It was a day of celebrating at Bennett High School, and not just because of the news that Bennett's name in Western New York athletics is back.
Isaiah McDuffie and Brandon Brown made their college plans official with McDuffie, the linebacker/running back and Buffalo News Player of the Year, going big time by signing with Boston College. Brown, a receiver who played three seasons at Bennett before finishing his scholastic athletic career at Canada Prep, selected Central Michigan over offers from BC, Rutgers and University at Buffalo.
Both played roles in helping the Tigers become perennial Section VI title contenders during their time with the program.
"This is a very, very big day for Bennett and the Buffalo Public Schools," said Bennett coach Steve McDuffie, who is Isaiah's father. "To have two kids going to Division I schools and signing in the same year … what I really want everyone to know is that these two young men have opened the flood gates for recruiting this area."
After back-to-back runner-up finishes, Bennett finally broke through last November to win its first Section VI title in football.
The 6-foot-2, 209-pound Isaiah McDuffie played a vital role in that, as he rushed for 146 yards, two touchdowns and made a game-high 15 tackles in the 28-13 win over Starpoint in the Class A final – a contest in which the Tigers came within 4 minutes of posting a shutout.
McDuffie, a four-year starter and three-time All-Western New York first team selection, set four school records during his Bennett career. He’s the all-time leader in touchdowns (70) and rushing yards (5,529). He also holds the single-season and single-game marks for tackles at 161 and 29, respectively.
He committed to Syracuse prior to his junior season as he said the Orange planned to build their defense around his abilities as a linebacker. A coaching change resulted in McDuffie changing his mind and opting to commit last summer to Boston College.
He's thrilled that everything is official.
"It's a great honor (to head to Boston College)," he said. "It's a great tradition. They're known for having a great football team and academics. You can't beat that. I'm just thankful to be a part of that."
In Brown's last season at Bennett in 2015, he averaged 11.6 yards per rush on 38 carries as a change of pace back. As the team’s top receiver, he caught 30 passes for 596 yards and 13 touchdowns. At safety, he made 57 tackles and three interceptions in helping the Tigers reach the Section VI Class C final.
Brown enrolled in Canada Prep last spring because he turned 19 – which would have made him ineligible to compete in scholastic sports at Bennett due to the state's age requirements. That proved to be the right move as interest in the 5-10, 175-pounder perked up at the Division I level.
"I'm going to be part of a family there," Brown said. "The coaching staff and everyone there cares deeply about me."
Though there weren't stats available for Brown this season, the important ones listed at Canada Prep's website include a 4.48 time in the 40-yard dash and 405-pound dead lift.
"This is extremely big for Bennett High School and Buffalo Public Schools," Lloyd said. "This is the first time in my tenure here we've had 10 student-athletes sign with Division I or III programs (and prep schools)."
The three Tigers planning to take the Canada Prep route in hopes it leads to Division I opportunities include All-WNY first-team linebacker Jamel Lofton, fellow linebacker Marcelus Toliver and receiver/safety Kendrick Benson.
Bennett football players who announced plans to attend Division III Buffalo State include Marcus Green, Monte Parish and Allen Wilson. Tiarra White, a volleyball player, received an academic scholarship and plans to play at Division III Fredonia State.
Bennett cheerleader Shontia Jackson earned an academic scholarship to attend Buffalo State.