By JOHN LIKANJE
WEBSTER, N.Y. – The Victor varsity football team was excited for Rushawn Baker to get back on the field after missing the last two games. However, the junior running back went down twice with an ankle injury and limped out of the contest midway through the second quarter.
Blue Devils head coach Geoffrey Mandile needed another tailback to carry the load and Nick Benetti answered the call. The backup junior runner scored two second-half touchdowns and led Victor to a 21-8 comeback victory over Webster Thomas on a frigid Friday night.
“We focus on improving every week and I think our conditioning helped tonight,” Mandile said after his squad’s third straight win. “The fourth quarter was big for us. We started to move people a bit more.”
Trailing 8-6 near the end of the third quarter, Benetti ignited the rally with an interception at the Titans’ 29-yard line. On the ensuing play, the junior tailback broke multiple tackles for a 25-yard run. Benetti sprinted through the line of scrimmage into the end zone and Mark Oddi completed the two-point conversion to give the Blue Devils a 14-8 lead with 1:04 left in the period.
“I just had to read my blocks, find a hole, got in the end zone,” Benetti said.
“I think it was an iso to the outside,” Mandile said when explaining the play which led to the go-ahead touchdown. “They (Webster Thomas) had a bunch of guys over there and we just had to get bodies on them. He’s really good at finding that seam.”
.@SecVFootball – @VictorFootballB vs. @WTTitanFootball: Nick Benetti gets an interception and gives the Blue Devils the lead with a 4-yard TD run. Mark Oddi 2-point conversion.1:04 3Q: Victor 14 Webster Thomas 8. @PickinSplinters pic.twitter.com/zGY8ARKUYX— John Mitchell Likanje Junior (@jml5798) October 5, 2019
Benetti iced the game with another touchdown as part of an 11-play, 54-yard drive that chewed almost seven minutes off the fourth quarter clock. The junior running back accounted for 46 of those yards and found paydirt with 4:59 remaining in the contest.
Along with his two touchdowns, Benetti racked up 144 rushing yards as well. The junior tailback had 22 of his 27 carries in the second half and averaged 5.3 yards per run.
“Just keep grinding in practice,” Benetti explained. “Find the hole. Hit it. The O-line was a huge part. Their blocking was outstanding tonight. The sideline was bringing the energy.”
“We knew we could count on him tonight,” Mandile said about Benetti. “The interception was huge. He’s just a really good athlete and sees things well on the field and had some huge runs for us in the second half.”
James Knapp completed four passes for 61 yards. The junior quarterback found senior David Kelley for a 27-yard touchdown strike and a 6-0 lead to end the opening period.
Baker compiled eight carries and 50 yards before exiting the game.
Senior safety Timmy Keohane led the defense with six tackles. Trevor Knapp had five while Michael Bowman and Kelley added 3.5 apiece. The Blue Devils have allowed one touchdown in the last eight quarters combined. Mandile’s defensive line is holding opponents to 13.8 points per game as well.
“It was great,” the Blue Devils head coach said about his defense. “Coverage wise, we were really good and got pressure on them. Overall, kept us in the game.”
In his first varsity start, Titans sophomore Eli Adams completed 18-of-36 passes for 187 yards and a touchdown. Daniel Card shook off multiple defenders for a 60-yard touchdown run to give Webster Thomas an 8-6 lead at the end of the first half. For the game, the junior wide receiver caught seven balls for 127 yards.
Senior linebacker Ian Henry led the defense with 8.5 tackles and an interception. Card and Trevor Lille had seven apiece. Senior defensive back Will Van Fleet picked off a pass in the third quarter to go along with his three tackles.
Victor (4-1) will play at Gates-Chili next Friday night. Webster Thomas (2-3) travels to Brighton Friday as well. Both games are scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff.