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Maryvale pours it on early in posting third straight win over rival Cleveland Hill

The last four meetings between friendly Cheektowaga town rivals Maryvale and Cleveland Hill had come down to the last play of the game, so one could have easily expected another close one Friday night at Maryvale Stadium.

Even more so, considering both teams have key personnel back who helped each go on lengthy playoff runs in 2017.

That trend didn’t just get bucked. It got kicked to the curb with authority.

That’s because Rashad Law, Jay Henley and stout interior defense led by Synceir Middlebrooks (12 tackles) and Chad Beyer (12 tackles) proved to be too much for the Golden Eagles to handle, as the Flyers blasted two-time defending Section VI Class C champion Cleve Hill, 26-6.

An opening-night crowd of an estimated 1,500 witnessed things go Maryvale’s way right from its opening possession when potential disaster turned into a sign of things to come from the Flyers. They ripped off eight plays that gained 19 yards or more – including all four of their scoring plays – in beating the Golden Eagles for a third year in a row.

“They’re a great football team and they have a ton of fire power,” Maryvale coach Jeff Buccieri said of the Eagles, last year's state semifinalist. “They’re going to go far. … We definitely had some breaks go our way which resulted in some scores to get some separation.”

The biggest of the big plays was the first, as Henley turned a bad snap on a punt attempt into a 20-yard gain on fourth-and-10 at the Flyers’ 38. That jump-started Maryvale, which scored the contest’s first 26 points.

“In my mind I had the intention to punt it … but then I saw an opening on that side, so I just took off,” said Henley, who rushed seven times for 63 yards and a touchdown. “I got the first down, and the team was hyped up and ready to go.”

“That was huge by him,” said Law, who finished with two touchdowns. “That was big. It really gave us a lot of momentum.”

Law (10 rushes, 88 yards, one catch, 28 yards) scored on a shake-rattle-and-roll run up the middle from the 22 to give the hosts the lead for keeps.

After forcing a three-and-out, Law returned a punt 58 yards to Cleve Hill’s 22. Two plays later, Henley scored from the 19 as the Flyers led 14-0 with 4:45 left in the first quarter.

“Being able to score out of the get go gave us confidence and we were able to ride that confidence till the end,” Buccieri said.

Cleve Hill did gain some yards but each time it seemed as if it was about to establish a rhythm it doomed itself with a mistake. For the game, the Golden Eagles turned it over twice and also had a couple other drives disrupted by bad snaps that led to bad down and distances for coach Glen Graham’s run-first outfit.

Maryvale, last year's Section VI Class B runner-up, went into halftime up 20-0 after Law’s 24-yard TD catch on a fourth down late in the second quarter.

After a long drive by the Eagles to start the third quarter ended with a turnover via bad snap and fumble recovery by Zach Vaticano, junior quarterback Connor Desiderio and Nate Crombie hooked up for a 28-yard pass and catch down the right sideline against very good coverage with 3:06 left in the third quarter.

Javon Thomas’ 55-yard TD with three minutes left and Cleve Hill recovering the ensuing onside kick made things mildly interesting but Maryvale wasn’t to be denied as it forced a turnover on downs near its own 30 with just over a minute left.

“We made every mistake you could possibly make and got what we deserved,” Graham said. “Our path to the playoffs starts next week. This is a game for pride. Our pride is wounded as it should be but we’ll recover.”

Three straight wins after losing eight of nine to Cleve Hill. Quite a turnaround in the rivalry.

“They’ve been hungry to leave a positive legacy at Maryvale,” Buccieri said. “Six, seven year ago it would’ve been let’s just have one win, have a pizza party at the end and everyone feel special. Now, guys are let’s take on the challenges, let’s go after a team as elite as Cleve Hill is and give them everything we got. … We still have a long way to go. It’s game one, but we took a lot of pride that we’ve come a long way the last six years.”

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