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Countdown to Friday Night Lights: Class AA

By Keith McShea

Who’s who: The nine-team division consists of the Clarence Red Devils, Frontier Falcons, Jamestown Red Raiders, Kenmore West Blue Devils, Lancaster Redskins, Lockport Lions, Niagara Falls Wolverines, Orchard Park Quakers and West Seneca West Indians.

This year’s alignment shift: One of the major overhauls in Section VI this year is all of Class AA's teams playing out of one division, a move made after city schools Riverside and Hutch-Tech dropped down to Class A. For years, AA South has been one of the best leagues in the state, and it often overpowered the AA North come playoff time. Although not all teams will play each other (there are eight opponents and only six league games), North stalwarts like Kenmore West and Lockport will see a regular helping of those former South powers like Orchard Park, Jamestown, Frontier and Lancaster. Eight of the nine teams will make the playoffs, so the regular season serves just to eliminate one team and set the playoff seeds. 

Last year's champion: Lockport won AA North and lost in the sectional semifinals to visiting Orchard Park. Jamestown won AA South on a tiebreaker over OP. OP won the teams' rematch at The Ralph -- beating Jamestown in the final for the second straight season -- and went as far as a football team can go, losing to New Rochelle of Section I (Westchester County) at the Carrier Dome in the state championship game.

2012 rewind: There were some twists and turns in the always-competitive AA South, where Jamestown lost at Frontier one week before it knocked off OP at home in Week Six in one of the most dramatic games of the regular season. Jamestown took the top spot in AA South over OP on the head-to-head tiebreaker. OP, which had won a competitive season-opener at Lockport, again won there in the semifinals. Lockport, which won all of its AA North games and also dropped a close home nonleaguer to St. Joe's, survived an overtime game with Clarence (seeded fourth in AA South) in the quarterfinals. Clarence began the season with a very good win in the Carrier Dome over West Genesee, but its season spiraled the wrong way after quarterback and three-sport standout Mark Armstrong (who was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds last spring) was lost for the season due to injury.  

Last year's records: In AA North, Lockport 6-3, 4-0; Niagara Falls 4-5, 3-1; Kenmore West 3-6, 2-2; Hutch-Tech 1-3, 1-8; Riverside 1-8, 0-4. In AA South, Jamestown 8-2, 4-1; Orchard Park 11-2, 4-1; Frontier 6-3, 3-2; Clarence 5-4, 2-3; West Seneca West 4-5, 2-3; Lancaster 1-7, 0-5. 

2012 All-Western New York underclassmen: Orchard Park junior OL Adam Belica was a second-teamer. Jamestown junior RB DaQuan Hollingsworth and sophomore WR Zach Panebianco as well as Clarence junior WR Emaure Williams were named to the third team. Jamestown junior QB Jake Sisson was an honorable mention.

2012 all-league first-team underclassmen: In Class AA North, Kenmore West juniors RB Alex Price, DL Steve Kulik and DL LaQuan Salter, Lockport juniors DL Marshall Taylor and LB Moziah Townsend, Niagara Falls juniors LB Jaylin Smith and DB Amir Myles. In Class AA South, Jamestown sophomores WR Stephen Carlson and WR Zach Panebianco and juniors RB Da’Quan Hollingsworth and QB Jacob Sisson, Frontier juniors LB A.J. Licata and P Adrian Cannon, Clarence junior WR Emaure Williams and Orchard Park junior OL Adam Belica.

Pre-snap read: Much of last year's preseason conversation focused on Orchard Park and Jamestown, and it certainly will again. OP won the teams' rematch at The Ralph for the Section VI title, fending off a resurgent Jamestown program that has made great steps the last several seasons. Despite the loss of several key players, Orchard Park is expected to reload (as it always does). Jamestown, on the other hand, returns talented players at key spots. As last year's Frontier win over Jamestown showed, the conversation about this league certainly extends beyond that top pair. Lockport played OP tough twice last year and returns QB Dan Bronson, son of coach Greg. Frontier has knocked off teams at home before -- and it has thrown scares into OP over the years. Clarence should be dangerous with Williams. West Seneca West had a fine start last year. Lancaster could be poised for a turnaround. Considering that the classification lost two teams that went a combined 2-16, the combined Class AA might be poised to assume that among-the-best-leagues-in-the-state label that AA South owned for a decade or more. 

Week One (Sept. 6-7) must-see games: Four league games get things started with the top options probably Clarence at Frontier on Friday night and Lancaster at Kenmore West on Saturday. Orchard Park (at West Seneca West) and Jamestown (hosting Niagara Falls) should be big favorites. Lockport starts with a nice Niagara County nonleaguer with visiting Starpoint. 

Scrimmage Saturday: The first day teams could scrimmage other schools was Saturday. Review a live blog and 28 video highlights at the Prep Talk blog.

Prep Talk blog at buffalonews.com: Watch exclusive [BN]TheLockerRoom video of Canisius coach Rich Robbins' initial address to his team, look over the entire 2013 week-by-week schedule and watch #preptalkpreseason video interviews with 30 head coaches (with more to come). 

Live chats & PrepTalkTV: The first of the weekly Wednesday night live chats will be Sept. 4 at 9 p.m. at buffalonews.com. The PrepTalkTV schedule will be released soon.

The countdown continues: The final installment is the Monsignor Martin Association (Wednesday). Already published: A North (Monday), A Central (Sunday), A South (Saturday), B North (Friday), B South (Aug. 29), C North (Aug. 28), C South (Aug. 27), Class D (Aug. 26) and DD (Aug. 25). You can review them all at the Prep Talk blog.

Season preview coming Sept. 5: The annual preview issue will have capsules and schedules for all 78 teams in Western New York, along with feature stories, a must-see cover and everything else one needs to know about the 2013 season.

Attention coaches & ADs: As soon as they are determined, Section VI coaches need to send a roster — in spreadsheet form — to [email protected] Monsignor Martin coaches should email rosters to [email protected]

Friday Night Live at buffalonews.com: Every week, the place to monitor all of the Friday night action is BuffaloNews.com and the Prep Talk blog. We will have video reports, photos, live updates from several top games (including play-by-play from our premier matchup of the night) and you will again be a part of the team via Twitter: Tweet game updates with the #preptalkscores hashtag and those will appear in our live blog.

tagged

Clarence | Football | Frontier | High school football | Jamestown | Kenmore West | Lancaster | Lockport | Niagara Falls | Orchard Park | West Seneca West
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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 | [email protected]

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