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Week Five Saturday with #PrepTalkLive: Sweet Home wins 65th straight vs. WNY at GI; Kenmore West upsets Frontier

By Keith McShea

Week Four Saturday is a fairly limited lineup, but there are some nice matchups, including a Class A North top 10 large school showdown of undefeated teams as Sweet Home heads to Grand Island at 2 p.m. I'll have play-by-play along with scoring and end-of-quarter updates via Twitter (with the hashtag #SHvGI).

Other 2 p.m. games we'll definitely be keeping an eye on: Frontier at Kenmore West in Class AA, Williamsville South at Williamsville East in Class A; St. Mary's at Canisius in Monsignor Martin Association action, and Lackawanna at Williamsville North in a nonleaguer. The day's last game has Eden at Olean in a game which may determine who will make the playoffs in Class B South.

We encourage you to tweet updates with the hashtag #preptalklive attached -- that's the quickest way for us to share the information through the live chat (tweets with that hashtag will automatically show up -- our old friend #preptalkscores will work as well). 

Our high school scoreboard page will have the final scores and details as soon as they are reported to us.

* * *

We'll be back next week with more #PrepTalkLive coverage. 

Video: #preptalkpreseason interviews with Grand Island, St. Francis & Lancaster

Photojournalist Harry Scull Jr. continued our #preptalkpreseason coverage with Scrimmage Saturday interviews with Grand Island, St. Francis and Lancaster coaches and players.

 

Countdown to Friday Night Lights: A North

By Keith McShea

Who’s who: The six-team division consists of the Grand Island Vikings, Kenmore East Bulldogs, Niagara-Wheatfield Falcons, North Tonawanda Lumberjacks, Starpoint Spartans and Sweet Home Panthers.

Continue reading "Countdown to Friday Night Lights: A North" »

Video: Lockport 53, Grand Island 42 (girls basketball)

The Lady Lions swept the season series from their Niagara Frontier League rival.

Bennett forfeits Week One win; Lafayette forfeits Week Two game

Buffalo Public Schools athletic director Aubrey Lloyd just notified me that two city schools have had to post forfeits in what is a very young football season.

Bennett has forfeited its impressive, season-opening 44-16 nonleague victory Saturday over Grand Island because it used an ineligible player. A player who had transferred from Lafayette participated in the game; while some of the player's paperwork had been completed, it had not been completed in its entirety, thus making him ineligible, Lloyd said. 

The paperwork has been completed and the player is now eligible to compete in Week Two. 

Lafayette has forfeited its Week Two game with Fredonia, which had been scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. Friday at All High Stadium. That forfeiture is a result of the suspension of 12 players for academic reasons.

"We have to do things the right way," said Lloyd. "It was a great game for [Bennett] the kids to win, a morale booster, and they're turning things around with a new administration and a new coach -- but the kids have to be eligible."

Regarding Lafayette's situation, Lloyd said: "It's about academics, that's what we're here for. We all support the principal [Naomi Cerre]. Academics come first. Students need to know that. If they don't achieve certain grades, they can't play or will be put on probation."

This is certainly a bummer for Bennett after starting the season with such a good win, but it was a nonleague game so it doesn't affect their playoff chances. It was merely a clerical error, and the player is now eligible, so one would think there wouldn't be any issues going forward. The re-enthused Tigers should still optimistic about the season.

The news regarding Lafayette is not totally surprising, considering the on-again, off-again status of not just the athletic program but the school itself. Here's hoping that the students involved improve their academics and earn their way back on the field. The forfeit doesn't affect Lafayette's playoff status either; the Mighty Violets were already ineligible for the playoffs this year because it was added to the Section VI schedule well after the leagues and schedule were set up. Lafayette's athletic program was thought to be defunct following last season. 

One aspect of Lafayette's forfeit this week that should be considered is that Fredonia is now without a game. I doubt they would be able to schedule some sort of contest at this juncture, and that is unfortunate for them.

Many a football coach has stressed to his team that players only have a certain number of opportunities to be a football player, to take the field with your teammates. In Section VI, the regular season lasts just seven weeks. Fredonia has unfortunately lost one of those opportunities due to a situation beyond their control. 

---Keith McShea

(@KeithMcSheaBN on Twitter)

buffalonews.com/highschools     facebook.com/preptalkblog     twitter.com/bufnewspreptalk

Live from Scrimmage Saturday: Seven stops and 24 teams (with 34 video highlights plus an episode of PrepTalkTV)

Cheektowaga and Eden line up on their first series with the Walden Galleria looming in the background. (Keith McShea/Buffalo News)

If it's the last Saturday of August, it must be Scrimmage Saturday, and we must be on our way to seeing as much football action as we can.

We'll be bopping around Western New York today -- as we have the last two years -- to catch as much football as we can in a limited time.

Disclaimer/explainer: Regular visitors to the blog know how much I love it when fans cite scrimmages as evidence for one team being better than another during the regular season, especially when it comes to the discussion of our polls. Just because I'm interested in all of the scrimmages (and getting to as many as I can), and learning about teams and players, they are still scrimmages. Once the season starts, I don't want to hear about them. :-)

If you're out and about like we are today, we want your reviews and breakdowns of what you saw. Keep it in context -- try and notice which first-team units are out there and what the teams are trying to do. Be sure to comment here our on our Facebook page, tweet us at @KeithMcSheaBN or send an email.

8:34 a.m. We are on our way. I met up with photographer Mark Mulville at One News Plaza and we're headed to Cheektowaga for our kickoff.

Eden, Springville, Tonawanda and West Seneca East are visiting Cheektowaga. We're planning a quick stop before heading nearby to Cleveland Hill. 

9:22 a.m. Great start to the day for us -- and for Eden. The Raiders, known for their ground-and-pound-and win formula, threw for two touchdowns against Cheektowaga -- including one on the first play of the scrimmage! -- and added in another touchdown as we were leaving. 

We were on hand for some warmups before things got started, with Tonawanda coach Rob Gross asking his team, quite loudly, "What's this half-speed!? Why are we doing anything half speed?!"

After a fairly lenghty prepractice address by the officials, we got started as the head referee said, "Rock and roll, Scott," to Cheektowaga coach Scott Zipp.

And early misstep by Cheektowaga against Eden prompted a "Do your job!" admonition from an assistant coach to a player.

On the other half of the field, West Seneca East scored a TD against Tonawanda. 

And let's go to the video:

Above is our first play of our season as West Seneca East got things off and running against Tonawanda. 

Talk about a great start for Eden. This is their first play as their offense went against Cheektowaga. 

A nice run for Eden.

9:30 a.m. Just about to pull in to Cleveland Hill. (Reminder for any hey-buddy-keep-your-hands-on-the-wheel fans: Mulville is driving).

9:37 a.m. iPhone update from Cleve Hill, where they haven't started due to Silver Creek being late. This may screw up some of our travel plans. We'll see.

9:48 a.m. Official addresses teams: "Next week it starts for real, today's for fun."

10:24 a.m. Back in Mulville's Honda heading north to Lockport. It's a super bummer that Cleve Hill was behind because we're a half hour off the ideal schedule I had set up for the day. That's alright. Every game (and every assignment) isn't going to go as planned and you've got to make those key adjustments, right? 

On the bright side, we saw the first-stringers for all four teams at Cleve Hill. The defenses ruled the first round as a fired-up Silver Creek unit bottled up Burgard and the Cleve Hill defense kept Cardinal O'Hara out of the end zone. 

Daryl Spencer had a nice sack for a big loss for Cleve Hill on defense, then looked very good with some rollout completions on offense. Zeddie Williams, who should be the feature back after the graduation of older brother Zach, looked solid out of the backfield for Silver Creek. Burgard also had some very solid run stops. 

Here are the top videos from Cleve Hill:

10:36 a.m. It's a long trip to Lockport. We're just on to Transit from Millersport & the I-990. Six top programs in action up at Emmet Belknap Intermediate: St. Francis, Sweet Home, North Tonawanda, Williamsville South, Grand Island and the host Lions. 

Trying to plot out a backup plan -- a main stop for us is Orchard Park, which is hosting Canisius in a scrimmage that started at 10.

11:02 a.m. Got to Lockport in time to catch the tail end of Jordan Johnson of Sweet Home leading the offense against Will South. Johnson and Sweet Home looked to be moving the ball fairly effectively -- he had a touchdown pass to the far left side of the field called back on a penalty. We didn't see a ton of Sweet Home against Will South but we saw a few more plays against Lockport. 

Williamsville South and Grand Island were paired up on the other end and there were some hard hits, including a busted play for South that almost resulted in a hit on coach Kraig Kurzanski, who was in the customary coaches' spot behind the huddle. 

St. Francis finished strong on defense against Grand Island and then paired up with North Tonawanda. I caught the second half of that pairing, with NT making some nice stops on defense. 

Here's our best video from Lockport:

11:31 a.m. We're on the road again, heading south and hoping to fit in a stop at Riverside but that might not be a great decision with OP are key final stop. 

11:37 a.m. Just talked to PrepTalkTV partner Lauren Mariacher at Canisius. The first-stringers are done there -- she has video and interviews from there so I might not go down there. I think we'll head to Riverside.

11:40 a.m. Just checked in with Lauren again. Canisius and OP will be on the field for another hour, so Mark and I are going to squeeze in a visit to Riverside, which is hosting McKinley, Bishop Timon-St. Jude and Maple Grove.

Even if we stay just a few moments, we'll be able to get some video, photos and some looks at the teams. Right now we've seen 14 teams in three stops.

With Scrimmage Saturday, it's certainly about quantity, not quality.

11:54 a.m. And JUST when we think we've come up with a great plan, we pull into the Riverside parking lot and pass a kid wearing orange-and-black carrying his shoulder pads out. 

"That's not a good sign," says Mark. 

It wasn't. The Riverside field was empty.

The kid was from McKinley. Arghhhhhhh.

If I wrote what I'm feeling right now, I'd get an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Maybe two.

Off to OP. Arrrrrrgh. Sigh.

1 p.m. We caught the very end of the Canisius scrimmage at Orchard Park, did some interviews and filmed an intro for PrepTalkTV. Lauren Mariacher is working on that and it'll be posted later today. 

I'm headed back to One News Plaza to get some more videos and details posted before heading out to evening scrimmages at Iroquois and Amherst. 

More updates to come ...

3:02 p.m. Here is the finished PrepTalkTV product (now starring on the buffalonews.com home page):

3:49 p.m. I've posted a bunch of video here, and I'll have more to come from the six-team Lockport scrimmage as well as some from my next two stops -- Iroquois and Amherst.

4:26 p.m. Hello from the awesome back field setting at Iroquois.

Iroquois' practice field is way behind the school. And I mean wayyyy behind.

5:40 p.m. Note to football coaches and athletic directors. If you want Prep Talk hanging out at your scrimmage for a long time, have it at night :-).

Got a good long look -- along with the Prep Talk blog's "Milt Latimer" -- at Lackawanna, Frontier, Iroquois and Niagara-Wheatfield, seeing all of their first-strings go at in in their second go-round of '1's.

Lackawanna was very impressive with Keith Taggart leading the way not only at running back but on defense. Some big hits there.

Niagara-Wheatfield sure looked the part, sporting uniforms which looked ready for gameday, right down to every player's pulled-up red calf socks with a black Falcon logo on them. Coming off a winless season and with a new coach in Tim Hagerty, the program looks like it has a little spark. The sideline was extremely into the final offensive session against Iroquois in the first go-round.

Iroquois and Frontier both had good spurts in their session against each other, some nice run stuffs and scoring drives. Frontier got a spark on its offensive series after it made a change at quarterback.

It looked like a productive scrimmage for all four teams.

Here are the video highlights, which were included the best stuff I saw all day:

With six stops and 20 teams seen, now I'm off to Amherst for the final stop of the day.

6:25 p.m. Arrived at Amherst, which is hosting West Seneca West, Kenmore East and Hutch-Tech.

7:09 p.m. Saw some nice play at Amherst's Dimp Wagner Alumni Field, where it appeared that the hosts were the top unit -- not too surprising based on last season and the Tigers' returning experienced players, but certainly impressive nonetheless. Amherst is very fast, and they showed it off on both sides of the ball against a West Seneca West unit that made a few unforced errors, including some turnovers on offense. The Tigers had one player sprint from the backside to chase down a run, and also sped to big gains off of short passes.

Hutch-Tech had some nice run stops and moved the ball better than Kenmore East did in their two series.

The highlights:

And check this out -- I call it a day and walk off the field, and as I walk out of the gate, I run into Tonawanda coach Rob Gross. He was the first coach I saw this morning, and the last coach I see as I leave. Can't make this stuff up.

I think that gives us a very strong finish to our Scrimmage Saturday -- looks like we're ready to go for next weekend.

* * *

Also check out a photo gallery by Mulville.

---Keith McShea

(@KeithMcSheaBN on Twitter)

buffalonews.com/highschool     facebook.com/preptalkblog     twitter.com/bufnewspreptalk

Playing catch (up) with some summer hoops

I had a summer break that started as soon as the 2010-11 season concluded, and now I'm back -- and here to throw some notes out regarding some summer news and notes ... 

* Late in the spring season we told you about the BCANY Hoops Festival set for Johnson City from Aug. 5-7. The event seems like a great one, and it's one that came about due to the unfortunate absence of the Empire State Games this summer. 

The roster has been selected by the coaching staff of head coach Larry Jones (Depew) and assistants Mike Haskell (retired Pioneer) and Mike Berkun (Medaille):

Reggie Agbeko (St. Joe's), Stan Wier (who has transferred back home to East Aurora), Sterling Taplin (Williamsville North), Ryan Whelpley (Walsh), Matt Hart (Canisius), Aaron Frasier (Seneca), Aaron White (Canisius), Jamaal Carter (City Honors), Adam Weir (Canisius), Jordan Williams (Bishop Timon-St. Jude).

Alternates are: Matt McDonald (Canisius), Demone Harris (Timon), Kyle Kobis (Timon), Derrick Sekuterski (Depew).

The team will play Long Island on Friday, Aug 5 at 4:30 p.m. On Saturday, Aug. 6, the Buffalo team plays New York City at 9 a.m. and Hudson Valley at noon. Saturday's evening session includes a dunk contest and three-point contest at 4:30 p.m.; a parent clinic on recruiting at 5:30 and a player clinic with college coaches at 6:30.

The event concludes on Sunday, Aug. 7 with the seventh-place game (9 a.m.), fifth-place game (10:30 a.m.), consolation (noon) and championship (1:30 p.m.).

While the event is being run by BCANY, there are some expenses that will need to be covered for teams and players (food, lodging, transportation -- costs mostly taken care of by the ESG during the Games). The squad is seeking sponsorships -- if you are interested in helping the team defray some costs, call Jones at (585) 746-8327.

This team deserves some serious commenting -- that squad is a really good one, a much better collection than I expected for what is a startup event this year. Great talent, great depth, great mixture of schools. Excellent job by the basketball community in getting the word out and credit the coaching staff for what must have been some difficult choices after the tryouts. 

* Speaking of some good hoops competition, this weekend might be the Taste of Buffalo but fans can get a taste of hoops up in Niagara Falls. Some top programs are in action at the Niagara PAL Team Camp at Niagara Falls. Here's the lineup: 

Friday: 5 p.m. -- Main gym, Niagara Falls vs. Canisius; Aux. gym, St. Joe's vs. Niagara-Wheatfield; 6 p.m. -- Batavia vs. Grand Island; Aux. gym, Wilson vs. Holland; 7 p.m. -- Main gym, Jamestown vs. Sweet Home.

Saturday: 9 a.m. -- Main gym, St. Joe's vs. Niagara Falls; Aux. gym, Canisius vs. Jamestown; 10 a.m. -- Main gym, Sweet Home vs. Wilson; Aux. gym, Batavia vs. Niagara-Wheatfield; 11 a.m., Main gym, Grand Island vs. Holland.

Single elimination tournament begins at noon, with championship at 5 p.m.

There is a $2 admission for fans 13 and older.

* I will hopefully hit some summer events of all sorts -- I'll be soon selling raffle tickets to benefit the Tom Borrelli Award and Scholarship Fund. We have some great prizes and it's a great cause as we continue to honor our fallen coworker. 

The third Borrelli Award for boys and the inaugural Borrelli Award for girls will be announced later this month and the winners will receive their trophies at the July 27 Tom Borrelli Golf Tournament at Holland Hills. For those interested in golfing ($100 per person) or donating, please email me at kmcshea@buffnews.com. 

* By the way, the spring All-WNY teams and all-league teams (for baseball, softball and boys and girls lacrosse), which have been published over the last month, have all been collected at the high school home page.

---Keith McShea

(@KeithMcSheaBN on Twitter)

buffalonews.com/high-schools     facebook.com/preptalkblog     twitter.com/bufnewspreptalk

Grand Island girls fall to Peekskill

Peekskill was the better girls basketball team on this day, but the Grand Island faithful is entitled to a few “what ifs.” GI lost to Peekskill, 41-34, in the Class A New York State semifinals played on Friday in Troy.

Without doubt the biggest “what if” is Kallie Banker’s three-point shot that was waved off by a game official who ruled the 30-second shot clock had expired. Granted, GI had its share of clock management issues dealing with Peekskill’s press, but this one was close to say the least.

Grand Island was trailing, 32-27, when Banker got free at the top of the circle and let one fly. Swish. But the official who was closest to the play, waved it off. The call gave coach Jenepher Banker, who had picked up a technical the quarter before, another reason to question the refs.

"All I could hear was the whistle, but it was already through the bottom of the net. And that was a crucial basket,” she said.

Peekskill’s Jazmin Garcia scored the game’s next points and GI would get no closer.

“Oh yeah, that was in the basket” said Kallie, who fouled out with 22 seconds left. “They didn’t seem to like us very much.”

* * *

Here's our PrepTalkTV coverage from Friday.

-- Mary Jo Monnin

Saturday Afternoon Live: Aquinas routs Canisius, 40-16; Sweet Home wins big at GI

After all that went down during Friday night's action, we could be in store for a fun Saturday. 

I'm starting the day at Grand Island, which is hosting Sweet Home in a matchup that always seems to be entertaining (the game is on WGR 550 AM). Afterwards I'll head to Canisius' Stransky Complex in West Seneca, where the Crusaders are hosting Rochester power Aquinas in a 3 p.m. start. I might leave early depending on how this first half goes.

2:01 p.m. We've kicked off.

2:23 p.m. Sweet Home has a 6-0 lead. On third-and-goal from the 9, Jordan Johnson rolled right and patiently waited before passing to the right side to Nick Spidell, who made a nifty move and then took a hit as he broke the plane. Steve Stapleton's extra point kick was wide left. We have just over a minute left in the first quarter.

2:26 p.m. We are at the END OF THE FIRST QUARTER with Sweet Home leading Grand Island, 6-0. GI faces fourth-and-23 at its 13.

2:31 p.m. GI's Nate Benoit makes a great save of a bad snap to avoid a safety and get away a punt, but Sweet Home took advantage of the good field position.

On third-and-1, Ralph Neasman turned his first-down run into a TOUCHDOWN run by scooting through a nice lane to the right, bouncing off a tackler to gain the right sideline, then got a good block and did well to fend off a tackler with one arm while reaching the ball across the goal line for the score. On the two-point conversion try, Johnson passed to the left flat to K.J. Zinermon, who had great blocking and tunnelled in to the end zone. With 10:19 left in the second quarter, Sweet Home leads Grand Island, 14-0.

2:44 p.m. Another short possession for GI, which had two passes dropped and then turned the ball over on an interception by Nick Spidell of Sweet Home, and another scoring drive for Sweet Home. 

Spidell has starred today -- he took an inside handoff after going in motion from right to left, then sprinted to the left side and outran the defense to the left pylon for a 21-yard TOUCHDOWN with 5:46 left in the second quarter. The two-point conversion is missed when Johnson's pass sails out of bounds. Sweet Home leads Grand Island, 20-0.

2:54 p.m. Another TOUCHDOWN for Sweet Home as Mikal Coleman burrows in out of Sweet Home's tight "Big Bird" package for a 1-yard score with 45.9 seconds left in the second quarter. Stapleton adds the extra point and Sweet Home has a 27-0 lead at Grand Island.

3 p.m. It is HALFTIME and Sweet Home leads Grand Island, 27-0. I'm heading to Canisius' game, especially with a 20-minute half here (at least) for senior day. 

3:38 p.m. Hello from Canisius' Stransky complex, where Aquinas just took a 16-10 lead as I walked in.

UPDATE I got en route from John Hickey at Williamsville North: North leads Niagara Falls, 21-14, at halftime. When I got out of the car, Sweet Home had just intercepted Grand Island's first possession of the second half.

3:49 p.m. Aquinas adds a 26-yard FIELD GOAL by Eric Terhaar in the final minute of the second quarter and the Little Irish lead Canisius, 19-10.

An interesting situation here as an Aquinas fan with a cowbell (which was discussed in this week's chat!) was approached by a West Seneca police officer in an effort to have her move her location in the Canisius bleachers -- just to the right of the press box in front of me. The fan, wearing the 74 of Jarron Jones and I'd have to guess it is his mother, moved down to the front row and is continuing to cowbell it up. Some Canisius adult fans/parents -- including one with a cowbell -- yelled at her to go to the other side of the field, where mostly maroon-clad Aquinas fans have filled up the visiting bleachers. Ahh, the joys of high school sports.

3:53 p.m. We are at HALFTIME with Aquinas leading Canisius, 19-10. Canisius' last-minute drive didn't go far, similar to their previous drive. Quarterback Travis Eman is under serious pressure while the Little Irish have cut down Canisius ball carriers in the backfield a few times.

UPDATE via WGR's online broadcast: Sweet Home leads Grand Island, 34-6, entering the fourth quarter.

4:10 p.m. We've kicked off the second half here with Aquinas receiving the kickoff.

UPDATE from Sal Constantino of Niagara Falls: North leads, 27-14, with seven minutes left.

4:13 p.m. Aquinas with a great start to the second half after a great play. Mike Messina took a reverse handoff, running left to right and around the side for a 56-yard TOUCHDOWN. Before the play, I believe the Aquinas quarterback went out to the wide reciever spot to the right and exchanged with a wideout. After the shift, Messina came running in motion from the left. Nice play. Terhaar adds the extra point and Aquinas has a 26-10 lead with 10:22 left in the third quarter. That drive was only three plays.

4:17 p.m. Canisius has a sign of life on its next drive as Mercer Timmis breaks out a 59-yard run, weaving his way down the field, but on the next play, a first down at the Aquinas 27, the Little Irish come up with an interception by Chris Bostick -- who made a great play and will take over at their 1 wtih 8:09 left in the third quarter.

UPDATE from photographer Mark Mulville at today's big rivalry game: Kenmore West leads Kenmore East, 14-6, at halftime.

4:22 p.m. Aquinas forced to punt from deep in its territory, a bad snap leads to a poor punt and Canisius takes over at the Aquinas 27 with 6:17 left.

4:27 p.m. UPDATE from Prep Talk blog Hall of Famer Centercourt: Wilson 27, Newfane 14.

We have a timeout here with 2:40 left in the third quarter -- Canisius had first and goal at the 7 but has moved backwards since then as Aquinas has been all over the Crusaders. It is now fourth-and-goal from the 22.

4:30 p.m. Aquinas takes over at its 22 with 1:50 remaining in the third. On fourth down Travis Eman's pass went incomplete after he was hit as he threw -- more pressure from Aquinas.

FINAL from Grand Island: Sweet Home wins, 34-6.

4:34 p.m. At the END OF THE THIRD QUARTER, Aquinas leads Canisius, 26-10. Aquinas has a first down at the Canisius 41.

4:43 p.m. Canisius got the ball back at its 24 with 8:13 left by stopping Aquinas on a fourth down, but needing a quick scoring drive, the first play was disastrous. Eman ran to the right on a keeper but was stuffed by the Aquinas defense and fumbled -- sophomore Jake Guy got a hold of the ball and ran it about 18 yards for a TOUCHDOWN. The extra point by Terhaar gives Aquinas a 33-10 lead at Canisius with 8:04 to play. 

4:50 p.m. Canisius' next drive ends with a punt, which was returned well by Aquinas to start at the Canisius 21, and they soon went in for another TOUCHDOWN. Messina runs in the left side from 4 yards out and Terhaar adds another kick to give Aquinas a 40-10 lead over Canisius with 4:07 left in the game.

Canisius scored on its first two drives but did not score after that.

4:59 p.m. Canisius adds a late touchdown as backup quarterback Chris Jugovic hits Theo Russell for an 18-yard score. The extra point misses. Aquinas leads Canisius, 40-16, with 15.8 seconds left.

5:02 p.m. We have a FINAL SCORE: Aquinas 40, Canisius 16.

Third impressive win for Aquinas over a Monsignor Martin school this year (home vs. St. Joe's, at St. Francis) and second straight big loss for Canisius. 

I'm heading down for interviews and then back to One News Plaza.

* * * Check out our scoreboard from today's games. * * *

* * *

As always, we want to hear from you about the games you saw. Tell us what you thought of the teams, the players -- even the concession stand -- via the comments section below.

---Keith McShea

buffalonews.com/high-schools     facebook.com/preptalkblog     twitter.com/bufnewspreptalk

Live from Scrimmage Saturday: Six sites, 22 teams and one battle of state champs (with video)

It's Scrimmage Saturday for high school football in New York State -- the first day teams can scrimmage against others this season -- and we'll be hitting the road to catch the action.

Cleveland Hill's offense lines up against Cardinal O'Hara as Scrimmage Saturday gets started. (Keith McShea/Buffalo News) News Web reporter Joseph Popiolkowski and I are going to visit a few scrimmages today.

Check here for updates of what we've seen; we'll also be putting together an episode of PrepTalkTV about our travels. I'll also post some phone videos of my own.

8:48 a.m. There are a ton of scrimmages today, but our first will be Cleveland Hill, which is hosting Burgard and Cardinal O'Hara at 9 a.m. Then it's up to Lockport for a huge six-team meeting.

9:03 a.m. We traversed our way through North Buffalo to Cleveland Hill to see Burgard warming up on a practice area and O'Hara and Cleve Hill going at it on the main field (which appears to be getting some upgrades -- newly paved asphalt and concrete is taped off in some areas).

It is sounding more and more like football season with coaches yelling and pads popping.

It doesn't take long for O'Hara coach Angelo Sciandra to find midseason form. After a play didn't go the way he wanted, he exclaimed from behind the line of scrimmage: "Are you kidding me?!!? You've GOT to be kidding me!!"

The parents were ready to go as well. A Cleveland Hill run play against O'Hara invoked cries of "Get him! Get him!" by a mom.

9:16 a.m. After a series between O'Hara's defense and Cleve Hill's offense (in which Joe Pops and his camera almost got run over on the sideline -- twice :-) ), Burgard's defense takes on O'Hara's offense. The Bulldogs looked ready to go, with No. 0 Victor Peoples calling out plays for the defense, which stuffed a few O'Hara plays in the series I watched.

Here's a nice pass breakup by O'Hara (below) -- check out the deft move by Joe Pops to pull the tripod out of the way just in time. This was our first play of the day. Some more good commentary by coach Sciandra as well.

Here (below) Burgard did a good job to bottle up O'Hara standout back Robert Davis (who had some big fans on the sideline):

9:24 a.m. We've seen enough quality stuff (and gotten it on video) to hit the road up to Lockport, which is hosting Sweet Home, North Tonawanda, Grand Island, St. Francis and Williamsville South. Kensington Ave. brings us to the I-290 and we're headed to the 990, Millersport Highway and Transit Road.

9:55 a.m. Arrive at Lockport's Emmett Belknap Middle School, home of the Lions' football field (my first visit). We see the end of the first session and are on hand for a great show between defending state champions Sweet Home and North Tonawanda, which was a blast to watch.

The first session had quarterback and Jordan Johnson moving Sweet Home's offense very well against NT's defense; the second session had NT starting slowly but finishing strong with several scoring plays.

All teams are pretty hyped up to start Scrimmage Saturday -- there were loud pregame hollers going on at Cleveland Hill -- but you got the sense from both defending state champions that this scrimmage matchup would mean more than most.

You can hear the energy in the teams' opening play, as NT players are clapping it up before a tone-setting run by Sweet Home's Ralph Neasman that the sideline loved (above).

After another run by Neasman, check out this great play (above) -- Johnson for his scramble and Coleman for a lot of reasons. 

Coleman -- in the backfield -- dispatches with a blitzer to help enable Johnson to get free on a run that he would end extremely solidly in a big collision with an NT defender. But listen and watch Coleman after the play. Sweet Home players were understandably fired up with the big hit, but then Coleman tells them to "take a knee!" as the player is down.

I believe you can hear him off camera telling the player he's going to be alright. The player did get up and walk off under his own power, and Coleman yells to the player, "You good, you good! Told you it was just a stinger!"

After a tough Coleman run up the middle, Neasman took a pitch to the far right (above) for a touchdown.

Sweet Home's next possession started with a Johnson scramble to the left side, followed by Juwan Douglas with a run to the right (above) in which he kept his legs churning.

After a pass to the left, Coleman went in easily for a touchdown run (above), taken from a scrimmages-only camera vantage point (leaning on a goal post on the back line of the end zone).

When Sweet Home headed back near midfield for a new series, coach John Faller hollered at his team, "Let's have some fun ... all those two-a-days ... this is fun. Let's have some fun." 

The Panthers' next possession was a quick one as K.J. Zinermon went in motion and caught a pass from Johnson before he dodged some tacklers to speed down the right sideline (and right by me) for a touchdown (above).

Another quick strike by Sweet Home: Johnson heaves it down the right side (above) and Brian Barnes adjusts to the ball and goes in for a touchdown. 

NT gets an interception of Johnson (above); Sweet Home obviously had a nice offensive set but NT did get some pressure up the middle and a few sacks on some other plays. We can't show 'em all, of course.

The second session during this rotation was outstanding because while NT's offense came on to battle Sweet Home on one half of the field, fans got to watch University at Buffalo-bound quarterback Joe Licata and the Williamsville South offense take on Lockport on the other. 

Licata twice hit Kevin O'Connell on the right side, once to get into scoring range and the second time for the touchdown (below).

Here's the fun second session in a nutshell (below) ...

... Licata completes a long pass on the left side of the field, then Joe Montesanti runs for North Tonawanda on the right side.

NT finds a big hole in the defense for a rushing touchdown (above) that gives Lumberjack players and fans cause for celebration.

Back to the South scrimmage ... Licata hits Phil Stasiak (I believe) for a long completion (above) but there's a fumble at the end of the play.

Here's another two-for-one clip (above) and it's defensive minded as Sweet Home and Lockport both stopped up run attempts by NT and South, respectively.

NT finds another hole in the defense (above) by running to the left for a touchdown.

Afterwards, Sweet Home coach Faller scolded some of his frustrated troops with: "Don't point fingers! Don't point fingers ... unless you're perfect."

The run-and-fun-and-gun Billies of South haven't seemed to change much, as they show here with an nice reverse run for a score.

I'm disappointed I didn't get over to watch two outstanding programs in Grand Island and St. Francis go at it on the practice field behind the bleachers (Joe Pops did with the video camera, however), but there was just too much going on on the main field. As is the case with the entire day, there's just not enough time to catch everyone.

10:57 a.m. Back in the car and ready to move shortly. This was our first chance to actually catch up on the blog, pounding away at the laptop in the car in the parking lot at Lockport. 

11:08 a.m. We're on our way to Riverside, where a good group of the Frontiers, Bishop Timon-St. Jude, McKinley and Maple Grove are in action. This will be a relatively quick stop because we need to get out to Canisius' West Seneca field for their scrimmage with Orchard Park.

11:43 a.m. Arrive at Riverside and its newly paved parking lot adjacent to its new facility, which looks great with the four teams in action and a modest group of fans checking it out.

Maple Grove's offense is going against McKinley on one half, with new quarterback Alex Grace completing several screen passes against the Macks. On the other half of the field, Riverside's defense is standing very tall against Timon's offense.

Here's a look:

12:11 p.m. We're off to zip around the I-190 to Canisius' Stransky Complex in West Seneca.

12:27 p.m. We arrive at Canisius' fine facility on Clinton Street, where in a mile or three you go from citylike to suburbanlike to countrylike surroundings.

This scrimmage might have just two teams, but if you're going to check out a two-team affair, you can't get much better than the defending Monsignor Martin champion and one of Section VI's best programs.

When we arrived, the teams were going through rudimentary special teams plays, like punt and kickoff returns without the full units on the field.

It was a good time to catch up on what happened earlier, and word on the sideline (just for the record, it was the Canisius sideline, but all from very reliable sources :-) ) was that the Crusaders had a great early session when the No. 1 offense and defense from both teams matched up.

Canisius had two touchdowns on early drives while it stifled OP's drive, which, sources said, didn't get across midfield while the Crusaders also had at least three takeaways. A standout was Canisius running back Mercer Timmis, a transfer from Canada who had plenty of people talking after some strong runs.

I was pleased to find out that the No. 1s would be going at it again, and Orchard Park fared much better than it apparently did earlier. It moved the ball quite well, including a nice completion by senior quarterback Kyle Witkowski (below).

I remember Witkowski playing in last season's semifinal loss at North Tonawanda, but the first thing I think of is how he was involved in the hoops play that ended with's Troy Nowak's game-winning buzzer-beater that beat Jamestown last season.

In the next nine-play segment, Orchard Park had a great start with a few run stops as well as an interception (above).

Canisius showed the offensive firepower it displayed last season when Eman, after hitting a pass across the middle, delivered a deep spiral down the left side and Theo Russell stretched out to reel it in.

OP came up with a good finish to the session as well. It stopped two runs inside the 10 and, on the ninth-play on what would have been a third-down, a linebacker made a nice read on an Eman pass for another interception (above).

In a final series between the top units, Eman hit Russell -- this time for a long touchdown -- just before the close of the scrimmage.

1:39 p.m. After shooting our "stand-up" (TV term) for PrepTalkTV -- which is also referred to by me as my "blabbity-blah," we're heading back to the office where I'll be updating a ton on the blog.

1:48 p.m. We're back at One News Plaza, where I'll update the blog with a lot of stuff while Joe Pops puts the episode of PrepTalkTV together. I'll have that posted here as soon as it's completed.

I'll be heading out two two evening scrimmages (hosted by Iroquois and Amherst) and will have more updates and details later. 

4:36 p.m. I'm hitting the road again, hitting Iroquois and then Amherst. 

5:19 p.m. Make that Amherst and then Iroquois. It made too much sense to swing by Amherst after driving Joe Pops back to his car.

5:28 p.m. With some good highlights in the phone, I'm off for my lengthy trip to Elma and the Chiefs' scrimmage with Lackawanna and Frontier.

There were some nice plays between Hutch-Tech's offense and West Seneca West's defense on one half and the Kenmore East defense and Amherst offense on the other.

Hutch-Tech scored a touchdown on West Seneca West as I walked into Dimp Wagner Field, then put in a two-point conversion. Amherst scored a nice passing touchdown on one of the first plays I watched; on the next play on that half, Kenmore East's sideline got fired up after its defense knocked the Tigers back for a loss.

Here's how it went down:

5:52 I arrive at Iroquois and, thanks to my trip here last year, I know where I'm going.

Another Scrimmage Saturday, another walk down the dirt road behind Iroqouis High. (Keith McShea/Buffalo News) I take the dirt road behind the school to near the baseball field, then walk through some high grassy and wooded areas into a clearing and what you could call the Chiefs' practice field of dreams.

I'm told by noted Prep Talk Nation first-ballot Hall of Fame blogger Milt Latimer that there has yet to be a touchdown, and there won't be in my stay there, although there are some solid plays.

Lackawanna's Keith Taggart probably had the play of the day -- he managed to handle a pitch that bounced on its way to him, then evaded tackler after tackler has he advanced well into the secondary.

The Steelers had some effective pass plays in the time I was there, while Frontier and Iroquois both had some nice stops.

Here are the best ones the phone and I captured from the sidelines:

6:59 p.m. After a good discussion about the day's action as well as the upcoming season with Milt, I walk up the hill, drive back up the dirt road, pass Latimer Field, and head back to One News Plaza.

The two evening trips brings us to a total of 22 teams covered across six sites. Whew. That's over a quarter of the teams in Western New York (87). Booyah.

(And 35 video clips! Booyah again.)

If you were at any scrimmages, let us know which ones and what you thought of the action in the comments section below.

* * *

We appreciate your patience with the new look of the comments as well as the registration procedure. Our Web team is still working on having the comments appear at the bottom of every page, which will help the flow of the conversation.

If you are having any problems with registration or have any feedback you'd like to offer, email me at kmcshea@buffnews.com.

---Keith McShea

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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 | kmcshea@buffnews.com

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