The Sweet Home Panthers, in the words of coach John Faller, are on to “Part Two” of their football season.
And what a finish they provided to Part One.
A program that has put up some serious points in its seven-year domination of Section VI equalled the third-highest total in its history as it ran away from McKinley, 58-22, in a meeting of undefeated Class A divisional champions.
The co-No. 3 team in The News large school poll and the champion of Class A North, Sweet Home scored nine touchdowns as it recorded its 67th straight victory over Section VI competition.
“I told them before the game, you’ve won the division championship already, but it’s 7-0 if you want to join that list of champions that we’ve had over the years — you’ve got to take that next step,” said Faller, whose team has won six straight Section VI Class A titles. “Now it’s a three-game season with the playoffs. This game is over and this part of the season is over. We’re on Part Two. We’ll see how far they can go.”
McKinley (6-1), the co-No. 6 school and champion of Class A Central after a stirring win at Williamsville South last week, returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown and was within 11 points after it scored in the first minute of the second half.
However, Sweet Home kept scoring … and scoring. Junior running back Jordan Evert ran for three touchdowns in a 109-yard day while junior quarterback Kevin Torrillo (10 for 17, 97 yards) threw for three touchdowns, two to junior Brandon Smiley.
“This was a game where our special teams fell apart a little bit, — we’ve been good with that all year,” said Faller, whose top-seeded team will open the Class A playoffs by hosting eight-seeded Kenmore East Saturday. “But we kept answering back. We got settled down, I think we took control of the game, and did what we do best.”
Sweet Home’s point total tied the 2001 team’s 58 points against Williamsville South. Sweet Home’s top two outputs are 65 points (1974 vs. Kenmore West) and 60 (2005 vs. Kenmore East).
“We came out slow — we have a bad tendency of that,” said Smiley. “After we get all of our jitters out, we really start playing as a team and dominating.
“Our coach puts us in the right positions every week. We just had to stay disciplined and be where our coaches tell us to be, and we usually make plays when that happens.”
McKinley, which as the third seed will host sixth-seeded Grand Island in the quarterfinals, made a statement as early as one could. Senior Tyrell Wilson’s 81-yard kickoff return put the Macks up, 8-0, just 15 seconds in.
On the final play of the first quarter, senior quarterback Jamar Rutledge found junior Mike Benton with a pretty, 31-yard pass to give the Macks a 16-14 lead.
Sweet Home surged back behind two Torrillo touchowns (10 yards to Smiley; 16 to senior Julyan Coleman) and a 5-yard run by Evert in the final minute of the half (set up by a Ronald Woods fumble recovery) to take a 33-16 lead to halftime.
Sweet Home fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half and not long after, Benton ran in from 3 yards out to pull the Macks within 33-22 just 50 seconds into the third.
The Panthers answered in a big way with an 80-yard touchdown by junior Jordan Heine out of Sweet Home’s famed “Big Bird” double-wing formation to push the lead to 40-22 with 4:25 left in the third.
Mark Walker added a 4-yard run for a 46-22 lead with 1:04 left in the third. An interception set up another touchdown 27 seconds into the fourth, a 4-yard run by Evert for a 52-22 lead.