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Prep Talk: Kelly and Will North bounce back to handle their business

Dylan Kelly admittedly wasn’t very sociable following Williamsville North’s loss to Bennett via a game-ending Hail Mary, 24-21, last weekend.

The two-way star senior believed he should have made a play on the ball, even though he wasn’t the only defender in the area of the completed prayer.

“I just thought I was in a nightmare. That was a heartbreaker,” Kelly said. "I didn’t talk to anyone for two days because I was so (upset).

“I was one of the guys that whiffed the ball on the goal line and that’s been haunting me. I misjudged the ball because the wind was going with us so it just sailed. I didn’t … To be honest I haven’t even looked at the film.”

Kelly, who didn’t get a finger on the ball in an attempt to knock it down, has moved on and so too have his North teammates. The proof: a solid, complete team effort Saturday afternoon at Quakers Stadium.

The Spartans ruined Homecoming for previously unbeaten Orchard Park, 35-13. In a must-win Class AA Division game for North (3-2, 2-2 in division), the Spartans grinded out a win by turning early takeaways into points and by playing a more determined/desperate game in winning for the first time since their overtime thriller in Week Two at Clarence.

“We left two games on the table the last two weeks,” North coach Mike Mammoliti said. “The kids understood the importance of the game. I think we got as good of a win as we had in a little bit. … We have some guys who are banged up and out so some of our young guys who hadn’t played a lot had to step up and play today and I’m really proud of those guys.”

They did their part. So too did good-old reliables Kelly, Dylan Mann, Scott Becht and Scott Hopkins.

Hopkins forced the fumble that Zaire Leonard scooped up and returned 30 yards. That led to the game’s first touchdown on the next play, as Kelly got behind the secondary and hauled in a 30-yard pass from Joe Nusall with 4:10 left in the first quarter to give North a lead it never relinquished.

Eighty-six seconds later, Kelly returned an interception 45 yards to OP’s 15. That set up Mann’s 4-yard scoring run with a minute left in the first quarter.

Kelly helped the Spartans extend the lead to 21-0 early in the second quarter by getting behind the secondary for a 51-yard TD. Nusall added a QB sneak later as the Spartans led 28-6 at halftime.

Mann had a couple key punts that flipped the field for North in the second half. One of them was downed around the Quakers’ 1 by … Kelly.

How’s that for a bounce back?

“This was an awesome win for us because we got a little down,” Kelly said. “The next game is always the most important game.”

That’s especially true in Class AA this season, as teams have shown there are more contenders than spots for the four-team Section VI tournament.

Bennett may have needed a miracle finish to put down North but overcame its issues by grounding and pounding its way to a comeback to down defending champion Lancaster. The Tigers now control their own destiny in the quest to earn a No. 1 seed in the four-team playoffs. OP is one win away from exceeding last year’s total.

Clarence won at Niagara Falls to keep hope alive for the playoffs but needs help.

North knows it’s in good shape, so long as it handles its business like it did Saturday.

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