The moment Buffalo Public Schools have been waiting for ever since they disbanded the Harvard Cup and joined the Section VI Football Federation in 2010 is finally here.
They’ve got a date for championship week at The Ralph.
It’s guaranteed to happen because Burgard thoroughly dismantled Fredonia, 32-0, Saturday afternoon in a Section VI Class B quarterfinal at All High Stadium.
An estimated 1,000 watched as the Bulldogs, the News’ No. 3 small school, bullied and outsmarted a Hillbillies team with hopes of reaching The Ralph for the third year in row.
Instead, it will be either Burgard (7-1) or its old friend, unbeaten News No. 1 Bennett (8-0), playing for the Class B title against the Maryvale-Cheektowaga winner on Nov. 6 at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
“That’s going to be an exciting game,” said Burgard running back Marcus Hampton, who rushed for 200 yards and two touchdowns during Saturday’s win.
“It feels good,” said Hampton’s twin brother Markiese. “It gives us a chance to redeem ourselves. It was turnovers that cost us the last time” against Bennett. “Without turnovers, it’s going to be a good game.”
A late Burgard turnover back in the teams’ hard-hitting Week Five meeting helped the Tigers edge the Bulldogs, 20-12, in what has been their closest game of the season. Bennett figured after that game it would cross paths with Burgard one more time.
Turns out they’re right, as All High should be rocking come Saturday afternoon when these longtime rivals line up across from each other.
“It’s going to be a great day no matter what happens,” Burgard coach Jason Kolb said. “The city is going to be represented by a good team. Bennett has a lot of good players on their team and our team as well. The kids deserve it. They’ve been with us for most of three years on varsity. They’re going to leave it all on the field. It’s going to be one good game to play.”
Of course, these two teams could wind up being the second Buffalo public school to reach championship week. Class A South champion South Park won its Class A quarterfinal over Starpoint, 20-12, Saturday. It will host Hamburg in a semifinal Friday night at All High.
But Burgard made sure the city wouldn’t be denied this year.
It did that with a defensive effort that illustrated the unit’s smarts and physicality.
The Bulldogs focused their attention on stopping Hillbillies running back Matthew McCarthy. Throughout the week, defenders studied film broken down by their coaches to learn the tendencies of Fredonia’s offense.
If it seemed like Burgard had a pretty good idea what was coming its way, it’s because it did.
The Bulldogs limited the News’ No. 10-ranked small school to just four first downs and 73 yards, including minus-19 yards rushing. Senior Darlell Sanders led the defense with 11 tackles, while Roderick Morrow had 10.
“We had to shut them down,” said Markiese Hampton, whose 19-yard touchdown run off a reverse made it 26-0 midway through the third quarter.
“In practice we were looking at film, doing their plays, shutting stuff down. … Defense is going to win championships every time.”
“We do our homework,” Kolb said. “It’s a good thing, and the kids do their homework as well, they stay out of trouble in school. They come to practice. I couldn’t be happier with the week we had.”
Marcus Hampton gave the Bulldogs a 6-0 lead, scoring on a 44-yard TD with 3:36 left in the first quarter. Hampton found the end zone on Burgard’s next possession with a nice 24-yard run he started up the middle, only to bounce outside where there was plenty of room. Dejaun McCullough set that drive up with a 40-yard punt return that put the ball on the Hillbillies’ 36.
The dagger came with 23.5 seconds left in the half when Kijanna Thompson (107 yards passing) and Mark Drain hooked up for a 33-yard touchdown through the air on fourth-and-5 to make it 20-0.
McCullough’s 22-yard TD run closed the scoring as Burgard amassed 365 yards in total offense.
“We definitely had to put them out early,” Marcus Hampton said. “We had to come out and play no games with these kids. We’re not trying to go out early.”