It was a tremendous matchup, the only one that pitted two undefeated teams against each other during this Championship Weekend at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
In the end, Sweet Home did what Sweet Home does.
The Panthers won their sixth straight Section VI Class A championship late Friday night, dominating on defense and repeatedly executing on offense as they rolled to a 28-7 victory over West Seneca East.
“It’s unbelievable to come out and play like we did, it’s just what we planned all year,” said senior quarterback Michael Torrillo. “We got a sense of it before the game: It’s not just for us, it’s for the community, for everyone else, to keep this going and keep Sweet Home a powerhouse in Section VI.”
Sweet Home (10-0) advances to next weekend’s Far West Regionals at All High Stadium. The Panthers will play the Section V (Rochester area) champion for the right to advance to the state final four. Eastridge plays Canandaigua for the Section V championship at 3 p.m. Sunday at Sahlen’s Stadium.
“It feels just as good as the first one we had, and all the ones together,” said Sweet Home coach John Faller. “It’s a different group of kids to get things done – with the same results. I’m very proud of them, and the staff and everyone else. It does Sweet Home proud.”
An estimated 3,000 watched what has been an annual event at The Ralph, a clinical performance from the Panthers, who are ranked second in The News large school poll.
Senior Khalil Humphrey ran for 126 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries while Torrillo completed 14 of 22 passes for 208 yards and two scores for an offense that repeatedly, and methodically, drove down the field. A defense led by sophomore Brad Zaffram (nine tackles, interception) and senior Shaun Huebert (12 tackles) made it very difficult for what has been a dynamic offense for No. 5 large school West Seneca East (9-1).
The Sweet Home defense was able to contain West Seneca East’s offense, led by senior quarterback Andy Smigiera. Smigiera had a highlight-filled season, but pressure and smart tackling by Sweet Home kept him from breaking big runs.
“We just came out here ready to play,” said senior lineman and captain Billy Attea. “We shut down their offense, and our offense put up some points. We tried to get a good push on the D-line and our backs and linebackers just filled up really well.”
Sweet Home took a 15-0 halftime lead and added to it on the opening drive of the second half. The Panthers marched efficiently down the field, something they would continue in the second half.
On the 10th play of an 80-yard drive, Torrillo hit senior Carter Mann for a 7-yard score and a 22-0 lead 4:48 into the third quarter.
West Seneca East scored when senior Scott Ackerman ran in from 8 yards out with 2:20 left in the third. The Trojans rallied for stirring wins in their last two playoff games, but Sweet Home deflated any chance of that with another long drive, 80 yards in eight plays, ending with Humphrey’s 34-yard touchdown run.
“Every year they think because we lose a couple of people we’re going to be knocked off,” said Humphrey, “but it’s just the same thing every year.”