Ken West Finally Gets Over The Hump
When the final horn sounded at Crosby Field in Kenmore Saturday, It was difficult to distinguish if the moisture occupying many of the Kenmore West faces were result of light precipitation or tears of joy.
Maybe it was an equal merger of both.
Regardless, for the first time in nearly two decades the Blue Devils are going to the Ralph.
Kenmore West extinguished their demons of not playing in a Section VI high school football championship over the past 19 years; using big plays on both sides of the ball to erase a (very) early deficit and beat Lancaster, 44-21.
The Blue Devils will face Orchard Park for the Class AA championship at 8pm Friday night at Ralph Wilson Stadium. It’s a rematch of the season opener—a battle the Quakers won convincingly the first time around, 28-0.
Senior RB/WR/QB/Everything Else Terrell Ford has been one of, if not the most explosive high school football players in Western New York for the past two years. With the spotlight on him once more and a trip to where the Buffalo Bills play in the balance, he showed all in attendance why.
Ford rushed 22 times for 185 yards and three touchdowns while catching three passes for 94 yards and a fourth score, a preposterous 25 total times he’s now found the end zone in 2015.
Every time Lancaster made a play or threatened in the second half, Ford retorted.
"He put the team on his shoulders," Ken West head coach Rich Harris said. "There were times he was stopped at the line of scrimmage... he ran the ball hard up in there but some of those breakaways I mean, some of the blocking wasn't even that great. I thought he was stopped at the line of scrimmage and he just gets rid of people and he took off with that ball and with his great speed, he's gone."
Three of Ford’s four scores came long distance—runs of 44 and 71 yards to go with a 63-yard catch and run from quarterback DeAngelo Walker-Johnson, who bravely battled an ankle injury all afternoon that has bothered him for several weeks.
All four of Ford’s touchdowns came in the second half.
Ken West need to be resilient early, because Lancaster that got off to a shocking hot start. Running back Zach Samborski took a handoff on the first offensive play of the game and jetted 57 yards virtually untouched up the gut of the defense for a Legends lead just 13 seconds in.
Walker-Johnson tied the game for Ken West two drives later before a Leugim Castillo three-yard run and a Dan Speyer to Alex Damiani two-point conversion pass put Lancaster up after one quarter, 14-6.
It was their last lead of the afternoon.
Ken West’s Sean McDonough converted a 22-yard field goal and Jayson Taylor scored on a run from five yards out for the only points of the second quarter, and a key stop by Xavier Balsano against Samborski on fourth-and-one deep in Ken West territory helped preserve a 16-14 West halftime lead.
The second half was nearly all West.
Less than two minutes into the third Ford, lined up as a receiver took off down the right sideline and high-pointed a ball from Walker-Johnson before quickly cutting inside and racing to the end zone on a 63-yard play.
Walker-Johnson completed just six passes (on 10 attempts) but made nearly all of them count in throwing for 181 yards.
Down nine, Lancaster was handed a golden opportunity to get back in the game when a blocked punt saw them take over at the Ken West goal line. But Charlie Milks, Balsano and Tyler White stuffed three straight runs and on fourth down Speyer threw an incomplete pass as the Legends came away empty.
It was a crucial series in the game.
"They went backwards down there on every down,” Harris said. “The guys took it to them and turned them back. That was a huge, huge transition in the game as far as momentum. Balsano had a couple of huge stops for us and guys like Charlie have been doing it all year.”
Milks had a team-high 14 tackles for Kenmore and has 112 on the season.
Lancaster did manage to cut the lead to 23-21 just 31 seconds into the final quarter on a one-yard touchdown run, but Ford put the exclamation point on the Blue Devils advancing with touchdown runs of 44, 1 and 71 yards over West’s next three possessions.
"It's extravagant," Ford said. "I know everybody's heard it before... big time players make big time plays in big games and that's what I planned on doing and I did it."
Along the way, big plays by Ford and frustration over the inability to stop momentum made a typically composed Lancaster team completely unravel. The Legends were penalized for seven personal foul penalties and a player ejection in the second half alone.
Harris says the victory over Lancaster earns them a measure of respect.
"Every year all of the south teams are in the top 10 and it seems like we give them all the respect," Harris said. "We get overlooked quite a bit. We've been in the semifinal game a ton of times--- have been in the playoffs. It's just good to get over that hurdle and the monkey off our back and get to that championship game."
"I haven't felt like we've gotten the respect we deserve and now we're going to play for the championship and it's exciting."
Since being shutout in Orchard Park back on September 4th, the Blue Devils have hoped and worked for a shot at redemption. Along the way since that loss the Blue Devil’s have now reeled off eight wins and outscored their opponents 349-100.
For at least a few hours, however—they’ll soak in today before turning their focus to the Quakers.
"It's a great feeling," Ford said. "This is what've been working on the whole season and we finally got it. It's a great feeling."
Here's a few more great feelings...