BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Rashard Perry’s powerful presence on the state champion Bennett football team has earned him the Trench Trophy awarded to the top lineman in Western New York.

“A lot of hard work has been done through the past years, and getting this trophy means everything to me,” Perry said. “It takes me back all the way to when I started here at Bennett in eighth grade, my first time in the weight room and this and that, struggling and wondering. To see all my coaches happy, especially with the success we had this year, it really brings it all together for me.”

Perry’s recognition at Tuesday night’s Trench Trophy banquet at the Lancaster Elks Lodge brought a tear to his mother’s eye.

“I’m very proud of him,” Selene Perry said. “He came a long way. He worked hard. And he got his payoff.”

A Syracuse University recruit, the 6-foot-3, 245-pound Perry is the second Buffalo Public Schools player to win the Trench Trophy, following South Park’s Jeremiah Sanders in 2017, and the first from Bennett.

“Any time a kid from the Buffalo Public Schools comes out and makes an impact and a big splash like this, I’m happy,” Bennett coach Steve McDuffie said. “The kids can look and see it’s attainable, that they can achieve this too.”

Trench Trophy committee member Sibby Constantino compared Perry to 2008 winner John Urschel and 2011 winner Ryan Hunter, both Canisius graduates who went on to play in the NFL.

“He could be another one that we see on TV someday,” Constantino said. “I put him in that same category. He’s smart. He’s a team player. He doesn’t talk it, but he shows it. He inspires the other kids by his actions. You can’t single him out there, you have to double and triple.”

While regularly commanding multiple blockers, Perry made 93 tackles, including 21 for loss, and had 13 sacks this season. His hulking presence created openings for teammates on both sides of the ball, and though his contributions were sometimes overshadowed on the field, Perry’s individual brilliance shined during offseason recruiting camps.

“He was not only one of the predominant linemen in Western New York since 10th grade,” McDuffie said. “But I think he showed time after time when we went to these big-time camps that he is one of the most phenomenal linemen on the East Coast. … And I know this is going to be a heck of a four years for him at Syracuse University.”

Perry’s individual recognition is another accolade for a Bennett team that won the ultimate prize with its NYSPHSAA Class AA championship victory Sunday at the JMA Wireless Dome in Syracuse where Perry will soon call his home field.

“This trophy is for them as much as it is for me,” Perry said. “Because without my teammates pushing me to make me better, you know, iron sharpens iron.”

Perry is the 20th recipient of the Trench Trophy recognizing the most outstanding senior lineman in the area.

“Not a lot of people mention all the hard work that all the offensive and defensive linemen do,” Perry said. “The skill players get all the glory. So this is nice to finally show light to the people who break their bodies for their team.”

The other 11 finalists for the award inducted with Perry into the Trench Trophy Hall of Fame are:

* Tommy Carlsen, Lancaster

* Ryan Carpenter, Randolph

* Braeden Donnelly, Iroquois

* Aiden Dubeck, St. Francis

* Kayden Hensley, Clarence

* Sunday Ikegwuonu, Lackawanna

* Chris Johnson, Medina

* Evan Locke, Williamsville North

* Balaam Miller, St. Francis

* Patrick Tan, Amherst

* Dezmin Walker, Maryvale

Carlson was recognized as the WNY Offensive Lineman of the Year, and Miller received the WNY Defensive Lineman of the Year award.

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