Fed up with an offense that sleepwalked through its last three games, a rejuvenated and reborn Lancaster bunch bounced back in a big way against their longtime rivals.
In the 86th meeting between the two schools, Lancaster took out three weeks – and three years – of frustration while coming away with a convincing 36-0 shutout Friday night at Depew.
Led by Matt Szymanski’s three touchdowns and 100 yards rushing and Mitch Fuller’s 116 yards rushing and two touchdowns, Lancaster’s offense looked nothing like the unit that moved the ball inch by painful inch in consecutive losses to Jamestown, Orchard Park and Frontier.
Lancaster now leads the series – which began in 1919 – 48-32-6. Depew had won the last three games in the rivalry.
“Some of the seniors never beat Depew so it meant something special,” Lancaster coach Chris Dickson said. “I’m just very happy for Lancaster, very happy for the seniors on this squad and it’s just a great victory for this team.”
With the playoff beginning next week, No. 5 seed Lancaster will play at No. 4 Kenmore West in Class AA, while No. 2 seed Depew will host either No. 3 North Bennett or Albion. Times will be determined.
The game meant nothing in terms of playoff seeding, but Lancaster will take some sorely needed momentum into next week’s contest.
“We cleaned some things up in practice,” Szymanski said. “We started to get complacent and we knew we couldn’t do that so we brought it hard in practice and it showed on the field.”
For Depew, the game will have a “what if” feeling, as in “What if Rodney Turner had finished the game?” Turner injured his left ankle in the first quarter after a 75-yard scoop-and-score by Szymanski that totally changed the complexion of the game. A dejected Turner sat on the bench for the remainder of the game.
In last week’s victory over Eden, Turner set a Depew record with five touchdowns, four in the first half, and finished with 198 yards on 21 carries. Obviously, the 5-foot-8, 182-pound junior isn’t easily replaced.
Lancaster went up, 8-0, after the fumble and touchdown and never looked back while the Wildcats’ running game without Turner was limited. Indeed, the game’s momentum – and Lancaster’s run of bad luck – changed on one play.
Turner ran behind his left tackle for a short gain but was popped by Lancaster’s Corey Helenbrook, the ball came free and was scooped up by Szymanski, who returned it 75 yards for a touchdown.
“Corey had a huge hit on that, he hits hard,” Szymanski said. “He’s a small kid but he hit Rodney hard and Rodney is a tough kid. It was impressive what Corey did and all I had to do was pick it up and run.”
On its next possession just 13 seconds into the second quarter, Fuller took a handoff 68 yards for a score, then tacked on another 1-yard touchdown. After Szymanski scored on a 1-yard run just before halftime, Lancaster had a comfortable 29-0 advantage.