Grand Island is one win away from perhaps being a top seed in the Section VI Class A playoffs.
The Vikings rode the momentum of last week's win over Starpoint and weathered the loss of star running back Thomas Cecere to a lower body injury to ruin Sweet Home's Homecoming, taking a 28-0 decision on Friday night at Robert P. Barczak Stadium.
With Cecere out with an injury suffered in the first quarter, junior quarterback Cam Sionko carried Grand Island to its second straight huge North Division victory in as many weeks. Sionko rushed for two touchdowns, passed for another and helped the Vikings execute a fake punt that extended a drive that ended with a TD late in the first half.
Sionko completed 12-of-17 passes for 172 yards and rushed for scores of 1 and 11 yards as the Vikings now head into next week's home contest against Williamsville East with a chance to at least clinch a share of the division title and a No. 1 seed for the playoffs.
"That's obviously a great feeling," coach Dean Santorio said. "You hate to have to worry about everyone else."
Heads up play of the game: Just when Sweet Home thought it had forced a punt and would get the ball back, Grand Island noticed its gunner was uncovered on the outside so Sionko audibled from a punt to a pass on fourth-and-8 from the GI 37. He hit an open Easton Speer for the 26-yard gain. Four plays later Sionko found an open Zane Johnson for the 8-yard touchdown with 28.4 left in the second quarter. The same combo hooked up for the conversion to make it 14-0.
Fighting for that last inch: It took the Vikings three tries from the 1, but they finally broke the plane of the goal line to break a scoreless tie on Sionko's quarterback keeper with 8 minutes, 26 seconds left in the second quarter. The drive was set up by a 45-yard punt return by Jason Breeden that gave GI a drive start at the Panthers' 30.
One and done: Sweet Home still threatened to get on the board before the end of the first half even though it had just 25.4 seconds to work with after GI kicked off. They traveled 56 yards but needed 57. A 36-yard pass play from Joe Torrillo to Dylan McDuffie got the Panthers down to the 1 with 1.4 left. A disorganized GI took a timeout, but it turned out to be a good thing. On the last play, Nick Anzalone stuffed the Panthers' running back for no gain.
Adding to the lead: The Vikings turned it over deep in Sweet Home territory on their first possession of the third quarter via interception. They did not misfire on their next drive as Sionko capped the three-play drive with an 11-yard TD. He completed passes of 28 and 11 yards on the other two plays. Speer scored on a 3-yard run with 1:21 left.
Milestone alert: The win was the 100th of Santorio's career.
Rankings: Grand Island came into the clash ranked No. 6 among large schools in the Buffalo News poll, while Sweet Home was ranked 10th. Grand Island is ranked 19th among Class A teams in the New York State Sportswriters Poll, while Sweet Home is among the honorable mention.
Homecoming hoopla: It was Homecoming Day at Sweet Home and the school honored several former athletes and teams during halftime.
Past greats inducted into its Athletics Hall of Fame included four-time Section VI wrestling champion Andrew Stella (Class of 2005), football player Todd Robertson (2002), soccer and basketball player Marie Zgoda (2005) and three-sport athlete (volleyball, basketball and baseball) Robert Maxwell (2004). The school also inducted super fan Jimmy Gillen, a 1986 graduate who has been a proud supporter of Sweet Home sports for more than 30 years.
Records: Grand Island is 5-1 overall and 4-1 in division. Sweet Home fell to 4-2 and 3-2 in division play.
Next: Grand Island hosts Williamsville East at 7 p.m. Friday. Sweet Home visits Williamsville South at 7 p.m. Friday.