Kenmore West has an experienced roster hoping to make a playoff run that reaches Ralph Wilson Stadium. Orchard Park, on the other hand, is used to playing meaningful games at The Ralph, having reached 19 sectional finals.
It figured to be a nice season-opening test for both team, especially since it was a rematch of last year’s Section VI semifinal, who by OP, 25-20.
So what did everyone learn on Friday night? Orchard Park still looks like Class AA championship-contending material, while the Blue Devils learned there is still much work to be done if they want to become a program of OP’s ilk.
The Quakers took Ken West to school in the season opener for both teams at Quaker Field as junior quarterback Dillon Janca completed seven of his first 11 passes for a 155 yards and a touchdown in leading OP to 14 first-quarter points en route to a 28-0 victory.
The slow-paced game, which featured 58 pass attempts even included a 30-minute lightning delay late in the third quarter.
Dillon, Dillon: Janca completed several nice throws throughout the nearly three quarters of action, but the prettiest one had to be his 13-yard strike to Kevin Koziol who caught the ball in stride and kept a foot inbounds in the back of the end zone with 3:03 left in the first half as OP increased its lead to three TDs.
Janca completed 15 of 31 passes for 261 yards and two touchdowns. He also called his own number on an option-read play, scoring on a 1-yard run to make it 28-0 with five seconds left in the third.
Up to the point of the lightning delay, OP amassed all but 26 of its 265 yards of offense via the pass. The Quakers got a spark late in the run game by Ryan Paolini, who rushed 10 times for 67 yards.
OP finished with 342 yards.
Defense, defense: While Janca picked apart the Blue Devils, his defensive mates pressured his counterpart DeAngelo Walker-Johnson and pretty much kept first team All-Western New York playmaker Terrell Ford under wraps.
A defensive unit led by Ronnie Shul (16 tackles), Collin Creagan (seven tackles, two sacks) and a host of others limited Ken West to 38 first-half yards. The Blue Devils finished with 209 but when it mattered in the second half still couldn’t finish drives in OP territory with touchdowns. Ford finished with 93 yards on five catches but only gained 31 on 16 rushes.
Play of the game: Pick a pass completion from Janca. OP’s junior quarterback burned Ken West’s one-on-one coverage, throwing the ball where only his receivers could grab it.
While his 51-TD to a wide open Chris Liberatore was good, his lofty, 15-yard throw down the left sideline to Jacob Schurr even he even broke to the spot where the ball was headed to convert a third-and-13 on the opening drive deep in West territory was even better. That set up Paolini's 4-yard TD run that finished the Quakers’ first possession of the season in style.
Play of game II: Corey McPoland returns interception 30 yards to Ken West 13 late in second quarter, leading to Janca’s TD pass to Koziol.
Quotable I: “It’s easy to win a football game when you give up zero points because you only have to score once,” Janca lauding the defense.
Quotable II: “There skilled position players were a little bit better than ours today,” Ken West coach Rich Harris on Janca burning the Blue Devils’ man-to-man coverage.
Top play for Ken West: A 31-yard pass play from DeAngelo Walker-Johnson to Terrell Ford in the third quarter with Ford and a defender catching the ball at the same time, with Ford pulling it away. It was one of the few times OP lost a battle. Ken West failed to score on that drive.
Food report: Something new to sink your teeth into -- a chow report, something we’ll try to do at the various sites we visit throughout the season. Of course that only will work if the concession stand is open during pre-game warmups because there’s too much work to do at halftime to make a food run. The good news is Orchard Park is a pro’s pro of hosting games so its stand was open for business when I arrived 30 minutes prior to kickoff. Hot of the grill items included cheeseburgers and hot dogs, with pizza also available. I opted for the hot dog since I don’t like cheese on my burgers (and I didn’t want to wait for a fresh hamburger). My two dogs were fully cooked, which is key because there are some venues where the links are undercooked. No one likes and undercooked food. OP earns a solid A on opening night.
Attendance: Estimated 2,000.
Time of game: 3 hours, 20 minutes including a 30-minute lightning delay.
What’s next: On Friday, Southtowns’ rivals clash when Frontier visits Orchard Park in the Class AA South opener for both teams. The Falcons opened the season against West Seneca East.
Kenmore West hits the road once again, this time against Class AA North rival Lockport at 2 p.m. next Saturday. The Lions open the season this Saturday at St. Joe’s.