Every week a panel of voters participate in The News' large and small school football polls.
The poll doesn't start until next week, but that doesn't mean we can't give it a preseason shot.
With so few games played in football, and such turnover from year to year, I'm not sure there's a more shot-in-the-dark kind of thing than a preseason poll in this sport (which is probably why we don't do one).
My view of one season is always viewed in context of the last one. With that in mind, here's last year's final poll and here's our How The News voted blog post, and here goes nothing on the eve of the 2011 season:
1. St. Joe's (6-5 last year) [last year's final poll ballot: 4] -- We know they may not be the deepest team. But for a preseason in which we see six teams who could be put in this spot, and with significant questions about what most of those six have lost, we'll go with the squad which returns a major difference maker at quarterback.
2. St. Francis (4-7)  -- The top six is full of close calls, but we'll tuck the Red Raiders and another big-time recruit in Akeel Lynch right behind St. Joe's. Red Raider fans will always wonder how that championship game would have gone if Lynch hadn't sat out with an injury.
3. Clarence (10-1)  -- They graduated a lot, including terrific leaders on both sides of the ball, and there's the coaching change, but big Michael Gelz is back to run over people. And I can't see (at least right now) all the good things about a team that rampaged through last season suddenly disintegrating. And when it's close in these polls -- especially this attempt at a preseason lineup -- we always fall back on what has happened on the field: In this instance, last year's sectional final. That's enough in our book to keep them a half-step ahead of ...
4. Orchard Park (8-2)  -- ... the perennial power Quakers, who have their own bruising, breakaway RB back in Okoya Anderson. If there's balance in the passing game, and some Leavell-like defenders step up, look out.
5. Sweet Home (10-1)  -- "You're putting us here?!" says the Panther mascot (if it could talk). "We won 36 straight games, including two state titles, we end up losing to the eventual state champion in Aquinas, which also beat those two Monsignor Martin schools above us, and you put us here?!"
I hear you, Panther. What can I say: I had Sweet Home behind Clarence at the end of last year. Even with two-way quarterback Jordan Johnson back, and even though Sweet Home fills its graduation holes about as good as anyone, I just didn't feel great about putting them ahead of any of the top four.
6. Canisius (7-3)  -- The last of the top six which I think all have a defensible stance at being a No. 1. Mercer Timmis is back for the Crusaders, who could certainly win the Monsignor Martin this year. And if you're a contender for that title, this season especially, that makes you a candidate for No. 1.
7. Kenmore West (6-3)  -- Three major players back make them the best of the rest.
8. Williamsville South (9-1)  -- They graduated three all-time greats. But I think those expecting the Billies to drop off the table are getting carried away. Call it an endorsement of the coach and his staff.
9. Amherst (6-3) [NR] -- I know I was down on the Tigers' schedule last year (which is why I didn't rank them), but they have key people back, a key transfer in Justin Burke from St. Mary's, a coach who has had time to get familiar with WNY (Pat Murphy's fourth year) and some serious team speed. I keep them behind South for now; one of those I-gotta-see-it-to-believe-it-and-only-then-will-I-move-you-up-the-poll deals.
10. McKinley (6-3)  -- The Macks might be miffed they're behind an Amherst team which they beat in the playoffs on the road, but Amherst's key returners/transfers nudged them slightly ahead. Loved how McKinley competed with Sweet Home last year. We went with the Macks over city brethren Riverside.
1. Alden (10-1)  -- They were number one, they have a 200-win coach, and they still have a Stoldt at quarterback (sophomore Brian takes over for savvy Tyler).
2. Lackawanna (8-2)  -- Edged by Alden at the Ralph, great tradition despite the coaching change, and they still have a Smith at quarterback (Cameron takes over for Christian, who followed Capone). Full disclosure: I may be guilty being influenced by the Steelers' scrimmage. If thinking that Keith Taggard, Cam Smith, a big target at WR and some big boys in the middle will make Lackawanna super tough is wrong, I don't want to be right.
3. Depew (8-1)  -- You have to love what they've got back, including their QB and a huge man in the middle in Jaden Cotton. The Wildcats will be a popular preseason top pick. But this is where you've got to show me on the field. Depew has been highly rated but lost early in the playoffs (including at home to Lackawanna last year) the last two years.
4. Southwestern (9-1)  -- Like Sweet Home, they might be like, are you kidding me? The longest win streak in Western New York history, and a last-minute loss to Fredonia that was within our grasp leaves us down here? I hear you Trojans.
5. Fredonia (10-2)  -- Would love to keep the only Section VI state semifinalists higher on the list, but I can't after the graduation of first-team All-WNYer and two-way stud Shane Smith.
6. Pioneer (7-2) [NR] -- Great resurgence last year for the Panthers. Great offseason gift for the Panthers: No Lackawanna in the division anymore.
7. Silver Creek (10-1)  -- We'll keep the defending D champs (still boasting a Z-Williams in Zeddie after Zach's graduation) just ahead of the ...
8. Randolph (9-1)  -- ... Cardinals, who are an annual fixture in this top 10.
9. Burgard (6-3)  -- Bulldogs showed they belong as a small-school power last year.
10. Cleveland Hill (6-4)  -- Like the leadership of Daryl Spencer, who was injured for a key stretch last year. That keeps Cardinal O'Hara in the mythical No. 11 spot.
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taggedFootball | High school football