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Prep Talk: Robertson fits in just fine with West Seneca West

Regardless the number of familiar faces dotting a roster, football teams are different year to year. That includes West Seneca West, which has plenty of names folks got to know during last year’s state championship run still in the fold.

While veteran experience like past All-Western New York selections in the form of Juston Johnson and Mike Glinski along with Liam Scheuer and John Speyer comes in handy this during the postseason, sometimes new additions or contributors provide another shot in the arm and make an already dangerous team that much more of a handful for opponents.

West has definitely been a handful, outscoring foes 317-56, heading into Friday night’s Section VI Class A semifinal against visiting Starpoint. Eight of the 10 semifinals on the docket this week take place Friday with two huge regular-season rematches highlight the Class AA docket.

West Seneca West showed last weekend there’s a reason it is the hunted. The Indians performed well enough to set two individual program records during their 39-18 quarterfinal win over Jamestown. Both marks were set by quarterback Maurice Robertson.

The Sweet Home transfer officially served notice that he’s become quite comfortable as West’s signal-caller. In his first career playoff game, he broke the marks for single-game totals in passing yards (321) and total yards (414). (Note that the total yards for a single game for Matt Myers initially reported after last year’s state quarterfinal was re-adjusted afterwards from 425 to 403.)  The record-setting performance, as most, was team driven. No one – including Robertson -- seemed to notice the numbers that were piling up, coach Mike Vastola said.

“We were working on our intermediate passing game, pushing the ball down field,” Vastola said. “Juston was making great plays with the ball in his hands, Kyle Haettich was making great plays with the ball in his hands, guys were blocking down field. There’s a lot that goes into it … and guys working (hard) until the whistle.”

That includes the quarterback, who has helped a unit that has extended its winning streak to 23 in a row evolve.

Robertson left Sweet Home after the opening week of practice because he wasn’t happy at that school. His family quickly established residence in West Seneca, so that he could play with friends he has grown up with – including Bryan Ball and Johnson. Still, he’s more than a week behind in terms of learning the team’s playbook. Add in that he had to miss Week One because he hadn’t met the state requirement for minimum number of practices, he had a lot of work to do just to crack the lineup of a championship-caliber team.                                                                                     .

Robertson has proven to be a quick study as he picked up West’s playbook, with the help of teammates and studying it on his own time.

Though he has taken most of the snaps since Week Two, he said he started feeling comfortable in his role during Week Four. His emergence meant Scheuer, the Week One starter and last year’s backup, could focus on terrorizing quarterbacks from the defensive end position like he did in 2017.

For the season, Robertson has completed 58.6 of his passes for 1,340 yards, 17 touchdowns and five interceptions. He’s rushed for 449 yards and seven TDs. The most important one to him and the Indians: their 8-0 mark.

“It starts with being a leader, you can’t be slacking,” Robertson said. “If we want (another) state title we have to work hard at it.”

While Robertson has fit in, he’s not the only Indian who has helped the team evolve. While last year’s team remained healthy throughout its run, they have had some step up for key players out with injury. That includes George Newcomb, who in addition to playing defensive tackle, is now filling in on offensive line for Josh Wilson (undisclosed injury).

“There’s a veteran presence, so there’s an expectation,” Vastola said. “Whereas last year it was a more let’s see where this could go, this year the kids expect to do well.”

Other top semifinal games:

Orchard Park (6-2) at Bennett (6-2), 7 p.m. Friday at All High Stadium. It’s rematch of the Week Six clash between the teams in which the Quakers rallied for a 23-22 decision on Archie Bartolotti’s 10-yard touchdown catch and two-point conversion grab with 2:26 to go.  OP will need to slow down the Tigers’ running game like it did in earlier meeting. Bennett is the top seed in Class AA after securing the division title with last week’s win.

Cheektowaga Warriors (7-1) at Albion Purple Eagles (8-0), 7 p.m. at Albion High School. The defending Class B champion Warriors make the long trip to Orleans County in hopes of punching their ticket to their fifth straight title-game appearance.

West Seneca East Trojans (7-1) at Grand Island Vikings (7-1), 7 p.m. Friday at Gene Masters Field. GI comes in fresh off a thrilling double overtime win over South Park, while West Seneca East spotted Ken West a 7-0 lead before scoring the final 42 points of the game. Trojans are in semifinals for sixth time in seven seasons.

Williamsville North Spartans (6-2) at Lancaster Legends (7-1), 7:30 p.m. Friday at Foyle/Kling Field. Another rematch as Lancaster won the Week Three showdown, a rematch of last year’s Class AA final, 34-26 in comeback fashion.

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