ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) — Bennett will defend its Section VI Class AA football championship next week at Highmark Stadium following a resounding semifinal victory on Friday night.

Bennett dominated from the start in a 50-6 win at Orchard Park, where the Tigers opened postseason play a month after being rendered winless. Bennett was in position to be the top seed in the AA playoffs and host the semifinal before Section VI ruled the Tigers used an ineligible player in the first six games and revoked four division wins, in accordance with NYSPHSAA policy.

“I feel great about getting this win,” said lineman Rashard Perry, a senior captain who is committed to Syracuse University. “As expected. We trained hard for this. So we knew exactly what were coming in here to get. We’ve been ready for this. The only thing we care about this year is a state championship.”

The crowd of a few hundred people on Friday night included Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott for a first half that saw Bennett open a 50-0 lead before resting several starters.

“This is playoff football,” Tigers coach Steve McDuffie said. “I’m trying to get them in the mindset of not taking any plays off.”

State finalists a year ago, Bennett (3-6) will meet Lancaster (9-0) in the sectional title game after the Legends won 23-0 against Niagara Falls on Friday night.

“It feels really good to go to the stadium again,” senior quarterback Antonio Davis said. “We executed perfectly tonight on offense and defense. Our mindset coming in to this game was not to get riled up by the critics, the media, all the cheating talk. Just try to stay humble and do our thing. We didn’t have anything to prove other than we’ve been the better team all season.”

Bennett beat Orchard Park 52-10 in the regular season, and won 20-7 at Lancaster, before forfeiting those wins because Buffalo Public Schools administrators did not submit required transfer paperwork for a freshman player until after the sixth game of the season.

In last year’s sectional playoffs, Bennett thumped Orchard Park 70-20, before ending Lancaster’s five-year reign in Class AA with a 14-10 championship victory. McDuffie said Friday night’s win was more about the Tigers’ determination to play their best football in the postseason than making a statement about the wins that were taken from them.

“We want to be full throttle every time we are in there,” McDuffie said. “If it was a statement game, I hope everyone else can take it that way. But we were just out there trying to play football, and play our style of football.”

Bennett will return to Orchard Park for the AA title game at 8 p.m. Friday against Lancaster, which is ranked No. 14 in the state. Bennett is unranked but was No. 10 before forfeiting its first four division wins.

Jamestown (8-2) and Williamsville North (7-3) will meet in the A final at 9 p.m. Thursday. Jamestown won its semifinal 55-6 against Kenmore West, while Williamsville North defeated Clarence 34-8.

Iroquois (10-0) will take on Pioneer (8-2) in the B final at 5 p.m. Friday. Iroquois, ranked No. 2 in the state, beat West Seneca East 39-14 in the semifinals, and Pioneer won 31-14 against Maryvale.

Fredonia (9-1) ended Medina’s three-year reign in Class C with a 29-22 semifinal victory, and will meet the winner of Saturday’s game between Salamanca and Lackawanna at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Randolph (9-0) takes on Franklinville/Ellicottville (8-2) in the D final at 3 p.m. Thursday. Randolph won its semifinal 37-7 against Clymer/Sherman/Panama, and F/E beat Portville 49-3.

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Jonah Bronstein joined the News 4 roster in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. Read more of his work here.