Mike Pataky wheeled the maroon hammer with pride during Orchard Park’s postgame huddle.
The senior linebacker earned the trophy for a sensation performance in which he called out Bennett plays before they happened and even took a Tiger to “Suplex City,” as the Quakers beat last year’s Section VI Class AA runner-up, 28-0, before a rowdy homecoming crowd at Quaker Field on Saturday afternoon.
At one point, when the outcome was still in doubt, Pataky even added crowd control to his list of duties. When the student section started taunting a Bennett player after a poor play, he implored them to quiet down. The reason: He didn’t want them to inadvertently provide any fuel to Bennett’s fire.
He spoke from experience because a couple Tigers lit his inner flame prior to kickoff, by chirping at Pataky as OP took the field.
All Pataky did was finish with a team-high 13 tackles, including five for loss. The biggest stop was a blow Bennett’s Devotie Prince might still be feeling this morning. Pataky grabbed him from behind, around his waist during a second-quarter running play with OP nursing a 7-0 lead. Pataky then made like WWE wrestler Brock Lesnar and suplexed him to turf.
“It was a pretty good suplex,” Pataky said.
It was, but not as good as beating the team that ended his season in the sectional semifinals last year.
“We don’t look past teams, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was looking forward to Week Four Bennett at homecoming,” added senior Jacob Shul, who picked off three passes in the second half.
“This is big. Our whole team we felt disrespected because were 3-0," Pataky said. "They’re all saying we could only beat bad teams. We came into this really motivated. We wanted it more than them and came out with the ‘W.’”
So far, OP has had an easier schedule through four weeks, but has done what good teams are expected to do and handle its business. Saturday’s win is the biggest yet with road games against defending Class AA champion Lancaster and always-tough Jamestown still on the docket.
The Quakers came in averaging 54 points per game, a stat that made folks forget about a quick, tough defense that can get after it. On a day the offense wasn’t as productive, it was the defense's turn to take center stage. The front of Jalen Askin, Ayden Haley, Alex Rojas, Eddie Irizarry, Brad Fowler and Tyler Pirritano controlled the line, making it tough for Bennett to run. The Quakers forced the Tigers into passing situations, which isn’t their strength.
Then there’s Pataky at linebacker, reading the plays and being a disruptive force.
“He’s just a beast,” Shul said.
“Mike Pataky is one of the best football players in the area and state,” OP coach Craig Dana said. “He’s just impossible to block. In practice, if we want to try to move the ball, we have to take Mike off the field because he kills our offense. He’s just so talented. He has such a nose for the football. He’s so smart, he knows where they are going (with the ball). He’s just boundless energy.”
While the win is nice, the Quakers aren’t looking ahead. They know Class AA has no weak sisters. Their goal is to finish first in the division and earn home-field advantage for the quarterfinals and semifinals. They can only do it one game at a time.
Still, it should be fun watching how everything plays out the next three weeks. Remember, Lancaster lost in overtime at Clarence last week, while Clarence dropped a two-point decision at home to Jamestown on Friday. The same Jamestown team dropped a two-point double overtime decision at Bennett last week. And keep in mind Bennett also has a win over Clarence.
The schedule makers didn’t do Bennett any favors, so being 2-2 through four weeks, including 2-1 in the division, isn’t all bad. The Tigers’ opponents were all ranked in this week’s Buffalo News large schools Top 10.
They appeared a bit banged up as a result, with senior running back/linebacker D’Jae Perry playing while battling turf toe Saturday. He only carried the ball 11 times for 38 yards, a week after nearly rushing for 300 yards.
Tiger runs wild on Ken East
There was no denying Nick O’Neil during homecoming at Dimp Wagner Field on Friday. Amherst experienced a rare victory, taking down Kenmore East, 41-34, with O’Neil having a hand in each touchdown by the Tigers.
O’Neil passed for two scores, including the game-winning 44-yarder to Anthony McCarley; caught a 25-yard touchdown and rushed for TDs of 13, 4 and 20 yards.
He also made 10 tackles on defense and returned a punt 40 yards.
Week four observations
— South Park 72, West Seneca East 16. That was not a misprint. The Sparks set a program record for points in a game. They led 22-0 three minutes into the game and the scoreboard kept getting a workout. South Park scored the game’s first five touchdowns and closed it by scoring four in a row. Sparks led 42-16 at halftime. Folks figured South Park would be good this season, but the Sparks have been out of this world good, outscoring foes 200-39.
“I didn’t think we’d be doing this well early,” coach Tim Delaney said. “But there’s still a lot of season left and we want to continue to get better every week.”
— Nice rebound by Sweet Home. The Panthers evened their record at 2-2 and snapped a two-game losing streak by taking down previously unbeaten Starpoint. Can't wait to see how next three weeks play out.
— So far, the teams deemed potential threats to Southwestern in Class C South have been beaten soundly by the Trojans. Fredonia is the latest victim, 42-0, in Fredonia. The win followed a triumph over a Portville team that’s 3-1 and Allegany-Limestone, which beat Fredonia – a Class B semifinalist last year.
— After dropping a nonleaguer on opening weekend, Cheektowaga is back to being Cheektowaga. The defending Section VI Class B champions won a tough one on the road at Pioneer and now has positioned itself to make a run at the division title in Class B-1.
— Wilson is the frontrunner in Class C North after winning battle of unbeatens and christening its new turf complex field with a 20-6 win over previously unbeaten Akron. After losing two heartbreakers in sectional semifinals at Southwestern, could this be the year the Lakemen finally reach the final?