The tests will get tougher as the season goes on for Lancaster, but the Legends hope the rest of them go as well as Friday night’s physical challenge.
In a clash between two of the top three teams in Western New York, Lancaster didn’t just remain perfect on the season. The Legends did so in statement-making fashion.
The News’ No. 2-ranked team throttled a very good Williamsville North crew by handing the previously unbeaten Spartans a 42-14 loss before an estimated 3,000 at Lancaster’s Foyle-Kling Field.
The Legends stormed out to an early 20-0 lead and then made plays on both sides of the ball to thwart a comeback bid by The News’ third-ranked team. The defense and special teams not only made momentum-turning plays but contributed to the scoring. Lancaster may not have set or matched the school record for points in a game for a third straight week, but did put up 42 on a North program that had lost just four games the past two seasons.
Zach Samborski led the offense that finished with 434 yards by rolling up 104 rushing and two touchdowns in the first half. Junior quarterback Ryan Mansell took his turn in the spotlight once the senior running back left with cramping in the third quarter by completing touchdown passes of 57 and 42 yards. The Legends moved to 4-0, heading into another difficult exam next Saturday at defending Section VI Class AA champion Orchard Park.
Lancaster forced five turnovers, recorded four sacks and limited the Spartans to only 160 yards.
“It’s a huge showing,” said linebacker Ben Damiani, who made 10 tackles and contributed to the scoring by helping sack North quarterback Jason Hwang in the end zone for a first-quarter safety. “We just beat the No. 3 team in Western New York. This shows Lancaster football is back and business is booming.”
With 25 returnees from last year’s 6-3 crew that lost in the sectional semifinals, the team came into the season with high expectations and a host of game changers, which it displayed to the Spartans (3-1).
Of course there is Samborski, who is coming off a year in which he set the program record for rushing yards in a season. He put the Legends ahead for good with a 10-yard scoring run with 5:15 left in the first quarter. He added his second TD, a 14-yard run, with 6:54 left in the second quarter.
In between those scores, Lancaster’s defense tacked on two points in one play after Samborski’s first score. Damiani and Joe Molea (two sacks) combined to bring down North quarterback Jason Hwang in the end zone to make it 9-0.
Later in the quarter, Joe Andreessen, who finished with 19 tackles, blocked a punt that led to a 30-yard field goal by Giordano to make it 12-0.
While North pulled within 20-7 at halftime on Marquel Wells’ 27-yard run, Mansell (10 for 22, 211 yards, two TDs, one interception; four rushes, 31 yards) took his turn making plays for Lancaster. He hooked up on a 57-yard touchdown with Giordano. Just like that the Legends had a three-score lead with just under seven minutes left in the third.
“Max is a great athlete,” said Mansell, who connected on a 58-yard pass play with Giordano on Lancaster’s first scoring drive. “Anytime you can get him one on one, I’m going to put it up every time.”
North scored on its next possession, a 77-yard pass from Jason Hwang to twin brother Andrew to make it 27-14. Mansell, who completed 6 of 8 passes in the second half for 135 yards, made sure Lancaster wouldn’t be denied by connecting on a 42-yard score with Alex Barbaro with 11:21 left.
The only negative on this night for Lancaster was penalties. The Legends committed 10 of them. Lancaster must be in order to have a chance against Orchard Park.
“Playing OP, you have to play a much cleaner game,” first-year Lancaster coach Eric Rupp said.
Still … “That’s a tough football team” we defeated, Rupp said. “I think it’s a good confidence booster.”
“They were the better team, you have to give them credit,” North coach Mike Mammolliti said.
North plays Clarence Friday in clash between Class AA North contenders.