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High school football: Day One from Lackawanna and Timon

Good news for Lackawanna fans. There's another kid named Smith at quarterback. No, not
Capone or Christian, but their younger brother, Cameron. And he's ready to carry on the family
tradition as signal-caller.

Cameron was one of 32 players who greeted the new season at Monday's first practice on the
field behind the school. He's only a sophomore and is 5-foot-10, 150 pounds, but he's got the
passion and pedigree to lead.

Capone was the 2008 Buffalo News Player of the Year while while Christian, who graduated
last May, was also first team All Western New York, at punter. Sounds like a lot of live up

"They just tell me to play my game, play my own style," said Cameron, who was a running
back last year on the junior varsity. "Just watching them since I was little, we would always
play football with our friends all the time. They tell me to come out here and practice hard.
My brothers were always a team in front of me, so I always watched their games and they always
watched me."

Cameron said he expects his main targets this season to be wide receivers Anthony
Mastrocicco, Shaquille Brooks and his cousin Mike Smith.

The Steelers used the first day of practice to work on basic bag drills, worked on agility,
and some basic install.

They are coming off an 8-2 season which included a berth in the Federation's Class B
championship, which they lost to Alden, 14-12.

Elsewhere, Charlie Comerford, a two-time all-WNY pick before graduating from Timon in 2001, began Day One as head coach of his alma mater, succeeding Al Monaco.

The Tigers have one of their better teams in many years with the addition of six or seven kids who didn't come out last year. But the school with 240 boys still has to contend with Canisius, St. Joe's and St. Francis.

"You need every athlete in the school to come out to be competitive. We have a tough schedule and every game we play will be an uphill battle, but we like it that way," said Comerford. "We've been working out for three days a week for three months, so the kids have been really dedicated. Frankly, they're sick of losing, so they've come out in good numbers and have made this transition real easy."

---Mary Jo Monnin

High school football: Day One from St. Joe's and St. Francis

Just got back from watching St. Joe's and St. Francis on their first day. Wasn't able to see any 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 stuff at either camp, but did get to speak with Joe's quaterback Chad Kelly and St. Francis running back Akeel Lynch.

Lynch and Kelly are regarded as the top two prospects in the area. Over the summer Kelly comitted to play at Clemson and Lynch comitted to Boston College.

Highlights from the summer for Kelly included meeting numerous NFL and college level quaterbacks and being named one of the best QBs in the country at the Elite Eleven camp in Malibu, Calif.

But on Monday Kelly was all about getting his team back to the Monsignor Martin championship game.

"I'm ready to win a championship again, hopefully we can repeat," Kelly said. "St. Francis, they reloaded, Canisius, they reloaded too. It's going to be a great league again this year and hopefully we can get back to another championship. Hopefully we get new chemistry with all these new players and hopefully they are ready to go."

St. Joe's has lost 16 players from last year's squad said heach coach Dennis Gilbert.

As for Lynch, he said he is hoping to be able to play a full 12 games this year. Lynch was forced to sit on the bench for the season's final six weeks because of a ruptured tendon in a finger on his left hand.

One of those six games just happened to be a loss to St. Joe's in the championship game.

"I only played half the season last year. My first goal is to just make it through the season," Lynch said with a laugh. "Then just take it one game at a time. We're trying to go and win every game, that's our goal."

Lynch also said that even though he is comitted to Boston College he still plans on looking at other schools before signing his letter of intent.

St. Francis coach Jerry Smith was pretty optomistic about his teams chances. He said that he thinks he has 22 solid players that he can rely on. As always with high school football though, Smith wondered about his teams depth.

I have to go write a notebook up for tomorrow's paper now, but check back here later. If some stuff doesn't make it into the notebook I might put it up here.


More from St. Francis

Continue reading "High school football: Day One from St. Joe's and St. Francis" »

High school football: Day One from Clarence

The defending Class AA Champions are off and running in Red Devils territory today with new coach Mark Layer. 

It's an exciting day for Layer, who is taking over for Tom Goddard.

"Last season is something that the kids will never forget but this is a new year," said Layer as his team warmed up. "My responsibility I think is just you know to carry on what the coaches here before have done. We're going to stick with the kinds of things that have been Clarence football. Offensively and defensively I learned from the coaches that were here before me. I played for them and coached with them for a long time so a lot of my experience is from them and I'm going to take that and try to do the best I can with it."

--Lauren Mariacher

High school football: Day One from Iroquois, Canisius and North Tonawanda

The Buffalo News is scattering across Western New York to bring you complete coverage of the first day of high school football practice.

I'll be making scheduled stops at Iroquois, Canisius and North Tonawanda throughout the day -- three schools with rich football histories and brand new head coaches. Well, somewhat all three, the new coach was promoted from within the program.

Stay tuned for updates, and feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section, or shoot me a tweet @samkilb.

8:26 a.m. After two false starts (some construction at the school threw me off...that's my story) I've spotted some guys with pads at Iroquois...let's see how they're handling day one.

8:45 a.m. Coach Marshall addressing both teams in the auditorium. He means business. No nonsense, high goals. I'll be speaking with him shortly.

9:00 a.m. Chalk talk in Iroquois, Marshall hands out playbooks...without a single play in them. The players have to draw them in themselves. Not a bad idea. (They have some terminology in them, Coach Marshall wanted to make sure I clarified. "They won't be blank by Friday," he said.)

9:35 a.m. New Iroquois coach Keith Marshall, who was promoted to this job from the school's JV team after previous Coach Payne stepped aside, said he expects the transition to go smoothly.

"It's been a busy, really exciting summer," Marshall, who moved up from junior varsity with about 30 players, said. "Moving up with them has been a bonus, especially in terms of familiarity with the offense, with the system, with the things that I expect on and off the field."

Marshall said there would be plenty of similarities in how he runs the program and how it was run before. "I learned an awful lot from Coach Payne, I worked with him for ten years and I have a termendous amount of respect for what he taught me," he said. "I'm about similar things in coaching. I'm about keeping the kids safe, being successful and having fun. And we're going to accomplish those three goals this year."

Marshall is going into his 11th year coaching at Iroquois, and as a result, he feels the transition has gone well. The players agree.

"He's been with the program for awhile now, and I've had him since modified," senior wide receiver Madison Wesolowski said. "So I know him, he knows the routine of what we do."

Senior lineman Brandon Vernen said the hard work in the summer paid off.

"I think it's going really smoothly," he said. "Both coaches have their similarities and differences. But Coach Marshall, he's very enthusiastic and he knows how to get the job done."

On the field, changes in personnel will lead to  different skill set for this years Iroquois team.

"We're going to be a smaller team, but faster," senior lineman Casey Erhardt said. He added that the team could certainly live up to Marshall's goal of being the smartest in the division. "All the juniors coming up really know their stuff...we're young, but we're also smart, and we're active, so it should be good."

Next stop: Canisius

Continue reading "High school football: Day One from Iroquois, Canisius and North Tonawanda" »

Big lineman the latest from Canada to Canisius

Western New York has become a hotbed for Canadian football transfers in the past couple of years.

It recently landed another big (emphasis on big) impact player, and this one hails from a town which takes much more than a hop over a bridge to reach.

Ryan Hunter is a reportedly a 6-foot-3, 319-pound lineman who has excelled in summer camps in Richmond, Va.; Delaware and Oklahoma -- and he'll be part of Canisius' first practice on Monday as he begins his junior year at the Buffalo private school.

Check out his story here in the North Bay Nugget (I like the name of the paper).

Canisius' starting quarterback the last two years was Canadian Travis Eman, who is being replaced by Canadian Chris Jugovich this year. Jugovich will be handing off many times to Canadian Mercer Timmis, one of the top running backs in Western New York football. 

Another of WNY's top backs is Akeel Lynch at St. Francis, another Canadian. The Red Raiders have also attracted players from Canada, who, like all others mentioned here, have been attracted to Western New York schools because playing American football in high school can lead to NCAA scholarships playing American football in college. That has been the case for Lynch (Boston College verbal) and Eman (Furman). 

A marked difference in Hunter is that while all the previously mentioned players have hailed from the greater Toronto area, he hails from North Bay, Ontario. North Bay is well north -- and I mean welllllll north -- of Toronto. The drive from North Bay to Buffalo is a six-hour one.

Here are some more details on Hunter: 

* A site called CanadaFootballChat has a nice feature on him.

* Here's a message board thread with info supplied by a fervent fan of his.

* And here's a youtube video of highlights. Get ready to feel sorry for the Canadian kids he's been throwing around:

This latest addition might prompt some moans about recruiting and this and that which we've heard here and there with this recent influx of Canadians.

I think that sort of thing is misguided. The bottom line is that Canisius and St. Francis have attracted students from Canada because they have good football programs. All sorts of private schools attract all sorts of students because those schools may excel in certain areas.

The move makes sense for the Canadians: They are coming to a place where they can better showcase their football skills against better competition and it already has shown that it can help them obtain college scholarships. 

The fact that it is making certain teams from Western New York better only increases the level of play in the area, and I think it benefits Western New York football as a whole.

---Keith McShea

(@KeithMcSheaBN on Twitter)

High school players mix with alumni in Niagara Falls summer league

On Wednesday nights this summer, nearly 40 current and former Niagara Falls basketball players mixed in an hour and a half of organized games as part of the first season of the Niagara Falls Alumni League. Here's a story on the league that ran in today's Niagara Weekend section: Hardwood reunion in the Falls.

Also, check out this video of the league in action:

--Lauren Mariacher

EA's Stan Wier verbally commits to UB hoops

Basketball standout Stan Wier has verbally committed to the University at Buffalo.

The East Aurora senior-to-be emailed me and said he picked UB's offer over those from The Citadel, Princeton, Cornell, Rhode Island and Colgate. Wier said more offers have come in since he turned heads playing for the Albany City Rocks at the AAU National Tournament in Orlando a few weeks ago.

"It feels absolutely unbelievable -- to grow up in Western New York, play here, win a Federation title and then be blessed with the opportunity to play for your hometown college on such a great team," said Wier, who said he also worked out with St. Bonaventure. "After a few visits with the coaches and players everything felt perfect.

"Several calls and offers had come in since the Nationals and I had made a lot of visits in July ... but nothing felt as good as everything UB has to offer. UB has a great squad and I believe the City of Buffalo is in for a big surprise and treat over the next few years."

Wier has had a well-traveled and impressive high school career that has come full circle. He was an All-Western New York honorable mention with East Aurora as a freshman; he was a second-team All-WNY pick in helping Nichols to the state Federation championship as a sophomore; last year he played with and against top talent at Indiana private school La Lumiere; this fall he makes his return to East Aurora.

Next year, he'll be at UB -- where he'll meet up with former Nichols teammate Will Regan, who is sitting out the upcoming season at UB following his transfer from Virginia after playing there as a freshman.

"I’m excited to reunite with my former teammate," said Wier. "Virginia must have been a great learning/growing experience for him and I can only wait to see how much he has improved."

Wier was listed at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds on La Lumiere's page. He is an obviously well-built shooting guard who has outstanding range. His outside shooting was a devastating factor in Nichols' run to the Federation title and I think it's very worthy of a Division I program (I thought that after his sophomore year). He also displayed some fine one-on-one defense and great competitiveness for Nichols during that championship season.

"It feels good to have this process complete," Wier said. "Over the years, I have made decisions that I hoped would make me a better basketball player. It wasn’t always easy leaving the new friends I made each year but playing for UB makes all the hard work and sacrifice worth it.

"I get the privilege to play for Coach Witherspoon and before that I am excited to play my senior year with my brother Cam and my friends at East Aurora. Coach [Chris] Koselny is demanding that all the players commit to being successful and EA is on the rise. All of us are working hard to get better. I went to the Buff State [Section VI championship week] games last year and remembered how exciting it was to play there with my older brother Thad [when Stan was a freshman]. I really hope Cam and I can share the same memories."

Wier elaborated (in a well-written email) about his reasons for selecting UB:

"Academics: UB is really a great academic institution. I think a lot of people take it for granted because it’s practically in their backyard and don’t realize how it measures up with the best in many ways.

Coaches/team chemistry: Coach [Reggie] Witherspoon and [assistant Jim] Kwitchoff are great guys. Their passion and intensity seemed a notch above. I have known [former standout and current assistant] Turner Battle for years: he is a great guy and was an amazing player. I am so excited to learn from him. As for chemistry: The UB team is a unit. They like each other, get along well and I just knew that I wanted to be part of them.

Win -- get to the NCAA Tourney. Coach Witherspoon has put together a great roster that has at least three other players of high major playing ability that could play for most any school in the country. Guys like Javon McCrea, Xavier Ford, Will Regan (everyone knows how good a player Will is), Dave Barnett [walk-on from EA] and other great players.

With this roster and the new guys coming in, I believe Buffalo will win the Mid-American Conference and could very well become the next Butler. Really, really excited for this opportunity.

Play: I have a strong passion for basketball and wanted to go to a school where I have a good opportunity to play as a freshman and have impact. I will be working hard as ever this next year and am really looking forward to getting involved with the team as early as I possibly can.

Coach: I am sure that after my playing days are over I want to be an NCAA coach. Coach Witherspoon has offered to take me under his wing, arrange some camps at other schools that I can work and involve me in the coaching process while I am at UB. I can’t thank him enough."

Wier's return to EA certainly makes for an intriguing storyline in the ECIC and Section VI, while being the latest local player to commit to UB provides another layer of excitement for Western New York basketball fans. It should be a fun hoops year -- and to think we've got a whole football season to go before that (starting Monday). 

And now, since I'm writing this from the Watkins Glen International media center, back to auto racing. :-)

---Keith McShea

(@KeithMcSheaBN on Twitter)

St. Joe's QB Kelly on ESPN tonight

St. Joe's quarterback Chad Kelly has had a busy -- and impressive -- summer, and you can catch some of what he's been up to tonight on ESPN.

The network has created a line of programming titled "Year of the Quarterback," complete with its own home page (currently Kelly is featured on that page's main photo; he's prominently featured as the fourth QB from the right side).

Tonight's 8 p.m. program focuses on the regional rounds of the Elite 11 -- a skills competition among high school quarterbacks. Next Friday at 8 there is a second program on the Elite 11 which focuses on the final 24-quarterback competition in Malibu, Calif. Kelly, a rising senior who has verbally committed to Clemson and is the nephew of Buffalo Bills Hall of Fame QB Jim Kelly, will also be part of next week's broadcast.

The 2011 season for Kelly -- and all of Western New York -- begins with Monday's first day of practice.

---Keith McShea

(@KeithMcSheaBN on Twitter)

Calling all football coaches: Send us your practice & scrimmage schedules

Attention football coaches: Practice starts Monday, and we want to know when you'll be out on the field.

Please email me your practice schedules. Please include the site, time and opponent(s) for your scrimmage on Aug. 27.

Thanks to those who have sent them in already. All head coaches should have received an email from me this week. If you didn't, contact me at We appreciate the help. 

---Keith McShea

(@KeithMcSheaBN on Twitter)

Monsignor Martin football semis at The Ralph

We received the finalized Monsignor Martin football schedule for this season today, and notable is that their semifinals will be held at Ralph Wilson Stadium on Nov. 11 or 12.

Good news is that obviously more teams will get the spotlight of playing at The Ralph. It's a nice move that goes along with the league going to a one-division, six-team format. Last year's large-school semifinals, held at school sites, had St. Joe's beating Canisius and St. Francis beating Bishop Timon-St. Jude. We'll have to see if Cardinal O'Hara or St. Mary's will be able to earn a semifinal spot this year; based on recent history, O'Hara would have a worthy shot. 

A bit of bad news for fans like this one -- Nov. 11-12 is also the Friday and Saturday of the Far West Regionals, which will be hosted at Rochester's Sahlen's Stadium.

The Monsignor Martin final -- on Nov. 18 or 19 -- will be at a site to be determined. The University at Buffalo, Buffalo State, All High Stadium and Depew are among those under discussion. All seem to be worthy choices. 

---Keith McShea

(@KeithMcSheaBN on Twitter)

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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 |