Class AA football Far West Regional at a glance - The Buffalo News

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Class AA football Far West Regional at a glance

Who: Lancaster Legends (10-0) vs. Aquinas Little Irish (9-1).

When: 7 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Eunice Kennedy Shriver Stadium at SUNY Brockport.

Tickets: $10.

Television: Spectrum News.

Rankings: Lancaster is ranked No. 1 in the News’ Large School poll and second in the New York State Sportswriters' poll. Aquinas is ranked seventh in the state.

Regional records: Lancaster is 0-2, losing last season to Victor (33-27) and in 1999 to eventual state champion Webster. Aquinas is 9-3, winning in its last appearance in 2015 against Orchard Park (42-7) en route to its seventh state championship.

Coaches: Lancaster, Eric Rupp, second season (20-1); Derek Annechino, first season (9-1).

Lancaster key players and statistics: Sr. QB Ryan Mansell (120-171-1796-18 TDs, 3 INT), Sr. RB Andrew Hersey (160-1061-20 TDs), WR/DB Max Giordano (42-699-5 TDs receiving; 26-31 extra-point kicks; 3 kick return TDs; 2 punt return TDs), LB/QB/OL Joe Andreessen (82 tackles, 13 TFL, 4.0 sacks; 36-262-12 TDs rushing; 1-1-8-1 TD passing), Sr. LB/TE/OL Ben Damiani (69 tackles, 13 TFL, 4.0 sack, 2 INT), Sr. LB/RB Brett Beetow (52 tackles, 4.0 sacks, 4 pass defensed).

Aquinas key players and statistics: Sr. RB/LB T.J. Jones (50-617-7 TDs; 95 tackles); Jr. RB/LB Caron Robinson (122-897-9 TDs), Sr. RB Shane Noble Jr. (64-431-7 TDs), Jr. WR Kobe McNair (22-577-7); Sr. LB T.J. Scanlon (63 tackles), Sr. CB Marlek Connor Jr. (45 tackles, 2 INTs, 2 blocked punts, 1 FR).

How they got here: Lancaster defeated Williamsville North, 35-6, to capture its second straight Section VI Class AA championship. The Legends led 21-0 at halftime and scored the game's first 35 points. Hersey rushed for two touchdowns and 102 yards on 20 carries, while big utility player Andreessen ran for a pair of 1-yard touchdowns, made nine tackles on defense and when lined up at offensive tackle helped the offense amass 313 total yards.

Aquinas defeated Pittsford, 20-14, as game MVP Jones – a transfer from Spencerport – scored touchdowns on a 56-yard rush and on an 84-yard kick return.

Pre-snap read: This is the game the Legends have wanted to return to since losing last year's state quarterfinal by a touchdown. In that game, early turnovers proved to be too much for them to overcome, which leads to one thing they must do this year against Aquinas: protect the football. Lancaster is plus-10 in takeaways this season. Every possession will count against a team that defeated two state-ranked teams (Victor and Pittsford) in order to get to this game.

Lancaster has a balanced offense with a veteran quarterback in Mansell that has set a program record for points in a season (460). He made plays vertically last week which opened up the running game. If the Legends need to gain a tough yard or two in a key spot, they likely will go to their big wildcat package with tackle Andreessen moving under center. He also played a little running back last week to help Lancaster take control of the sectional final. Balance and confusing the Little Irish will be key as they have a few athletic game changers, including Connor, who is regarded as one of the top corners in the state.

Defensively, this will potentially be the Legends' toughest test to date. They must win the battle in the trenches to give their talented linebacker corps of Andreessen, Ben Damiani and Brett Beetow a chance to stop running backs Jones and Robinson before they get started. Aquinas plays two quarterbacks, but Jon Kloch, who started last year, has thrown the bulk of the team's passes (101 of 124), completing 60.4 percent of them for 1,252 yards and 13 TDs. McNair is a big play threat on the outside.

What's next: State semifinal at 7 p.m. Nov. 18 at Union-Endicott High School against the Central Region champion, either III-Cicero/North Syracuse or IV-Elmira/Southside.

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