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Eden grinds its way to first place Raiders' 299 yards all come on runs

It's fitting that in order to reach Eden High School from the north one must drive through a no-passing zone.

The warning sign en route to the football field all but sums up the Raiders' offensive philosophy under first-year coach Chuck Tilley. Tonawanda High's former coach figures running the ball is the easiest way to get the rock into the hands of his playmakers.

Running the ball almost all the time might seem boring, but that strategy has helped Eden move into first place all by itself in Class C North.

In a surprising first-place showdown between two teams that won a combined four games last season, the Raiders ran all over Wilson, 27-0, on Saturday afternoon to clinch their first playoff berth since 2003.

What wasn't shocking to the estimated 500 fans in attendance before most scattered during a 90-minute lightning delay in the fourth quarter was Eden's game plan. The Raiders ran up the middle, they ran left and they ran right with a purpose.

Eden gained all of its 299 yards on 56 rushes. The Raiders controlled the ball for 30 minutes, 49 seconds -- including 18:33 in the second half.

"It seems boring to the fans but when we're out there killing clock and moving the ball, we're having a good time -- and winning games is always fun," said senior running back Julian Bermingham, who scored the game's opening touchdown on a 27-yard run and finished with 73 yards on 14 carries.

The Raiders (4-0) limited the Lakemen (3-1) to just 34 plays and 108 yards in offense, with Brian Bianchi leading the defense with six tackles.

The few big plays Wilson completed, passes to 6-foot-4 senior all-star receiver Ethan Baker (three catches for 64 yards), made Tilley decide that moving the chains and milking the clock was the best way to keep Baker and quarterback John Vincent off the field.

"I was going to burn [almost] 10 minutes every chance I got," Tilley said. "[Saturday] I just decided, OK, we're bigger, we're stronger, we're just going to keep it real simple. . . . I wanted to get it over with, especially at the end."

While Eden used two quick first-quarter drives to surge to a 14-0 lead on Bermingham's score and a 45-yard TD run by Alex Shea (six carries, 82 yards), its final two scoring drives suited Tilley's non-passing fancy.

When Wilson had the wind in the second and third quarters, the Raiders simply played keep away. They drove 80 yards on 17 plays in 9:02 in the second quarter with Kyle Zittel's 3-yard run with 20 seconds left giving the Raiders a comfortable lead.

The Raiders made it 27-0 with 10:59 left in the fourth quarter on Alex Violanti's 6-yard TD. The 70-yard drive began with 7:09 left in the third after senior linebacker Troy Bigelow (four tackles) recovered a fumble to deny Wilson's most promising possession.

Now Eden's season is most promising. The Raiders are one division win away from clinching the title and home-field advantage for the playoffs.

Not bad considering they entered the season 2-15 the past two years.

"It feels great," Bermingham said. "Our hopes are up. We have three more games to go so hopefully we can take them all down."


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