The actual poll starts next week, so this, just like everything in high school football the past two weeks, is just practice. That's right, we're talkin bout practice.
So much so that -- hours after we submitted a top 10 list for publication in the paper -- we have second thoughts about a bunch of this top 10, particularly the large schools. If most polls should be taken with a grain of salt, this one should be taken with 1/10th of a grain.
One final look back is here with the 2008 final poll, and here's our 2009 look forward:
1. Orchard Park (13-0 last year) [last year's final poll: 1] - A no-brainer to end last year, a no-brainer to start this year.
2. Sweet Home (13-0)  - They might not be the state championship-caliber team they were a year ago (last year's depth was phenomenal), but we still like them here.
3. North Tonawanda (9-1)  - A lot back from a team that gave OP a tough test. You could argue they could be No. 2. Preseason-wise, we clearly see the top three, then a bunch of more teams.
4. Iroquois (8-2)  - Call it scrimmage bias after being fairly impressed with them on their Field of Dreams. After how low I voted them last year, they shouldn't be up this high. But certainly a great year-after-year program that should be in the top 10.
5. Lancaster (6-3)  - Speaking of great year-after-year, here's another top 10 team. We eagerly await the battles of AA South.
6. St. Francis (4-6)  - They beat Canisius when it counted last year, so we gave them a slight edge here, as we did in last year's final poll. Yet another top program which should be in the mix. Another murderous schedule this year.
7. Canisius (6-4)  - On paper they lost a lot, but so did they teams ahead of them. Proof that Nos. 4-7 in this poll could be interchangable. This year their schedule might be just as murderous as Frannies' (both play Ohio's St. Ignatius, Rochester's Aquinas and Pennsylvania's Cathedral Prep).
8. Riverside (10-1)  - The Harvard Cup champions kept a lot of talent and welcomed top lineman Sean Mulhern of Canisius. With no nonleague games for Harvard Cup teams this year, it's pure guesswork how they stack up against the rest of Western New York. Talk about a poll headache.
9. Kenmore West (6-3)  - Here's a nod to the Blue Devils playing OP tough in the postseason (two losses at OP, one at NT). We err on the side of what you did last year, rather than offseason hype, and we reserve the right to change our mind once the teams hit the field :-).
10. Williamsville South (6-4) [NR] - A whole lot back from last year's team, so we'll throw the Billies in this spot, slightly edging out Grand Island, a top 10 team that's not in the top 10 (I have Frontier right after that at 12, for what it's worth). And well, would you look at this: Saturday afternoon -- Williamsville South at Grand Island.
1. Southwestern (13-0)  - Too many weapons back to not be in this spot.
2. Maple Grove (13-0)  - All signs point to these two being atop the poll for a while. But I guess that's why they play the games.
3. Lackawanna (10-1)  - We'll keep the Steelers up high despite the loss of Capone Smith. Like Iroquois, this might be a case of seeing Lackawanna scrimmage (and scrimmage well).
4. Fredonia (8-2)  - Another slot-them-in-from-last-year, although this year's schedule (C) might hurt them in the polls (to the bunch at B).
5. Cleveland Hill (8-1)  - A bunch back from a team that was a top three program last year until losing to Silver Creek in last year's semis.
6. Depew (6-3)  - When in doubt, rank the teams that are usually ranked.
7. Alden (8-1)  - Might be generous considering what they lost in graduation.
8. Cardinal O'Hara (6-4)  - Four Monsignor Martin small school titles in a row make them one of the best small schools. They looked it on Scrimmage Saturday, too.
9. Randolph (6-3) [NR] - Could make some noise Friday night at Maple Grove.
10. Cheektowaga (4-5) [NR] - You'd think these guys will be in the top 10 after dropping down from Class A. We shall see -- starting Friday when the Warriors host high-powered Medina.
Our small-school poll regret? Probably not making room for Burgard. We'll call them the small school version of Grand Island (the 11th top 10 team).
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taggedAlden | Burgard | Canisius | Cardinal O'Hara | Cheektowaga | Cleveland Hill | Depew | Fredonia | Frontier | Grand Island | Harvard Cup | High school football | Iroquois | Kenmore West | Lackawanna | Lancaster | Maple Grove | North Tonawanda | Orchard Park | Riverside | Silver Creek | Southwestern | St. Francis | Sweet Home | Williamsville South