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Work pays off as Lancaster earns shot at defending Class AA title

Lancaster enjoyed its surroundings on Tuesday at M&T Bank Suite at New Era Field for a simple reason.

The unbeaten, top-ranked Legends (9-0) have been working toward returning to Championship Weekend ever since its last appearance at the home of the Buffalo Bills.

Lancaster ended its 17-year Section VI championship drought when it defeated Orchard Park for the Class AA crown last season. The following week at the site of one of the Legends' biggest victories, though, they trudged off the field dejectedly as they suffered their only loss of the season to eventual state finalist Victor of Section V by a touchdown.

The defeat has been a source of motivation this season for a Lancaster team that has crushed everyone in its path to earn another shot at the sectional title. The Legends, ranked second in the state, face fellow Class AA Division co-champion Williamsville North (9-0) at 8 p.m. Friday.

"I think last year when we were going on our run it was the first time in a while it happened and we were caught up in the moment," second-year coach Eric Rupp said. "Then when we lost to Victor it gave us a goal to get back. The kids worked hard in the offseason, the coaches have done a tremendous job preparing the kids every week and now we're right back to where we were last season."

Lancaster comes into the contest against North with some crazy impressive numbers. The Legends' starting defense has yielded just six points in nine games. The offense has scored 425 points, 20 away from last year's school-record total. Quarterback Ryan Mansell is 94 yards away from setting Lancaster's all-time passing yards record.

Since football players like routine, the Legends got the same haircut they did prior to last year's final. The showed up at Tuesday's Media Day session sporting blond mohawks. Linebacker Ben Damiani also had a mini mohawks in red on the right and left sides of his head.

"We did it last year, team bonding," said Damiani, who has 60 tackles, including 13 for losses. "It's a fun thing to do."

That may be the case, just don't expect to see Rupp shed his current respectable hair cut for the more colorful look.

"I don’t want to make my wife mad or lose my job," Rupp said.

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