Orchard Park Rides Turnovers To Class AA Title
Good teams find a way to win, and when it comes to winning Section VI championships at Ralph Wilson Stadium, no one is better than Orchard Park.
After trailing at halftime the Quakers forced Kenmore West into seven turnovers over the final two quarters. It propelled Orchard Park over the Blue Devils, 34-20 Friday night to win the Class AA championship for a Section VI-best 14th time.
Senior defensive back Kevin Koziol had interceptions to kill consecutive Ken West drives in the fourth quarter while the outcome was still in doubt—the latter sealing the game with a 57-yard return for a touchdown.
In all the Quakers scored 21 points off Ken West turnovers.
Blue Devils senior quarterback Deangelo Walker-Johnson, playing on a badly injured ankle that’s hampered him for several weeks, was sensational in the first half in completing 13-of-24 passes for 164 yards and a touchdown. His, along with the rest of his Blue Devil teammates luck ran out in the second half. Pressured into bad decisions, Walker-Jonson completed 15-of-31 second half passes for 156 yards but was picked off five times. He also lost a fumble.
Orchard Park persevered despite suffering three interceptions from their own star quarterback. Junior Dillion Janca was picked off three times, but did throw for 221 yards and a touchdown while rushing for two scores of his own.
After Janca finished off an impressive Orchard Park opening drive with a three yard touchdown run, Kenmore West answered with the first of two Sean McDonough field goals. However, the ensuing kickoff saw Orchard Park’s Josh Bernas return the ball 88 yards for a touchdown as the Quakers raced to a 14-3 lead.
The Blue Devils responded with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Walker-Johnson to Terrell Ford, who carried two defenders into the end zone with him.
Ken West took their first lead, 17-14 on a three yard Ford run following a fumble recovery at the Orchard Park 39 by Cory Ratka and McDonough added a 27-yard field goal just before the half as the Blue Devils took a 20-14 lead into the locker room.
Playing in his final high school game and having a MVP-type season, Ford ran for 52 yards on 15 carries and caught six passes for 51 yards while scoring twice. He also had two interceptions on defense.
Kenmore West dominated time of possession (16:31) and total yards (222-104) over the first 24 minutes. The lead could’ve easily been more than six.
It needed to be.
The same turnovers that gave Kenmore West a huge lift came back to bite them in the third as miscues on consecutive drives led to Orchard Park scoring 14 points.
First, Walker-Johnson fumbled the ball to Orchard Park at his own 27 and Janca eventually connected with Chris Liberatore on a beautiful 12-yard throw near the back of the end zone. Then Walker-Johnson was intercepted on his next possession at the Orchard Park 20. Janca hit Koziol in stride in a wide-open middle of the field, and Koziol went for 70 yards to the goal line before Janca finished it off on the next play.
The extra point was blocked and Orchard Park led 27-20 after three quarters.
Orchard Park got interceptions on Ken West’s next three drives, the last one being the final nail; a Koziol interception he promptly returned 64 yards for the game-clinching touchdown.
Koziol was not only the defensive hero for Orchard Park, but finished with a team-high 116 receiving yards on five receptions. Liberatore caught four passes for 54 yards including the touchdown.
Jamir Lynch caught 11 passes and had 163 receiving yards for Kenmore West, who advanced to their first Section VI final in 19 years. The Blue Devils proved to be formidable opposition after being shut out by Orchard Park early in the year 28-0. However, no football team can win turning the ball over seven times in one game, let alone a half, and especially against a team like Orchard Park.
The Quakers advance to the Far West Regionals at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester, where they’ll face the Section V champion at 4:00 p.m. next Sunday.