Depew had the look of a team ripe for the picking by an upstart Bennett team that came into the Section VI Class B playoffs having won four times in blowout fashion, while hanging tough in all its losses.
Looks are deceiving.
Depew, missing injured starters Anthony Buono and Rodney Turner, had plenty in reserve. Led by huge efforts from senior Cody Penner, sophomore quarterback Dylan Sekuterski, sophomore defensive end/linebacker Jakob Grant and junior Nick Perrine, the Buffalo News’ No. 7-ranked small school pulled away from the Tigers, 41-26, at Depew’s Frank Constantino Sports Complex on Friday night.
Penner’s 70-yard catch-and-run touchdown late in the third quarter just after a Bennett TD was the highlight a 20-point quarter by the Wildcats, who turned a 14-12 halftime lead into a 34-18 advantage through three quarters. Penner also set up the second-quarter touchdown that gave Depew the lead for good with a 23-yard punt return and made a fourth-quarter interception that all but sealed it.
Sekuterski replaced the injured Buono at quarterback and made key plays, amassing 114 yards in total offense. Perrine (12 rushes, 68 yards, two TDs) and senior Dan Golba (a 6-yard touchdown run) filled in admirably for the injured Turner (high ankle sprain) at running back.
Grant, a midseason junior varsity call-up, busted through the line to block Shundrekis Lewis punt from the Tigers’ 5 and then recovered it for the game-tying score early in the second quarter.
“We were opportunistic tonight,” Depew coach Brian Wilson said. “We just had great field position most of the night and took advantage of our opportunities.”
“We all had confidence in each other that we could get the job done,” said Sekuterski, who rushed three times for 44 yards and a touchdown and completed 1-of-4 passes for 70 yards and a TD.
Depew (6-2), which has lost only to Alden and Lancaster the past two-plus seasons, hosts Eden (5-3) in a Section VI Class B semifinal next week. The Raiders of Eden upset Class B North champion Cheektowaga, 23-12, on Friday night.
Bennett (4-4) was among four Buffalo City Schools hoping to make some noise during the sectional playoffs as no former Harvard Cup member has reached the sectional finals at Ralph Wilson Stadium since joining the Section VI Football Federation. The city schools’ hopes now rest with Burgard, which hosts Pioneer this afternoon at All High Stadium, as the Tigers, South Park and McKinley all lost Friday.
The Tigers opened the scoring on Alexander Lofton’s 57-yard touchdown reception from Eric Thompson (6-of-11 passing, 95 yards, three touchdowns) on their opening possession. Bennett also knocked out Buono, who had missed the last five games with a left shoulder injury, during the second offensive series after he got crunched on a 2-yard gain. But this is why teams play more than one quarter and why stats can sometimes be meaningless (Bennett out gained the Wildcats, 256 yards to 199).
Grant provided the Wildcats with a much-needed spark when he recovered the punt he blocked just 54 seconds into the second quarter to tie the game 6-6.
“I just had great help from the DT right next to me,” Grant said. “I came off the outside and I just put my hand up. I just got a little chip from the guard. … It was a big turnover. It set us in the right direction.”
“We thought we could get one,” Wilson said. “We’ve seen a few different games through the year and they’ve had a little trouble with the snap and thought we could take advantage of it. We thought we had good field position and that was a good time to take a shot. Jakob made a great play.”
Penner (three punt returns, 63 yards) then set up Depew’s go-ahead touchdown with a 23-yard punt return to Bennett’s 30. Four plays later, Perrine ran it in untouched from the 17 with 6:12 left in the second. A conversion pass from Sekuterski to Penner made it 14-6. Sekuterski picked up a first down on a 13-yard run on a third-and-10 play before Perrine’s run.
Bennett pulled within 14-12 on a Thompson to Lofton pass connection, this time from 7 yards out with 11.3 seconds left in the half.
Depew seized control in the third quarter, turning a punt downed at Bennett’s 2 into great field position established by a 20-yard punt return by Penner that gave it the ball at Bennett’s 17. Four plays later, Golba scored. and a Tyler Anna kick made it 21-12 with 6:20 left. Sekuterski scored on a 17-yard keeper with 2:15 left to make it 27-12.
Bennett’s Andrew White turned a short pass from Thompson into a 35-yard touchdown, pulling the Tigers within 27-18. with 1:08 left in the third.
On Depew’s next offensive play, though, Sekuterski and Penner hooked up for the knockout punch, a 70-yard TD to get the estimated crowd of 700 on its feet.
“That was the turning point of the game,” lamented Tigers coach Chris McDuffie.
“I think that just fired the crowd up and then they got us all fired up,” Penner said. “We just kept on rolling.”