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Prep Talk: Lineman on road to recovery following health scare after Lancaster win

David Gaca turned on the television and watched Syracuse beat Florida State on Saturday. He also found the strength to laugh a little, do a quick interview on the phone and have a bite to eat.

The Lancaster senior didn’t do any of this from the comforts of home, though. He had to do it all from a hospital bed at Oishei Children’s Hospital, where he continued to recover from an extremely scary episode Friday night.

He suffered full body cramping due to the combination of illness and dehydration following his team’s 34-26 victory at Williamsville North.

Gaca, a third-year starter for the Legends who had a hand in his team reaching the state final last year, did his usual thing Friday. He battled and played well on both sides of the ball to help Lancaster rally for huge early season win against a team with the potential to end the Legends’ two-year reign as Section VI Class AA champion.

He was one of many warriors on the Legends, as roughly 20 members of the team battled a flu-bug/virus during the week. There were a few who couldn’t go Friday – including a receiver dealing with a high fever of 104 degrees. That forced some lineup juggling by coach Eric Rupp. Gianluca Fulciniti played mostly free safety and rotated in on occasion at quarterback because his services were needed on defense more than on offense.

Gaca, however, felt strong and hydrated enough to participate in his team’s biggest game to date – a rematch of last year’s Class AA final.  In fact, he participated in roughly 80 plays – asking for breathers when necessary.

Turns out Gaca was completely healthy. The virus still lingered. Though he felt good to go, drank fluids during the game, the illness mixed in with the unusually warm game-time temperature for a night game resulted in him suffering debilitating, involuntary cramping in Lancaster’s locker room once they returned to the school.

It’s something Rupp admits he’d never seen until late Friday night. The sounds of pain weren’t anything like he had heard either.

However, quick action by all the right people – including the Legends coaches and trainer, emergency medical technicians and hospital staff (first at Millard Fillmore Suburban and then at Children’s) prevented this from morphing into perhaps something more severe.

Gaca’s mom Anne, praised all involved for being quick to act. She also has thanked folks for the get-well wishes sent to David.

“I’m very proud to be part of this community and this football family,” Anne Gaca said.

Regarding David’s effort Friday:

“His performance was great,” Anne Gaca said. “I’m getting messages from all over. … He’s all heart in football, that’s for sure.”

David hopes to be released from the hospital Sunday and recover to the point where he can lineup and give it his all Friday night when the Legends host division rival Clarence.

Such an attitude shouldn’t be a surprise.

“David is just as tough as they come,” Rupp said. “He’s just a blue-collar kid who works his tail off.”

Special guest at Canisius game

During the first quarter of Canisius’ contest against Rochester Aquinas on Saturday, the cheers from the school’s student section, The Blue Crew, became quite audible during a break in the action.

It’s because they were giving a big welcome to John Urschel, who happened to be walking down the sideline toward the group.

The former Crusaders star lineman and retired Baltimore Ravens guard took in the action at the Stransky Complex on a hot, humid afternoon.

Urschel, a class of 2009 graduate, will be the keynote speaker at Monday’s Canisius Father Sturm Legacy Luncheon at the Lexus Club in KeyBank Center. Current coach Rich Robbins will be honored during the event.

Though the Crusaders lost, 35-24, to the Little Irish, word is Urschel liked what he saw.

“He told me how proud he was of how far we’ve come as a football program because when John was here we were getting beaten by Aquinas by 40 points,” said Robbins, who has guided Canisius to Monsignor Martin titles five of the past six years and two state titles since taking over the program in 2011. “I’m proud of our effort, just too many mental mistakes … too many things that didn’t go our way but that’s just football.”

Week three observations

-- More on Lancaster’s win at Williamsville North. The Legends’ first scoring drive, a 14-play one with one penalty, was one of those under-the-radar-impressive ones in the fact they had to rely on precise passes from sophomore quarterback Jason Mansell to matriculate the ball down field. He completed 7-of-9 passes on that 78-yard drive for 71 yards.

-- Will North coach Mike Mammoliti has said on many occasions there aren’t any weak sisters in Class AA. The latest reminder comes courtesy of Bennett. The Tigers went into Clarence a week after the Red Devils lost an overtime thriller to North and ran over the Devils, 34-7. That means Bennett is now 2-0 in Class AA, which is a good spot to be in playing in a division in which only the top four teams qualify for the playoffs.

-- The big three of the Monsignor Martin Association, Canisius, St. Francis and St. Joe’s, are all off to 1-2 starts playing their usual difficult schedules. However, the Red Raiders of St. Francis have a reason to feel happy about their status. They rallied from a 21-0 deficit Friday to win at Walsh Jesuit in Ohio. It’s potentially the type of victory that could lead to better things down the road for a young team learning how to win.

-- Congratulations to Dan Russell on earning his first scholastic coaching victory during Lake Shore’s 6-2 win over East Aurora/Holland. Same for Micah Harris of McKinley, who guided the Macks to a 14-7 win over Williamsville East, and Lockport’s Trait Smith following the Lions’ triumph at Niagara Falls.

 

-- The Class B-1 division race just got interesting courtesy of Pioneer’s victory over Maryvale. The Panthers are now 3-0 (all division wins) for the first time since 2012 and face fellow unbeaten and defending Section champion Cheektowaga next.

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