VICTOR — Zack Estabrooks said that having fun is part of the equation when it comes to playing football at Victor.
There is plenty of that for the Blue Devils this season, but it is just a slice of the pie that shows no signs of crumbling anytime soon.
“I think that (former Victor coach) Jim Haugh left it in great shape,” Victor coach Geoff Mandile said. “Just as a community, we’re a growing district, whereas others are shrinking.
“You know, it’s cyclical and hopefully, we can take advantage of our cycle here, but we’ve got great kids, great support from the families and booster clubs and administration. Smart kids, good academics and they are not afraid to work hard. It’s been a good formula for us.”
The Blue Devils improved to 6-0 on Friday night and are ranked No. 3 in the state among Class AA schools by the New York State Sportswriters Association, with only Buffalo-area private school Canisius and Archbishop Stepinac ahead. They took over the top spot in the Democrat and Chronicle/Section V Large-Schools Coaches’ Poll back in Week 3, and they don’t appear ready to give it up soon or easily.
Senior running back Estabrooks, listed as a 6-foot-2 and 210-pound two-way end on Victor’s roster, scored three touchdowns to help put down what was an undefeated Fairport team hit with injuries 34-10.
Clay Bleier threw two touchdown passes and had a short run for another score in the Monroe County league game. It was another small crystallization of Mandile’s hope during the preseason for Victor to have a bit more balanced offense. Bleier finished 5-of-8 passing for 115 yards, but completed his first four throws, including a play that covered 55 yards for a touchdown to Estabrooks. Another pass in the middle of the field, an 18-yard completion to Mike Novitsky, set up Bleier’s quarterback sneak that gave Victor a 13-point lead.
“We’re feeling really good. We know this is only going to last for the weekend and then on Monday we have to get back to the grind,” Estabrooks said. “In our head, it’s just taking one game at a time, working hard, tradition, just playing Victor football and having fun.
“If that is able to win us a sectional title that would be awesome.”
Mitch Spindler led Victor’s running game, the team’s calling card, with 133 yards on 22 carries. The Blue Devils had 30 minutes, 27 seconds of possession to Fairport’s 17:33. Victor amassed 262 yards of rushing.
Fairport played without defensive starters Kyle Schreiner, Mike Dewind and Dom Gombetto.
Schreiner, a 305-pound two-way lineman who gave a verbal commitment to play at Robert Morris in Pennsylvania, suffered a season-ending knee injury two weeks ago at Rush-Henrietta. Gombetto, also Fairport’s top running back, was missed at safety, likewise with Dewind who can play at linebacker or in the secondary.
Fairport needed them.
“They played very well obviously,” Fairport coach Dave Whitcomb said. “I’ve said to people all along, they can throw the ball, and they did a nice job throwing. What they did a great job of to be honest is that they game-planned where were missing kids. They game-planned for it and took advantage of it, and I’m not faulting our kids who were in there, they gave a great effort.
“Hey, I’m not faulting them (the Blue Devils) because if I was them, I would’ve done the same thing.”
Whitcomb said he walked off the field at Victor proud of the Red Raiders, who drop to 5-1 and have a home game at Hilton to close the regular season next week. This may be the best Fairport team in at least a decade, maybe back to the 1998 state tournament finalist. Senior quarterback Keshawn Howard, at the control of normally Fairport’s high-scoring offense, received a scholarship offer from Seton Hill University.
“We knew right from the beginning of the season how good of a quarterback he is,” Estabrooks said. “The key was getting after him, not letting him run.”
Victor remains the top seed in the Section V Class AA standings for the postseason tournament. Webster Thomas stands in the way of back-to-back undefeated regular seasons for the Blue Devils, who were Section V’s Class AA champion in 2014.
Victor opened the area season with a non-league game against Aquinas, maybe something most Monroe County league teams would not do. A 13-7 win by the Blue Devils may have been another launching point, as they also defeated Pittsford, the top-ranked large schools team in the Democrat and Chronicle coaches’ poll in Week 3.