Tonawanda News — Having won their last five games in a row by an average score of 31-14, the Kenmore West Blue Devils are on a high heading into their first round playoff matchup with Lancaster.
A sense of urgency has fallen over the Blue Devils as the season has progressed, and head coach Rich Harris believes it’s because the seniors on his team realize that this is their last crack at winning a championship.
“I like the way we’ve been preparing for our opponents the last few weeks and they’ve shown a lot of maturity that way,” Harris said. “We’ve got a lot of seniors on our team and I think, because they know that every game is a do-or-die situation for them now, there’s a different feeling around the locker room. They have some goals that they want to accomplish, like playing at Ralph Wilson Stadium, and they want to accomplish those goals now.”
Two big differences between the first time the Blue Devils and Redskins met — a 22-7 win in favor of Lancaster on opening day — and now is that Ken West is more confident in running their defensive scheme and they have cut down on mistakes, Harris said.
“We felt like we underachieved back in Week One, and when you turn the ball over six times, you’re not going to beat anybody. We’ve done a better job in that department lately,” Harris said. “We also switched to a 3-4 defense this season after running a 4-3 for years, and we were thinking too much instead of just reacting. Now, we’re just reacting and playing as a whole, and we’ve shut some teams down in the process. Hopefully we can do the same to Lancaster.”
Two weeks after falling to the Sweet Home Panthers by a score of 34-6, Kenmore East is looking forward to their first playoff game in years — a rematch between the two teams in their Section VI Quarterfinal matchup today.
According to head coach Matt Chimera, health and effort will be crucial for the Bulldogs as they aim to end the Panthers’ 67-game winning streak against Section VI opponents.
“We had some guys get hurt against Kenmore West last week, so hopefully we get some of those guys back this week,” Chimera said. “We also put out a great effort against Sweet Home the last time we played them, and I think that’s one of the reasons why we kept the score close through three quarters against them. We need to go into this game with the same mindset we had two weeks ago.”
Junior running back Kurt McGowan also noted that focus and execution — which was lacking for the team against Ken West — needed to be better heading into the postseason.
“We didn’t really have a great week of practice going into the Blue Devils game, so hopefully this week goes a lot better than last week did,” McGowan said. “If we beat Sweet Home, that would be huge for us. We’ll see.”