STRASBURG — No. 2 Bennett ripped off big play after big play to take down No. 1 Strasburg in a big Class 1A matchup on Friday night.
"It's huge. We talked about it all week," Bennett coach Rick Jacoby said. "The kids were super focused, I haven't seen them like that in years. They were down to business — not too much in the hype of the game, not engaged in other situations — just down to business and focused. I'm real proud of the boys."
The Tigers won 37-14, snapping a 14 game winning streak for Strasburg. The streak was tied for the longest in the state.
"Strasburg is a good team," Jacoby said. "They're young and trying to fill some spots from last year's group. They're a quality program. I'm sure as soon as they work those kinks out, man, it's going to be a little bit different in November."
Bennett's Rocky Lechman kept on the read option and gutted the Strasburg defense for a 68-yard touchdown. A 2-point conversion put the Tigers up 16-0 with the first play of the second quarter.
Lechman was everywhere for No. 2 Bennett on both sides of the ball. He made tackle after tackle for the swarming Tiger defense. He made plays with his legs for the quick-striking offense, including a 20-yard run to put the score at 37-8.
"Our offensive and defensive lines came out and killed it," Lechman said. "They were the MVP for this game. I couldn't do anything on offense without our offensive line. Without them, I'm nothing."
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Jesse Rodriguez got loose on a 78-yard touchdown run to put Bennett up 30-8.
"I call it the three-headed monster back there," Jacoby said. "I think teams start looking at Jesse (Rodgriguez) and some of the things he can do, and they over prep on him. Not taking anything away from Rocky, he's an incredible athlete, very smart, but I think teams over-prepare for Jesse and it allows us to do some special things with Rocky with his speed and power."
Michael Spence looked to be free on a run to the outside, but Lechman caught him from behind to keep the score at 16-0.
"Really, we were just trying to shut their sweep down," Lechman said. "Last year, they beat us on that a lot. Fly in, fill our holes and make some big hits.
"Our defensive line just forces it in. I flew to where I'm supposed to be and I made plays."
Strasburg hurt itself with penalties throughout the game. Delay of game penalties stalled the Indians on offense, then a block in the back took away a Strasburg first down in the middle of the first quarter.
The next play, Mason Wakeham broke off a 49-yard touchdown run and gave Bennett an 8-0 lead over Strasburg.
"Gameplan was limit the big play," Jacoby said. "Look over last couple years, we feel like we've done a very good job playing Strasburg up to third down. Third and fourth down was our key. That was our mantra all week, third and fourth down, get them off the field. Limit those big plays on third and fourth down, and we knew we had a good chance."
Nearing halftime on the opposing 30-yard-line, Strasburg's Carson Spence looked endzone three plays in a row.
Spence passed just over the hands of his intended receiver. Next play, Spence's pass just missed again. Facing a 4th & 11 with 1:31 left in the first half, Strasburg elected to go for it.
And the decision paid off.
Spence found Michael Spence on a wheel route on a completed pass down to the 4-yard-line.
With 18 seconds left, Spence scrambled right and found Jacob Miller in the endzone. Strasburg closed the gap to a one-possession game going into halftime.
"Our leadership stood out. We picked eachother up even in sticky situations that we got into. We were able to build eachother up and get over those. We preach the brotherhood concept, and it really stood out tonight."
But Bennett kept on the gas and went on to a 30-8 win thanks to touchdowns from Donovan Velasquez Kerns and Rodriguez, and the defense stepping up.
"Our pursuit to the ball on defense was a difference maker," Jacoby said. "We thought we had a good scheme. It did break down a couple times, and that's stuff we talked about. We have to go and work on stuff with their two scoring drives."
On a big fourth down and five with 1:03 in the third quarter, Bennett took over on downs after the pass was broken up.
Just six miles separate the two schools ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the latest CHSAANow.com football rankings.
"We just knew we had to come out and play," Lechman said. "Coach kept telling us that it's just another game. Obviously, it's a big deal to all the people we had out here, but he kept telling us that it's just a game. Don't make it too big, don't freak yourself out. Just play like it's another game."
Football is in the blood of the people of these towns. Some fans have been watching Strasburg from the same spot for as they put it, "years." One couple watched their sons and grandsons go through the program, and they still watch today.
"(The rivalry) means a lot to me," Lechman, who transferred from Strasburg after freshman year, said. "It means a lot because I know all of these kids. It's a great game and it's fun to play in."
On Friday, Bennett took home the win in the true definition of Friday Night Lights. Fans lined the chain link fence around the field as the town stood still for a few hours on a Friday night.
"Tomorrow morning, the celebration is over," Lechman said. "It's time to start preparing and continue on toward that state ring."