by Larry Austin
Grand Island shook off some nerves and beat Kenmore East 26-14 in the first Section VI football game of the season Saturday.
GI had four rushing touchdowns on the afternoon, two by senior running back Danny Blocho and one each from fullback Anthony Zogaria and Mitch Fachko.
The season couldn't have started much worse for the Vikings. GI spotted the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead when KE's Nick Bluff recovered a blocked punt by Aaron Cannon in the end zone just one minute into the game. GI turned the ball over with an interception later in the half before recovering.
Anthony Zogaria of GI tied the game with a 2-yard touchdown run after an 11-play drive. The teams headed into halftime tied 7-7.
Zogaria said once the team shook off some first-game jitters, the Vikings started to play like the team they are.
"When we did that, we were definitely the better team, and I think we'll be showing that all year," Zogaria said.
A stiff wind that started to blow in the Bulldogs' faces in the third quarter provided GI with good field position. A stout Viking run defense kept the Bulldogs pinned in their own half of the field.
Blocho had a touchdown run from 29 yards out for GI, putting them up 14-7, as the Vikings dominated the quarter.
GI coach Dean Santorio praised his offensive line for controlling the line of scrimmage, and noted multiple running backs made big contributions once they shook the jitters.
"Our backs decided finally in the second half to get north and south and get their hips and shoulders facing down the field instead of sideways," Santorio said. Blocho had 19 carries for 83 yards. T.J. Acker had 59 yards on 9 carries, and Fachko had 54 yards on five carries, including a 6-yard TD run that gave GI a 20-7 lead. Blocho's second TD, a 12-yard run, gave GI a 26-7 lead.
In the fourth quarter, KE quarterback Connor McMahon connected with Adam Gelb on a 19-yard scoring pass to close the scoring.
GI hosts North Tonawanda at Masters Field Saturday at 2 p.m.
"They're running the same stuff they've always run, a little triple option and double wing stuff," Santorio said of the Jacks' offense. "And their quarterback's real athletic, a young kid that throws the ball well."
NT is looking for their first win of the season after losing to perennial power Sweet Home in their opener.
"They have some pieces. They got off to a tough start with Sweet Home, but we know they'll come to play," Santorio said of NT.
Zogaria said starting off the year with a win gives the Vikings a boost, but the team will need to avoid another slow start to beat the Lumberjacks on Saturday.
"It gives us confidence, but to beat a team like NT, we're going to have to work a lot harder and have a much better game," he said.
NT put it to the Vikings last year, winning at Masters Field, 28-7.
"That won't happen again," Zogaria said.