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Titans step up in class, flex their muscles in rout of JFK

Brock Blecha is as big as a linebacker and wears a number befitting the position.

But the 6-foot-3, 195-pound senior who wears No. 42 is as dangerous running the ball as he is throwing it.

It didn't take long for Franklinville/Ellicottville's quarterback to prove that to the masses at John F. Kennedy on Saturday afternoon. He ran for a 50-yard touchdown on the first offensive play for his team and there just was no stopping the Titans after that as they left the Bears' den with a convincing 52-14 nonleague win in a rare regular-season Erie County appearance for the small Class D power from Cattaraugus County.

Franklinville/Ellicottville is a scary good football team regardless of its classification size. In case anyone forgot, the News' No. 6 small school left its comfort zone (the Southern Tier and playing Saturday afternoon instead of on a Friday night) to serve up the latest reminder by taking down a foe from Class C who began the day on a nice three-game winning streak.

The undefeated Titans (5-0) scored on their first four possessions while making it tough for JFK (3-2) to run with any success during the first half (31 yards on 11 carries). They also improved on their 41-points-per-game average by coming up just one point shy of matching their highest offensive output for the season – which came last week in a rout of Salamanca.

"It's a great win because a little D school coming up to a big city C school," said Blecha, who finished with four touchdowns. "The D's are coming to play. It doesn't matter the size (of the school)."

"Thus far the kids have stepped up to every challenge," said F/E coach Chad Bartoszek. "I was a little nervous about today, day game in Buffalo. We just don't like being off schedule. But we did have an extra day of prep and it showed early on with our execution up front. Our bigs gave up some room."

Boy did the line come through, as the Titans could do no wrong for most of the opening 24 minutes -- amassing 316 yards, 193 on the ground. They led 28-6 at the intermission.

After forcing a three-and-out on defense, Blecha faked a handoff, ran around left end and was off to the races to give his team the 6-0 lead. Blecha scored again from the 1 on F/E's next possession and also ran in the two-point conversion to make it 14-0 just 3 minutes, 53 seconds into the game.

Blecha, the third-year starter, rushed 10 times for 125 yards and three TDs. He also finished 10-of-13 passing for 189 yards and a touchdown. He completed his first six pass attempts. The first opened the Titans' third scoring drive, which Griffin Chudy capped with a 1-yard TD run.

The lead grew to 28-0 with 9:42 left in the second quarter when Blecha scored on a 2-yard run. He later connected on a 57-yard pass play with Austin Grinols.

F/E piled up 550 yards total, with 359 coming via the rush. Chudy finished with 98 yards, two TDs on 15 rushes, while Grinols caught three passes for 79 yards.

"I don't care what division you put them in that's a great football team," said JFK coach Jeff Sabatino of the Titans.

While the Titans have lots of offensive weapons, the key one might just be No. 42.

Which begs the question: Why does Blecha wear that number instead of a more traditional quarterback digit?

"My older brother when he played wore 47," he said. "I wanted to be 47 but they didn't have it. The closest number was 42 and I'm really superstitious and I find that it was good luck and I never wanted to change it. That's really a symbolic number for me."

It's been a great number for him and the program as he tries to help the Titans reach their fourth straight Section VI final.

They captured the title in 2015 with Blecha serving as a running back and punter – he had a boot blocked in the title game but picked up the ball and still got the first down.

The Titans look the part of potential finalist, especially after shutting out state runner-up Maple Grove to hand the Red Dragons their first lost in four years to a Western New York opponent. But there's still a lot of season left.

"They are a confident group for a reason," Bartoszek said. "They're very talented and won some games.  … We're ambitious but we've got to stay grounded because man there is a long road ahead."

Senior James Bailey completed nine passes for 115 yards and two touchdowns to inch closer to the JFK career records in both those categories. He came in needing around 600 yards and nine TDs to take hold of the two school quarterback records he doesn't own.

While the Bears got handled Saturday, it's important to note that the game does not affect their standing in Class C. They still have a chance at earning one of the top two seeds in Class C North and now devote their attention toward that end, with a Friday night division clash at Wilson on deck.

"They took it to us. … (But) they made us better," Sabatino said. "Our kids fought hard. Our focus is still on getting a home playoff game."

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