Lack­awanna takes over di­vi­sion lead

Steel­ers knock off Alden to re­main un­beaten

The Buffalo News - - NFL SUNDAY - By Miguel Ro­driguez

Lack­awanna beat the heat and then se­cured one of its big­ger reg­u­larsea­son wins in quite some time.

And even though it’s still Septem­ber, the Steel­ers look like they could be a con­tender in the al­ways tough but un­pre­dictable B clas­si­fi­ca­tion of the Sec­tion VI Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion.

The Steel­ers boldly made that an­nounce­ment Satur­day af­ter­noon at their old Vet­er­ans Sta­dium home by not only sur­viv­ing but thriv­ing in swel­ter­ing con­di­tions, as they de­feated Alden, 24-7, in a show­down be­tween ranked Buf­falo News small schools.

Khalil Hor­ton and Lon­don Smith each scored two touch­downs for No. 10 Lack­awanna. Noble Smith calmly di­rected three scor­ing drives – in­clud­ing a huge mo­men­tum-chang­ing two-minute drill late in the sec­ond quar­ter – against the sixth-ranked school. A de­fense led by light­ningquick de­fen­sive end Jak­won In­gram (seven tack­les, five for losses) forced three turnovers and grounded the Bull­dogs’ of­fense as the Steel­ers took this early-sea­son bat­tle be­tween un­beat­ens and find them­selves alone in first place in the B-3 Di­vi­sion.

It’s the first time Lack­awanna has de­feated Alden since 2009 – a year af­ter the Steel­ers’ last Sec­tion VI cham­pi­onship sea­son. It also capped a weekend in which No. 4 Me­d­ina lost to fel­low B-3 foe New­fane.

“This team is spe­cial,” said Noble Smith, who com­pleted 10 of 15 passes for 85 yards, a touch­down and an in­ter­cep­tion.

“I think this is what our kids needed in or­der to grow and be a good foot­ball team,” said Lack­awanna coach Adam Tardif. “Alden’s a good foot­ball team. They have a good quar­ter­back, tail­back, full­back ... an out­stand­ing re­ceiver. We talked about this be­ing a state­ment game be­cause we have to put our­selves in the hunt. Class B is loaded with great teams this year. We

def­i­nitely said Lack­awanna can play foot­ball.”

Tardif’s crew made it known its de­fense was up for the chal­lenge against an Alden of­fense that came in av­er­ag­ing 43.5 points. Lon­don Smith picked off the Bull­dogs’ first pass at­tempt at the Steel­ers’ 17 and Lack­awanna held the Bull­dogs to 256 to­tal yards, in­clud­ing 116 in the sec­ond half.

Lon­don Smith’s pick led to an 11play drive that Hor­ton capped with a 4-yard touch­down run with about 4 min­utes left in the quar­ter.

In ad­di­tion to tough run­ning from Hor­ton (26 yards on six rushes), Noble Smith took to the air against Alden’s eight-in-the-box front dur­ing the drive – find­ing his twin brother Lon­don for first-down gains of 8 and 13 yards.

The Steel­ers, who usu­ally pre­fer run­ning, went ver­ti­cal quite of­ten in the first half – 13 times, with Smith com­plet­ing 10 for 85 yards.

Of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Mar­cus Rivers “is just go­ing to take what the de­fense is giv­ing us,” Tardif said. “Lon­don made some big catches. Ev­ery­body con­trib­uted.”

Bryan Cy­bul­ski set up Alden’s scor­ing drive in the sec­ond quar­ter by pick­ing off Smith in the end zone. On the pos­ses­sion that ended with a 1-yard Cy­bul­ski scor­ing run, he com­pleted a fourth-and-14 to Christian Snell for 15 yards and also gained 8 yards on fourth-and-1 two plays be­fore his score with 2:20 to play in the half.

The Steel­ers re­sponded with a 12play drive in which Noble Smith com­pleted six passes and also rushed 10 yards for a key first down. The lat­ter was a slightly risky call since the play came with no time­outs and per­haps 20 sec­onds at most left (the score­board clock didn’t work so of­fi­cials kept time on the field). A spike was fol­lowed by Noble’s 5-yard TD pass to Lon­don in the end zone.

“It was huge,” Noble Smith said. “I had to bounce back (from the in­ter­cep­tion). I had to make sure we had a com­fort­able lead go­ing into the sec­ond half, not be in a hole.”

Hor­ton, who rushed 13 times for 63 yards, in­creased the lead with a 3-yard touch­down run with just un­der six min­utes left in the third quar­ter. Af­ter forc­ing a three-and-out, Lon­don Smith (four catches, 37 yards) re­turned a punt 69 yards for the TD with 55 sec­onds left in the quar­ter.

“I saw it in the air. … I just at­tacked it, fol­lowed my block,” Lon­don said. “I just wanted to make a play. I thought about scor­ing the whole time. I didn’t think about be­ing tack­led.”

The only neg­a­tive on this day for Lack­awanna wound up be­ing a late il­le­gal hit penalty – not in­ten­tional – on Lon­don Smith against Cy­bul­ski, who dove head first for ex­tra yardage at the end of a 43-yard run. Both play­ers took to the air and col­lided. While Cy­bul­ski was down, coach Rob Cur­ran said he was con­scious and that he had dif­fi­culty breath­ing be­cause he hurt his ribs on the play.

“I thought for sure he was go­ing to be un­con­scious when I got there,” Cur­ran said. “I was think­ing the worst when he was hit.”

Lack­awanna will learn shortly whether Smith will be avail­able for Fri­day’s game at Me­d­ina. In­ten­tional tar­get­ing comes with an ejec­tion and game dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion.

For now, the Steel­ers will just en­joy the win over a good team, en­joy be­ing in first place.

“We’re tak­ing it a week at a time but this team is spe­cial,” Noble Smith said. “We’re just try­ing to keep it go­ing.”

Derek Gee/Buf­falo News

Khalil Hor­ton rushed 13 times for 63 yards and two touch­downs in Lack­awanna’s Class B-3 win over Alden.

Derek Gee/Buf­falo News

Lack­awanna’s Em­manuel Land does his part in lim­it­ing Alden’s of­fense to an out­put well un­der its scor­ing av­er­age by wrap­ping up Bull­dogs quar­ter­back Bryan Cy­bul­ski on Satur­day at Vet­er­ans Sta­dium.

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