 5-0 in Class A Central. Williamsville South, which was ranked 10th, is 4-2 overall and 4-1 in divisional play.
“I’m really happy that this year, the first time in two years, that we are the ones on the winning side,” McKinley coach Edward Wilson said. “In 2011 we lost to Will South, last year we lost to them, and it feels good. Hats off to those guys – it’s a great program and a great school, but McKinley has some good things going on. We’re a good school and a good football team, too.”
Will South beat McKinley in the Section VI Class A quarterfinals each of the last two years, 35-14 last season and 27-14 in 2011. The teams, which were formerly members of Class A North (McKinley) and A South (Will South), this year became part of the newly formed Class A Central.
“It was basically sweet revenge,” said McKinley senior linebacker Chris Smith, who had two sacks. “It’s not pretty all the time, but we came out here and did it. It’s just a team effort. We’re a family. Everyone’s a leader. These are my brothers. … Nobody wasn’t giving us respect, and now we’re 6-0.”
With McKinley winning the A Central title, two of the three Class A divisions have been won by Buffalo Public Schools teams. South Park cliched the A South championship last week. Riverside’s title in 2010, the first season that the Buffalo Public Schools joined Section VI, had been the only previous league championship won by a city team.
The title appeared to be headed South’s way after it took a 14-0 lead in the first half on two touchdown passes by junior Sam Castronova. McKinley cut the lead to 14-6 at halftime on a second-quarter pass from starting quarterback Jamar Rutledge to junior Mike Benton. Rutledge sat out the second half with an ankle injury and sophomore Keyon Johnson took over.
Benton was a force in the second half, running for several key first downs, including two on McKinley’s next scoring drive. The Macks cut the lead to 14-12 when Johnson hit Jeremy Kelley with a pretty pass for a 28-yard score 1:32 into the fourth quarter. The Macks defense forced South to punt, and the Macks took over at the South 37.
After a big third-down conversion on a pass by Johnson to senior Deonte Thompson put the Macks at the 10, Benton shrugged off at least two tackle attempts as he ran to the left side for a 10-yard score with 5:48 to play.
“I hit the hole, busted it to the outside, and it was there,” said Benton, who added a two-point conversion run up the middle. “I give the line all the credit. They came out blocking.”
South reached the McKinley 20, but was pushed back due to a sack. On fourth and 24 from the Macks’ 34, Castronova passed over the middle to junior Kam Varner for what would have been a first down and possibly a touchdown, but the ball went off his hands. South’s last chance to get the ball back ended with a muffed punt.
By virtue of winning one of Class A’s three divisions, McKinley will be slotted in one of the top three seeds for the Class A playoffs. Next week McKinley plays a nonleague game at Sweet Home, which can win the Class A North title today at 2 p.m. with a victory at Kenmore East.