Another key football player who helped Bennett reach the first of its three straight Section VI championship games is taking his talents to the Division I stage.
And Alexander Lofton couldn't be happier he earned a scholarship.
Lofton, a 2015 graduate who helped the Tigers win a division title en route to their first-ever Section VI title-game appearance, recently signed a letter of intent to attend Abilene Christian University in Texas. Lofton played last season at Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kansas.
Abilene Christian is a member of the Southland Conference of the Football Championship Subdivision (the former Division I-AA) and is coming off a 2-9 season.
Lofton, who plans to register for classes later this month so that he can participate in spring workouts, filled out and returned his letter during the early signing period last month but will still have a signing ceremony to commemorate the occasion at 1 p.m. Thursday at Bennett.
Lofton joins Isaiah McDuffie (Boston College) and Brandon Brown (Central Michigan) as players who recently came through the Bennett program to earn Division I scholarships the past two years. He played with McDuffie, the 2016 Buffalo News Player of the Year, and Brown on the 2014 Bennett team that won its first nine games and lost via Hail Mary pass in the sectional final to Cheektowaga.
"It's amazing," said Lofton, a defensive back, of earning the chance at playing at the Division I level. "That was one of my best moments of my life just because of the journey and what I went through."
The journey began at Hudson Valley Community College down the Thruway in Troy, where he played one season. However, he failed to maintain his athletic eligibility by not making the grade in the classroom. That led to him missing the 2016 season while getting his academics in order – first at Niagara County Community College and then at Erie Community College.
Once he regained solid academic standing, he resumed playing football. In nine games at Butler CC, he helped the team post an 8-3 record. He made 16 tackles, broke up four passes, had a sack and recorded an interception.
Lofton is 6-foot-2, 192 pounds with a 38-inch vertical. He also runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds.
"I'm so very, very proud of him," said Bennett coach Stevenson McDuffie, noting the easy thing to do would have been giving up on getting into a four-year school. "He did it the hard way."
Bennett has a history of producing fine athletes. Lofton is thrilled to be the latest to carry the flag for the Tigers and Buffalo Public Schools athletics to the next level.
"I'm honored and pretty much blessed," Lofton said. "It feels good because when I first went to Bennett it was a down program and hadn't done well. We bought into the program. … We started something there that's going to keep going."