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Preparing for preview with our own two-a-days

Orchard Park runs through some offensive drills. (Keith McShea/Buffalo News)

Photographer Mark Mulville and I are hitting the road today to get some work done for our football season preview in all sorts of ways -- we're recording interviews and taking pictures and videos at practices that will provide the material for my story, his pictures and our Web video.

OP's state championship sign is complete. (Keith McShea/Buffalo News) I'm working on a story for Tuesday's high school season preview section that focuses on the four state champions (shocker). We've managed to schedule stops at all four defending champs for today. Our morning session consisted of a starting at Orchard Park before heading up to rainy Sweet Home. The second half of our two-a-day practice will be on the Southern Tier when we stop by Southwestern and Maple Grove.

Rain made Sweet Home's practice a muddy one. (Keith McShea/Buffalo News)The weather was fine for the start of OP's 9 a.m. practice, with the sun hiding behind some overcast clouds. The practice started with a team meeting before the Quakers went into offensive groups.

Before practice I took a phone-photo of the now-complete state championship decoration on the maroon building next to OP's field. When I stopped by for the first day of practice, I snapped a picture of it for the blog and also wrote about in my story.

Then it was north to Sweet Home, where rain provided a wet drive. There was a steady drizzle for the last portion of the Panthers' first session of the day, which ended around 11 a.m. 

We're headed South in a little bit -- more to come later.

* * *

Let's just say we didn't pick the best day for a photo/video shoot.

We kept driving and it kept raining.

It was raining as we got off the Thruway and drove past Fredonia High's fields. It was raining as Mulville -- a Fredonia native and a Hillbilly alum -- took some backroads shortcuts. It was raining as we approached Chautauqua Lake and drove through Jamestown to Lakewood, the home of Southwestern. 

With the rain making it tough to do on-camera interviews, we talked to Southwestern coach Jay Sirianni and returning players Zack Sopak and Jason Carlson in the Trojans' weight room. The room is adorned with several motivational signs and posters, including one that you just might be reading about in Tuesday's preview story.  

The Trojans practiced on the grass practice field rather than their less-than-a-year-old turf stadium. The team started off with a lengthy set of sprints after which Sirianni would call out the times, then went right into a goal-line-type drill in which one ball carrier attempted to get past three tacklers. There were some tremendous hits punctuated by some priceless pad-popping sounds.

Southwestern is Trojan Tough, and is trying to remember to forget last year's title. There was also a sign of why Southwestern football has such great tradition. On a field adjacent to the varsity, a crew of what had to be modified players assembled. They appeared to all be half the size of Carlson, but they were going through a calisthenic exercise -- by themselves, led by captains and not a coach.

In between our two Southern Tier stops, Mulville provided me with a fine Southern Tier eating experience at Johnny's Lunch.

This place earned points right away when I saw the menu sign not only offered three (any combination of hot dogs and hamburgers) for $3.23, but it went all they way up to "60 for $62.93." I went with the one hot dog and one hamburger combo, both with Johnny's "everything," which meant onions, mustard and Johnny's special sauce, which is a meaty deal which is quite gravy-like. It was yummy.

Johnny's was kicking the old-school diner feel inside -- quite authentic since Johnny's Lunch has been around since 1936. Plus three TVs, great info about the history of the franchise on the walls (and tables), and a friendly.

Lunch at Johnny's Lunch. Yum. (Keith McShea/Buffalo News) There is a McDonald's directly across the street and a Burger King not too far away. I've been known to frequent those establishments from time to time, but if you go there instead of Johnny's, you best have a good reason.

I had never been to Southwestern, and also had never been to Maple Grove. On our drive up the hill to -- as the sign at the bottom of the hill says -- "Maple Grove Junior-Senior High School,"  I saw the football field and what must be an outstanding atmosphere on Friday nights.

We talked to Maple Grove coach Curt Fischer as well as returning standouts Chris Secky and Matt Fox. Maybe it was me, or maybe it was perhaps because Maple Grove had its JV on hand, but it seemed like Maple Grove had more players on its field than Southwestern did.

Like Southwestern, Maple Grove had some pad-popping hitting going on.

Speaking of, here's the quick -- very quick -- debut of PrepTalkTV (now available at YouTube):

The light drizzle necessitated some umbrella use over the video camera, but soon we were done with interviews, shot a "stand-up" (TV term) by yours truly that will close out the video piece, and we were on our way.

It wasn't until we hit Angola -- a few minutes ago at around 6:15 p.m. -- that we saw the sun all day. I'll be hitting the office to wring out my notebook and start to put together the goods for Tuesday's preview.

---Keith McShea


Fredonia | High school football | Maple Grove | Orchard Park | Southwestern | Sweet Home
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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 |