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Live from Orchard Park making good on its finals goal

ROCHESTER -- Section VI is three for three so far after big wins by Sweet Home (Class A), Southwestern (C) and Maple Grove (D). Now Orchard Park will take on Binghamton in the Class AA game.

I'd like to ask everyone to keep the family of the late Tom Borrelli, my friend and colleague, in your thoughts. He worked for the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin as well as The News, and there are reporters from both papers who worked with (and laughed with) Tom here this weekend covering these four Section VI-Section IV semifinals. He would have loved these matchups. I'm still bringing back a program for him.

---Keith McShea

Live from Southwestern running down a berth at the Dome

ROCHESTER -- The News will have live updates all weekend from the football state semifinals at Paetec Park.

Section VI is two for two so far after big wins by Sweet Home (Class A) and Maple Grove (D). Now Southwestern will take on Elmira Notre Dame.

I'd like to ask everyone to keep the family of the late Tom Borrelli, my friend and colleague, in your thoughts. He worked for the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin as well as The News, and there are reporters from both papers who worked with (and laughed with) Tom here this weekend covering these four Section VI-Section IV semifinals. He would have loved these matchups. I'm still bringing back a program for him.

---Keith McShea 

Live from Sweet Home stomping to the state final

ROCHESTER -- The News will have live updates all weekend from the football state semifinals at Paetec Park.

Maple Grove just advanced to the state final four by romping past defending champion Walton. Now Sweet Home is about to take on Corning West.

I'd like to ask everyone to keep the family of the late Tom Borrelli, my friend and colleague, in your thoughts. He worked for the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin as well as The News, and there are reporters from both papers who worked with (and laughed with) Tom here this weekend covering these four Section VI-Section IV semifinals. He would have loved these matchups. I'm still bringing back a program for him. 

7:39 p.m. If you were tuning in to the live blog of the Maple Grove game, you will know that it is COLD here. The press box is a "temporary" structure which is made of plywood and plastic. I write "temporary" because it was this same exact way last year. There is power and wireless access, so we've got what we need to work.

7:43 p.m. There was some snow flurry action during the Class D game, but now we've got some full-blown flakes. The field is getting covered with snow. It's going to be interesting to try and tell where the ball is marked on the field. Wow. Definitely a wintry adventure covering this stuff tonight :-).

7:53 p.m. The teams are being introduced.

7:58 p.m. The PA guy just announced the game-time temperature as 19 degrees. Brrrrr.

8 p.m. We've kicked off. Corning West will start at its 40. There's a guy sweeping snow off the goal line behind Corning West.

8:02 p.m. Sweet Home was all over three runs by Corning West, and after a encroachment penalty West punts from its 46.

8:08 p.m. We have a Sweet Home TOUCHDOWN. An outstanding, eight-play drive started at the Sweet Home 24 and ended with a 3-yard run up the middle by Deshanaro Morris. Mike Lawandus kicks the extra point and the Panthers have a 7-0 lead with 6:03 left in the first quarter.

8:11 p.m. Corning West starts at its 18 after no return due to a mishandled kickoff.

8:13 p.m. Corning West calls a timeout with 5:36 left in the first quarter after recovering its own fumble on first down. On second and 11, Greg Riff is hit for a loss to set up third and 12 on the 16; on third down, Riff is hit at the original line of scrimmage and West punts from its 18.

8:14 p.m. Sweet Home takes over at the Corning West 37 wtih 4:18 left.

8:16 p.m. Sweet Home calls a timeout with 2:45 left in the first quarter. The Panthers are facing a third and 8 at the Corning West 19.

8:18 p.m. Morris takes a pitch to the right and converts a fourth-and-5 at the Corning West 16, setting the Panthers up with a first and goal at the 3.

8:19 p.m. Morris is in for another TOUCHDOWN, going in on first-and-goal from the 3. Lawandus kicks the extra point and the Panthers have a 14-0 lead with 1:54 to play in the first quarter.

8:22 p.m. And we have another Sweet Home TOUCHDOWN. A fumble by Riff on first down from the West 29 leads to a 30-yard fumble return for a score by D.J. Nettles. Another Lawandus kick and it is a 21-0 lead for Sweet Home with 1:38 left in the first.

8:26 p.m. We have another fumble for Corning West and Sweet Home will take over at the West 16.

8:27 p.m. It is the END OF THE FIRST QUARTER with Sweet Home leading, 21-0. The Panthers have second and 8 at the West 14.

8:30 p.m. Sweet Home has scored another TOUCHDOWN. On third-and-7 at the Corning West 15, Kacz hit Nettles on a nifty inside slant route. Nettles caught the ball inside the 10, spun off a defender and ran into the end zone. Lawandus adds another extra point and the Sweet Home lead is 28-0 with 11:17 left in the second quarter.

8:32 p.m. Corning West starts at its 19.

8:34 p.m. West's first first down comes on a 5-yard run by Austin Rose to the West 31.

8:35 p.m. West faces a fourth-and-4 at its 37 and runs Anthony Nybeck up the middle and he is 6 inches short. Sweet Home takes over at the Corning West 41 wtih 7:42 left in the first half. Questionable decision there.

8:39 p.m. On fourth-and-3 at the West 35, Kacz finds Nettles past the first-down marker and Sweet Home is at the West 27.

8:40 p.m. On the very next play, Kacz delivers an excellent pass down the middle of the field to Noah Nwachukwu, who keeps his balance to step into the end zone for the 27-yard TOUCHDOWN. Another Lawandus extra point makes it Sweet Home, 35-0, with 5:20 left in the first half. It is freezing cold here and Kacz threw a very pretty ball as if he was doing it at an August practice.

8:45 p.m. West, after starting at its 24, converts a fourth-and-1 at the 33 and has a first down at its 35.

8:47 p.m. Corning West converts another fourth down, a fourth-and-2 at its 43, to reach midfield. But soon after, on a pass on second-and-9 at the Sweet Home 49, a deflection by Morris leads to an interception by Josh Blango to give Sweet Home the ball at the West 41 with 20 seconds to play before halftime.

8:53 p.m. Sweet Home advanced to the 30 on a Reese end-around run in which he followed Mikal Coleman's lead block, then to the 27 on Coleman's run up the middle. Kacz was incomplete for Nettles to the right side before hitting Reese across the middle, but he was stopped at the 4 as the clock ran out. At HALFTIME, Sweet Home has a 35-0 lead.

9:15 p.m. We're back in action and back online after getting knocked off of the wireless connection here -- we've gone to the broadband card. Sweet Home is driving - it has a third and 3 at the Corning West 33. UB's winning score got a big hand from the Sweet Home side of the field. 

9:19 p.m. A Morris fumble is recovered by Corning West, which takes over at its 22 with 8:19 left in the third quarter.

9:21 p.m. Corning West calls a timeout with 7:04 left and facing a third-and-5 at its 23. Two workers with snowblowers just came behind the play, using leaf-blowers to clear off some yardage lines.

9:22 p.m. Those lines will come in use now, because Sweet Home recovered a Corning West fumble and takes over at the West 22.

9:28 p.m. Sweet Home has another TOUCHDOWN by Morris, who ran in on fourth-and-goal at the 1. Lawandus added the extra point for a 42-0 Sweet Home lead with 4:38 left in the second quarter.

9:32 p.m. Corning West has a first down at the Sweet Home 49 as the clock goes under three minutes left in the third quarter. Updates will be sparse from here on in as I get to work.

Note: This game will be broadcast tomorrow afternoon on Time Warner.

9:34 p.m. Corning West moved to the Sweet Home 30 thanks to a penalty by Morris, who threw the ball away in frustration after he thought he had recovered a fumble.

9:37 p.m. West's drive ends with an interception by Nettles. Sweet Home takes over at its 5 with 45 seconds left in the third.

9:39 p.m. It is the END OF THE THIRD QUARTER.

9:43 p.m. Sweet Home scores another TOUCHDOWN with some reserves in the ballgame. Sophomore Mikal Coleman ran in up the middle from 3 yards out. The extra point kick has a bad snap and Sweet Home has a 48-0 lead with 9:27 left in the game. Backup quarterback Mike Wolcott, a senior who led Sweet Home to the Section VI championship game victory last year, was in for the drive.

9:53 p.m. Corning West has scored a TOUCHDOWN and a two-point conversion. Sweet Home leads, 48-8, with 4:15 left in the game.

10:17 p.m. Whoops. Ran down on the field for interviews before updating this a last time. FINAL SCORE: Sweet Home 48, Corning West 8.

---Keith McShea

Live from Maple Grove's romp over the defending champions

ROCHESTER -- The News will have live updates all weekend from the football state semifinals at Paetec Park.

It all starts at 5 p.m. with the highly anticipated showdown between defending Class D state champion Walton, which is ranked first in the state, and No. 2 Maple Grove.

I'd like to ask everyone to keep the family of the late Tom Borrelli, my friend and colleague, in your thoughts. He worked for the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin as well as The News, and there are reporters from both papers who worked with (and laughed with) Tom here this weekend covering these four Section VI-Section IV semifinals. He would have loved these matchups. I'm still bringing back a program for him.   

---Keith McShea

Why Section VI will go IV for IV

We're having fun with Roman numerals in headlines for the second straight week.

I still feel that this is one of the best groups of state championship candidates that Section VI has ever had. The state polls back it up -- three No. 1s and a No. 2 (Maple Grove). I suppose that means that three teams are favored, so maybe saying that all four teams will win isn't that much of a stretch.

Actually, saying that all five teams would win the regionals (I missed by one obviously) was probably more of a leap considering Section VI's struggles against a very historically powerful Section V. Generally speaking the winners from the Far West Regionals have done very well in the state playoffs.

But history shows that it's obviously a tough playoff road to the state title games, and Section VI and IV are 5-5 in state semifinals over the years.

Here's the breakdown -- listed in order of Section VI's best chance to advance, and with reasons why things could go either way:

• • •

Class A

IV-for-IV: Sweet Home is coming off a thorough victory over the defending state champion. I simply think that, and you've heard this before about the Panthers, that they have too many weapons all over the field. They are also certainly playing well as a team. The game plan against Aquinas and its running attack was top-notch, and that was a week after Sweet Home contained Iroquois' Brandon Murie. I think the Sweet Home coaches will have their team well prepared for Corning West's double-wing ground game.

0-for-IV: Despite what the rankings say (Sweet Home No. 1 and West No. 14), that's why they play the games.

Class C

IV-for-IV: Beating Le Roy earns you some credit (and the top ranking in the state); and yes, the Trojans benefited from turnovers and hung on at the end, but they showed they could move the ball on the Oatkan Knights in various ways.

0-for-IV: Elmira Notre Dame has beaten two undefeated, favored teams in a row, so why not a third? This could end up being a shootout with a score like last week (when Southwestern won, 38-35).

Class AA

IV-for-IV: Orchard Park is back in the state semifinals, but I don't think they've played their best game yet. I think they put together a state championship-type performance this week. A loss on the same field where their season ended last season? After the Quakers' season-long goal was to move further than it did last year? I just don't see it happening.

0-for-IV: At the beginning of the week, I thought OP would be second on my list, but this Binghamton team has some serious weapons: Section IV's all-time leading rusher and a dangerous passing game with a heady quarterback and a huge wide receiver. OP's season ended against a spread attack at Paetec last year, and it gave up some pass plays to North Tonawanda in the Section VI final. As a seasoned Syracuse scribe told me this week, "don't sleep on the Patriots."

Class D

IV-for-IV: The big boys from Walton against the fast boys from Maple Grove. Quite the matchup to get the weekend started. A week after seeing an undefeated defending state champion go down (Aquinas), we think the Red Dragons do enough on the ground and through the air to do it to the Warriors in what should be an outstanding game.

0-for-IV: Walton shows why it has that win streak and power-footballs Maple Grove off the ball all day.

• • •

Your turn ...

The polls will be open until game time, with 2-for-4 (or II-for-IV) leading the way at over 45 percent. A slightly smaller number have Sweet Home picked as Section VI's best chance.

I'm off to Rochester soon -- we'll be back with live updates after kickoff.   

---Keith McShea

Early tip-off to hoops season

The footballs are still flyin', but its seems there is no stopping basketball season.

** A handful of games were played Thursday night, including two in Pine Valley's girls tournament. Randolph had three players in double figures as the Cardinals survived a rimmed-out buzzer-beating attempt by Fredonia in a 43-41 win. That sets up a Randolph-Pine Valley title game at 5:40 p.m. Saturday.

** A great event that always marks the beginning of basketball season for me has been renamed the Pastor-Cooper Tournament. The pairings were announced Thursday -- check out info here and the schedule here.

** Hoop fans can get a jump on the season by checking out the Education Through Basketball Jamboree at Nichols hosted by Nichols assistant Michael Mennenga. There are 25-minute scrimmages being played in two gyms, starting at 9 a.m. and continuing past 4 p.m. The girls teams competing from 9 to 10:30 are Nichols, Sacred Heart, Holy Angels, East and McKinley; the boys teams (games start from 10:55 a.m. through 3:55 p.m.) are Grover Cleveland, Cardinal O'Hara, North Tonawanda, Lake Shore, Burgard, Maryvale, Lancaster, Nichols, East and Williamsville East along with a Canadian team. Anyone checking that out is requested to post a report in the comments section.

** The good people behind the new Section VI boys basketball site are hard at work preparing it for the season. That site is as good as the information that is provide by coaches and athletic directors (not unlike a sports section). If they haven't already, coaches are asked to provide the site with schedules and rosters.

ALSO: Of course, boys and girls basketball coaches/ADs also need to send The News rosters and schedules as soon as possible. We're also at work compiling our day-by-day schedule. Email me at kmcshea@buffnews.com (boys) or Mary Jo Monnin at mmonnin@buffnews.com (girls), fax to 849-4587 or mail to Buffalo News Sports, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo 14240. 

** You may notice that there is a boys basketball score in today's paper which doesn't have a box score. Reminder to coaches when you call in your information -- we need all scorers in the game and we print their last names and total points. We also print the halftime score, the three-pointers and BOTH teams' records.

---Keith McShea

Research material: Final four football

We've clicked our way to quite a few places researching the story and capsules in today's paper, so you don't have to!

• • •

To get us started, the basics: Get the full tournament picture, including who is on the other side of each bracket, at the official NYSPHSAA football brackets. If you like helmets, here's a site that will make you want to buckle your chin strap.

Of course, our stories are listed at our high school home page while live blogging accounts of the Far West Regionals (and the Section VI finals before that) are available via the links at the right.

Being that all the Section VI teams are playing teams from Section IV (my editors have caught me transposing my Roman numerals around a few times this week), the comprehensive Section IV football site -- run by a super-fan -- is a must-click. So is the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin's high school football home page, which features videos, stats and rosters for all teams (albeit in an awkward pop-up).

• • •

Class AA

Jamar Smith of Binghamton is 12th on the state's all-time rushing list and counting, reports the Binghamton Press & Sun Bulletin.

Here's how the Press reported Binghamton's regional win over Henninger, while here's the Syracuse Post-Standard's take.

Key quote, from Binghamton coach Mike Ramil, was not about Smith, but about quarterback Ahmed Hassanien: "I told Ahmed, 'You're going to be the difference in us winning or losing this game,' " Ramil said. "I told him at halftime, I told him before the game: 'You are going to be the one who carries us.' "He carried us."

Here's the Binghamton's follow-up look at the Patriots' second-half comeback -- they had trailed, 14-6. Binghamton got the best of Henninger's speed, which was the focus of the preview story.

Key sentence, emphasizing the Patriots' weapons: "Hassanien has ... proven more than capable of turning around a football game. When he drops to pass, chances are 6-foot-4, 230-pound Nate Papso will be in his sights."

• • •

Class A

Talk about balanced coverage -- in feature stories this week, the Corning Leader focused on West's offensive line while the Elmira Star-Gazette went with a story on its defense.

Key sentences on the defense: "In its 28-26 state quarterfinal win over New Hartford, the defense was able to mount a pass rush on quarterback Mike Doyle, whom Johnston said may be the best quarterback his team has faced all season. The Vikings intercepted Doyle two times, knocked down the potential game-tying pass on a fourth-quarter two-point conversion try."

Key quote on the defense by coach Mike Johnston: "Our line isn't the biggest, but we try to use our quickness. [6-foot-5 Nick] Dobson was our leading tackler last year. But this year we're stunting a lot more and he moves around. We changed our terms and made the system simpler for the kids to understand. So now they play more aggressive. We bring somebody new on almost every play."

Here are the reports on West's regional win from the Star-Gazette (here's the preview) and the Corning Leader. Here's West's Section VI final win by the Star-Gazette (actually written by Gannett-owned brethren Binghamton) and the Leader.

Schedule audit: Corning West's only loss was 28-6 to Maine-Endwell, which it avenged with a 12-8 win in the Section IV final.

• • •

Class C

* Here's how the Elmira Star-Gazette saw Elmira Notre Dame's regional win over Westmoreland.

Key paragraph: "Notre Dame scored on every first-half possession but one, and that was quarterback Joe Thurber taking a knee on one play to end the half. The Crusaders produced scoring drives of 80, 64, 86 and 56 yards to take a 34-15 lead into intermission.

Here's the private school Crusaders' victory in the sectional final over Greene as reported by the Star-Gazette. Key sentence: "[END] limited a team [Greene] that had scored 30 points or more in all but one of its previous games to single digits.

Here's a preview story of the regional game. Key sentence: "As the season wears on, Notre Dame's lack of players could start to make a difference. When the Crusaders have their 11 players in the field, there are fewer than that on the sideline with [Mike] D'Aloisio and his coaches."

Schedule audit: Elmira Notre Dame's two losses were to eventual Section IV Class B champion Waverly (20-8) and Section VI Class D finalist Groton (34-16)

• • •

Class D

* Walton has it's own comprehensive site. It includes tons of information. Here's Walton's roster.

Click on the "Walton defeats Dolgeville in quarters" headline on the home page and it shows you three advance stories and three game stories from the Oneonta Daily Star, the Binghamton Press and Utica Observer Dispatch. Whoa.

Here are some of the links anyway:

Today's Binghamton advance details the contrast in styles of the two teams. Key quote: "We haven't run into a team like this in a while," Walton coach Jim Hoover said of Maple Grove. However, he added, "But I don't think they've run into a team like ours in a while."

Scroll down in this Binghamton story to read about how Walton handled its first deficit in two seasons -- the Warriors never trailed in winning last year's state championship. Key quote: ""Everybody got spoiled by last year a little bit," Hoover said.

Here's how the Oneonta Daily Star saw Walton's 44-21 win over Dolgeville in the regional. Key quote: "They're big," Dolgeville coach Chris Connolly said of the Warriors. "They are just so big. I couldn't get over the size. I saw them last week, but they got bigger. They are just so big."

• • •

Don't forget to vote in this week's polls. I'll have my votes and picks later. 

---Keith McShea

Who's the best team in New York?

I thought New York's presence in the national polls might get a little shaken up after Sweet Home beat Aquinas. There remains just one team from New York in several national rankings.

* Orchard Park remains No. 8 in the USA Today East regional rankings.

* Orchard Park also earned a spot in another poll -- the Quakers are ninth in the Northeast Region of the National Prep Poll. Aquinas used to be that poll's pick from New York.

* ESPNRise.com has Iona Prep of New Rochelle 17th in its East Region; Iona Prep replaced St. Anthony's of in those rankings after it defeated the Long Island power.

* Yahoo's Rivals 100 gets some de-merits for this week. It still has Aquinas ranked 17th in the Atlantic East despite the Little Irish's loss to Sweet Home. Just for the record, the 17th spot in the Atlantic East puts Aquinas just outside the top 100 (Shawnee of New Jersey is ranked 16th in the Atlantic East and 100th in the national poll).

National polls for high schools are certainly a tricky thing. Yahoo has a story about the perceptions of different states as it relates to rankings. And no, New York is not mentioned (nor should it be, really).

The interesting thing this year is that only one New York teams has been ranked in any of these polls, so it's fun to try and figure out who should be that representative. It's especially of interest for Western New York fans because it's rare that one, much less two, local teams have a legitimate shot at that distinction.

Orchard Park and Sweet Home are ranked first in their respective classes in this week's state sportswriters rankings. Orchard Park is first in AA, followed by fellow undefeateds Monroe-Woodbury of Section IX and Iona Prep.

I think at this point, Orchard Park, Class A No. 1 Sweet Home and Iona Prep would have to be the candidates for best in the state, with OP getting the edge over Monroe-Woodbury due to it being ranked first in the state AA poll all season long. Iona Prep deserves consideration because it beat St. Anthony's.

Let's take a moment and realize how special this high school football season has been in Western New York. There are not only four teams chasing state titles, but two teams which have a legitimate claim as being the best team in the state and thusly deserving of placement in national polls. That's something that's never come up in the 10 seasons I've covered Western New York high school football.

Which brings us to Who's No. 1 -- not in the state, but in The News large school poll! Who knows, it could be that the two questions end up having the same answer in a couple of weeks.

Orchard Park has deservedly been No. 1 all year, but Sweet Home's dominating postseason play and emphatic victory over a defending state champion and nationally-considered team like Aquinas gives them a case. As I said in this week's live chat, I'm somewhat glad there's no poll this week.

The polls are certainly secondary to the state championships the teams are chasing. The great part is that there's more football to watch, and the polls just might end up taking care of themselves.

---Keith McShea

Four in the final four -- who moves on?

Never before has Section VI had this many chances to win a state football championship.

But who will make the final?

Only twice in the previous seven years has a Section VI team made a state championship game -- Falconer lost the Class C final in 2006 while Randolph won the Class D crown in 2005. Here's a look at the all-time results of Section VI in the state football tournament. 

How many teams will make the championship game, and which team has the best shot?

My votes and a whole lot more coming soon.

---Keith McShea

Prep Talk live chat Week 11

---Keith McShea

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About Prep Talk

Keith McShea

Keith McShea

Keith McShea has covered high school sports at The News since his hiring in 1999. The 1995 University at Buffalo graduate and Long Island native (North Babylon Bulldogs) covers — and live blogs — everything from scrimmages to state championships & helps head The News' All-Western New York selections.

@KeithMcSheaBN | kmcshea@buffnews.com

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