BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Bennett’s state title pursuit is barreling toward its final destination.
After a dominant 34-7 victory against Cicero-North Syracuse in Saturday night’s NYSPHSAA semifinal at Union-Endicott, the Tigers will play for the Class AA football championship next Sunday at the JMA Wireless Dome in Syracuse. They will meet Newburgh Free Academy (10-2) from Section IX (Orange County) in a 3 p.m. kickoff.
Being in position to avenge last year’s final loss and claim the program’s first state title has been Bennett’s mission since preseason. And the return trip to the championship game wasn’t deterred by vacated regular season victories or rescheduled playoff games.
Bennett (6-6) hasn’t lost since forfeiting four division wins when Section VI ruled the Tigers did not complete the required transfer paperwork for a freshman player until after the season’s sixth week.
The state semifinal win was Bennett’s second in six days after the Far West Regional playoff games were postponed to Monday because of the lake-effect snowstorm that buried Buffalo and its surrounding areas, leaving the Tigers without a field to practice on for almost a week.
The Tigers scored 34 unanswered points after allowing C-NS an opening touchdown. University at Buffalo recruit Jayden Lewis had a 31-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and a 42-yarder in the fourth. Antonio Davis III threw a 38-yard touchdown pass to Ja’Meer Thomas in the third quarter, and scored on an 8-yard scramble that put Bennett ahead 22-7 before halftime. Thomas also had a 10-yard TD run in the second quarter.
Bennett is the only team from Section VI playing for a state championship.
Lackawanna lost 29-20 against General Brown in the Class C semifinal on Saturday. The Steelers (12-1) were leading 20-16 before a fumbled punt snap inside their own 10-yard-line changed the course of the game.
Randolph rallied from down three touchdowns early in the Class D semifinal on Friday but the Cardinals (11-1) couldn’t come all the way back before losing 41-34 against reigning state champion Tioga.
Junior running back Xander Hind gained 249 yards and set a Western New York record with 2,577 yards rushing this season. The previous record-holder was Randolph’s Chris Doubek, who had for 2,536 yards in 2013.