The Riverside Athletic Club's Connolly Cup committee has announced its 10 finalists for the award given to the most outstanding football player in Western New York:
David Fluellen, Lockport
Justin Juda, Lancaster
Andy LaLonde, Grand Island
Joe Licata, Williamsville South
Patrick McMahon, Sweet Home
B.J. Monacelli, Cassadaga Valley
Matt Rosenhahn, St. Joe’s
Chris Secky, Maple Grove
Calvin Sluberski, Iroquois
Zack Sopak, Southwestern
The winner will be announced, as always, on the first Saturday of December (the fifth) in a ceremony at Ilio DiPaolo's Restauraunt in Blasdell.
A reminder to all that any discussions about who should win the award, or about players who should have made the the top 10, should be respectful. Thanks.
Below is my live blog from the instant-classic, 23-20 victory by Grand Island at Williamsville South Friday night.
It includes videos that I added later. Some of my comments -- the ones entirely in bold -- I added later as well.
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Hello from a very, very wet press box and field at Williamsville South, where the Billies host Grand Island in a big-time Section VI quarterfinal in Class A.
6:57 p.m. This will be interesting. I have the laptop on my lap (go figure) because the rain is coming in the front windows of the press box. I need to see out the window, so we'll just deal with it. Not sure how I'll keep notes too. Should be fun :-)
7:04 p.m. We've kicked off and GI takes over at its 33.
7:05 p.m. Will South standout quarterback Joe Licata is warming up on the sideline with two kids nearby drying balls off with towels.
7:07 p.m. After a punt by GI's Joel Klock and a good roll, South takes over at its 20.
7:12 p.m. Grand Island stops Will South on a fourth-and-3 from its 38 as Licata hits Coppola in the left flat but GI swarmed him and takes over at its 36 (below).
7:17 p.m. Grand Island scores a TOUCHDOWN on a huge passing play from quarterback Joel Klock to Pat Gallagher, who ran a crossing route from the left side, receiving the ball over the middle and ran down the right sideline for the score. Two South defenders appeared they may have collided during the pattern. Nate Benoit hits a low, hard extra point up and through and GI has a 7-0 lead.
7:24 p.m. Will South on a nice drive, which started at its 25. Tyler Krempa had a 43-yard run to give South a first-and-goal and it faces a fourth down at the 6.
7:26 p.m. On fourth-and-goal, South initially set up in field goal formation, then spread out and called timeout. South then came out in a normal formation and Licata hit Krempa on the right side for a TOUCHDOWN to cut the Grand Island lead to 7-6. Krempa's extra point attempt was hit well but was apparently wide right.
7:32 p.m. We are at the END OF THE FIRST QUARTER and Grand Island has its 7-6 lead and faces a fourth-and-2 at the Will South 12. GI appeared to fumble the last play and South appeared to come up with the ball, but officials gave the ball to GI. GI came out to run the crucial play but coach Dean Santorio called a timeout.
7:38 p.m. That fourth down play was indeed crucial -- Dillon Gallagher of South reached up and plucked a screen pass for an interception he returned all the way to the GI 11 (below).
South couldn't convert, however, as Licata just missed connecting with Coppola on third down and Stasiak on fourth (below).
7:47 p.m. GI took over on its 10 on the ensuing possession but punted (a good one by Klock); South took over at its own 18 and would punt from its 33; Grand Island takes over at its 30.
7:51 p.m. GI calls a timeout with 3:23 left in the second quarter facing a third-and-4 at the South 42.
8:07 p.m. We are at HALFTIME and Grand Island leads Williamsville South, 7-6.
The last thing we saw was potentially very bad news for South: Licata was down for a good minute or two after the final play of the half -- an incomplete heave by Licata from his own 30 -- and he limped off the field for the halftime break.
An update since the 7:51 posting: GI had to punt but Klock unleashed another nice one to pin South at its own 2; South went three and out and Licata's punt rolled to South's 31. GI couldn't cash in on the possession, as a 34-yard field goal attempt missed badly in the rainy, muddy conditions. South took over and didn't move much in three plays, the last of which might be very painful if Licata is hurt.
8:26 p.m. We're back with the second half -- GI kicked off a grounder that was tricky but reeled in by South. Licata appears to still be limping.
8:28 p.m. South's first drive is a three and out. Licata's punt leaves GI to set up at its own 30. This a one-point game but it doesn't feel like it right now.
8:36 p.m. South takes over at its 12 after Grand Island's possession fizzles -- a big part of that was a big sack by Krempa that put GI in a third-and-18 after a second-and-8.
8:41 p.m. South scores a TOUCHDOWN to take the lead, 12-7. On first down at the Grand Island 40, Krempa took a handoff to the left side, followed some blocks for a nice gain, then did some seriously nice cutbacks as he went the distance for the touchdown. He alternately sped up and put on the brakes on some cutbacks, then sped down the left sideline. Krempa couldn't run it in up the middle on the two-point conversion, however.
8:46 p.m. Grand Island has answered very nicely with a TOUCHDOWN with 57 seconds left in the third quarter. On first-and-goal at the 6, Lalonde bulled and churned his way to the end zone, following his line and then pushing it forward as he worked his way over the goal line (below).
The two-point conversion fails (below) when Michael Lang drags down Lalonde. Grand Island leads, 13-12.
8:49 p.m. South takes a timeout before its first play, a first down at its 34 with 52 seconds left in the third. That could prove costly -- the only good news for South is that GI had to spend a timeout before its conversion attempt.
8:53 p.m. At the END OF THE THIRD QUARTER, Grand Island has a 13-12 lead at Williamsville South.
8:56 p.m. We have quite the game here. Williamsville South now leads, 20-13. Coppola took an end around from the left side and sped to open space on the right, making a sweet cutback inside the 5 to gain the end zone with 11:53 left in the fourth.
9:09 p.m. We have a tie game: Grand Island 20, Williamsville South 20. Lalonde finished off a long, impressive drive with a 2-yard run with 6:47 left in the game -- or should I say regulation.
Here's part of what made the drive impressive -- a third-and-10 pass from Klock to Pat Gallagher.
Here's another -- a 16-yard pass to Gallagher that gave GI a first-and-goal at the 6.
And here's LaLonde's TD run.
And here's Benoit's solid PAT kick to tie the game.
9:26 p.m. What a game. Too much going on for updates. There is 43 seconds left in regulation and GI faces a fourth-and-8 at the Will South 46.
Below is the muffed punt that was recovered by LaLonde to set GI up at the South 48 with 1:25 left. Sorry about the poor audio. I think my hand was covering the microphone.
Below is the outstanding fourth-and-8 pass by Klock to Steve Vitello.
Below is another outstanding throw by Klock, I believe again to Vitello. Play-by-play -- on this and many other plays -- brought to you by WGR's Brian Koziol.
9:30 p.m. Grand Island's Nate Benoit just kicked a 42-yard FIELD GOAL -- in the rain! -- to put Grand Island up, 23-20, with :07 on the clock. Unbelievable.
9:37 p.m. We have a FINAL SCORE: Grand Island 23, Williamsville South 20.
A zany finish which included a penalty after South tried a crazy lateral-filled play on its final play. A flag was thrown on Grand Island for too many men on the field. South got one final play from the Grand Island 31, and Licata got off a heave to an apparently open Coppola in the end zone. Defenders flocked to Coppola, and it appeared that there may have been contact in the end zone -- but there was no flag. South fans and players were protesting in a major way but there was no penalty. The rain picked up and Grand Island celebrated.
Time for a lot of work for me. More to come.
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Below is South's lateral play. You can hear the horn sound early in the play. The official on the right throws the flag after players came off the sideline. I think I counted eight or nine laterals. The video is 55 seconds and the play was nearly as long.
Below is the announcement of the penalty. I edited the video down. It took a while.
Below is the final play of the game, which occurs in the far side of the end zone, but you can certainly hear several people in the South press box react ("interference!") the same way the South sideline reacted, and you see coach Kraig Kurzanski head towards the officials as they walked off the field.
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Klock on the end of the game
An interview with Benoit after the game -- in the rain, by the bus. It's "pretty cool."
Class A has been a blast to keep track of all year with its talented teams and unbalanced schedule, and the next three weeks are sure to be fun as well.
Right from the start there are tremendous games as West Seneca East heads to Iroquois and WIlliamsville South hosts Grand Island in a rematch of an excellent Week One game won by South. Hamburg has had a tremendous year, and Sweet Home is only the defending state champion.
Here are some additional notes on the eighth-graders as well as notes on all sorts of cross country topics:
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Among the top 18 at the 15-team Bemus Point Invitational were more eighth graders (five) than seniors (four).
Caroline Benson of Maple Grove won the race, while two other fellow eighth-graders were teammates … Emma Verdonik (fifth) and Abby Sirwatka (18th). Falconer's Kirsten Holmberg was third and Fredonia's Micaela Tramuta was 11th.
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Kiki Dy is an accomplished swimmer who came to the Newfane program from field hockey, while Sarah Ziemba and twins Kelly and Kate Bocknewetch all excelled in modified track and cross country last year.
Dy "fell into our lap," said Newfane coach Mike Heitzenrater. "Because of the way our league is run in swimming, with the girls competing in the winter, she could never qualify for states. So she said, "I want to do cross country and get to the states.' "
The youngsters have meshed well with senior Bethany Dewey and juniors Erin Hannah and Amy Lanighan.
It may have helped that Newfane had a significant amount of spots to fill in its lineup after graduating much of its team last year.
The education of the Western New York high school football fan continues tonight.
Will Orchard Park have another close one? Can Cardinal O'Hara head to the Southtowns and knock off St. Francis?
Will Frontier, North Tonawanda, Iroquois and Hamburg continue their winning ways among large schools?
Who will get the first win in the Harvard Cup?
The kickoff of the Buffalo Public Schools' Harvard Cup, which has Hutch-Tech taking on Grover Cleveland at All High Stadium, is the first of 25 games that will be kicked off tonight as Week Two gets started. You can listen to the first Intense Milk Harvard Cup Game of the Week at 5 p.m. at WJJL (1440 AM), WJJL.com or via the National High School Broadcast Network.
The Williamsville North at North Tonawanda game is on WGR (550 AM).
Stay here through the night as we'll have updates as soon as we get them.
Also, tune your twitter to "bufnewspreptalk" to get instant updates of the scores as soon as they are reported to us. We also have a fan page at Facebook -- just search "The Buffalo News' Prep Talk blog" -- and you'll get updates with links to our high school sports stories.
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6:04 p.m. It's the start of our football night, but we've already been way up to Middleport for research on a girls volleyball story which features Roy-Hart (and there were tons of purple-football-jersey-wearing Ram fans walking around. I was also over at Canisius High to check out a few plays from their boys volleyball match that officially opened the school's new field house.
We watched some late second-quarter action of Hutch-Tech against Grover Cleveland in the Harvard Cup opener, including a touchdown and two-point conversion that gave the Engineers a 14-8 lead over Grover at halftime.
The scoring drive began with an interception by Tech (above), which then drove down the field and got a 7-yard TD run (below) by senior Antae Miller, who stretched out the ball ahead of him and jusssst broke the plane for the score.
Tech added a two-point conversion on a pass. I've got video of those plays and will get them up soon.
Tech scored first on a rushing touchdown by senior quarterback Mark Horne. Grover scored on a wild play in which senior tight end Dontay Byrd caught a pass that was deflected and then ran 64 yards for the touchdown.
We're writing this from the new press box at All High Stadium -- that's right, the new press box. It has been built behind the stands. The old one is still on the stadium roof, and the stairway leading to it remains boarded off and guarded full-time. I just shake my head when I think about that stairway.
The new press box is a good one, a decent space with a tables and electrical hookups, with a good view of the action despite some pillars in front of us.
With a bunch of games starting at 7 and 7:30 p.m. in the Southtowns, I'm going to get my fill down there -- I think I'll start at St. Francis, but there are games at Frontier, Hamburg, Lackawanna and Orchard Park as well. We'll see.
I'm heading to the parking lot and turning on the radio broadcast of this game.
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7:01 p.m. We're in the St. Francis parking lot and just posted some video highlights from the Harvard Cup game. Hutch-Tech still leads and the awesome Harvard Cup radio crew is letting an official have it for throwing a celebration flag on Grover after a big touchdown. "That's the worst call I've ever seen!" said Hall of Fame coach Art Serotte. Grover scores on the two-point conversion to go up, 22-20, on Tech. Great stuff. O'Hara-St. Francis just kicked off. I'm headed to the sidelines.
7:07 p.m. Holey crud. While I fixed some blog stuff, Cardinal O'Hara returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown (I believe that's how they scored -- there were 15 seconds gone on the scoreboard) and has a 7-0 lead on the host Red Raiders. I gotta get out of the car.
7:25 p.m. Back in the car and hitting up google for "iPhone reboot" after our phone went kaput. Ugh. It was fine in the car, then I got to the field and it was dead. Uh-oh.
On the radio, I just heard a riled-up Rick Kozak hollering that Grover beat Tech, 28-20. Quite the opener there. I kind of feel bad I don't have any Grover highlights here, but it was all Tech there at the end of the first half.
7:31 p.m. Thank you, apple.com. A reboot and we're fine. It appeared that a little piece of fuzz or paper got stuck in the slot where you put the battery in and maybe shorted it out or something. Oh well. We're back up and running and we're headed to another game.
I don't have any video or pictures, but St. Francis and O'Hara are tied at 7-7. It turns out that O'Hara scored on its first play of scrimmage, an 80-yard run by -- I believe -- Robert Davis. St. Francis answered with a very pretty play facing a fourth-and-9 at the O'Hara 19 as senior quarterback Michael Chuchia put up a pretty pass in the right corner for senior Roland Kerr, who made the grab with plenty of room for his feet to land in the end zone. Very nice play. There is 7:46 left in the second quarter.
Too many games and not a lot of time, so I'm outta here.
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7:39 p.m. I park far away from Frontier's far-away field, run through three parking lots (hey, it's good exercise) and I hear the PA announcer getting excited because Mark Schuster just scored on a 56-yard touchdown run -- but I'm still far away from the far-away field. Whoops. The Falcons take a 7-0 lead on West Seneca West.
7:54 p.m. I leave Frontier after seeing the Falcons on a nice defensive series (including the big sack above). I'd expect them to add to their lead, although the Falcons failed on a series just before I left. I think I'm headed to Hamburg next
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8:03 p.m. Whoops again. Hamburg is at halftime with a 13-3 lead over Grand Island -- looks like a great game, but halftime just started and there's 15 minutes on the clock. I'm outta here. North to Lackawanna we go.
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8:27 p.m. Whoa. I arrive and Lackawanna is down, 14-6, to Pioneer in the second quarter.
Pioneer was deep in Lackawanna territory, but the Steelers stopped a run (above) and got a big sack (below) to get some key field position back.
Pioneer called a timeout, but I don't have any time to spare. I run back to the parking lot -- where I parked illegally -- and head to Orchard Park.
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8:49 p.m. I'm guessing OP is now in the third quarter. I'm here, but in the car doing some updating via my laptop. I gotta head to the office at about 9:15 p.m. at the latest.
9:02 p.m. The good news is that WGR is doing high school football. The bad news is that they picked North Tonawanda's home game against Williamsville North, which was a blowout waiting to happen.
And it sure happened. NT went up, 49-0, at the halftime. It just went final: NT wins, 63-0. Yikes.
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9:18 p.m. I'm hitting the road after Orchard Park took a 28-10 lead over Jamestown on a touchdown run (below) by Okoya Anderson which came on the last play of the third quarter. He had a nice gain a play earlier (above) just after OP stopped Jamestown on downs in OP territory.
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9:36 p.m. Back in the office and ready to write. Stay tuned.
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10:32 p.m. Our scoreboard is getting updated by the minute.
As for the games I stopped by, it just proves the old adage: you can't tell a game by the two minutes of game action you see :-)
When I left All High, Hutch-Tech seemed OK with a lead. When I left St. Francis, it was a tie game. When I left Frontier, it was a one-touchdown lead. When I left Lackawanna, Pioneer was up and the Steeler sideline seemed to be getting nervous.
Six football games from about 5:30 to about 9:15 p.m. I've said it before, I'll say it again: I love my job.
But I'm tired. Good night.
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Did you see a game tonight? Listen to one on the radio?
Let us know what you thought in the comments section below.
I'm at a key season opener in Class A as Williamsville South is at Grand Island. I'll provide updates when I can. If you are somehow near a computer on what is a fabulous day, just become buddies with your refresh button.
1:57 p.m. You gotta love GI public address announcer Dennis Donovan: "Welcome to the house that Gene Masters built."
2:04 p.m. We're underway. Hopefully the opening kickoff video comes out OK.
2:07 p.m. Grand Island goes three and out on its first possession, but South muffs the punt and GI takes over at the South 29.
2:10 p.m. We have a TOUCHDOWN by Grand Island, and it was a wacky one. On third-and-6 at the Williamsville South 26, quarterback Joel Klock threw a high pass to the left side to Chris Gibney. The pass was high enough for Gibney to get a hand on it, which deflected the ball -- to a perfect spot for Nick Kellner to catch it and run in for the touchdown. Crazy. GI leads, 7-0, after a good kick by Nate Benoit.
2:15 p.m. We have a TOUCHDOWN for South. Joe Licata unleashed a sweet spiral over the middle, perfectly hitting Mark Coppola in stride for a 55-yard score (we're pretty sure it was 55 -- hey, we're a little rusty here in the opening game). We're tied at 7-7 after an extra point by Tyler Krempa.
2:22 p.m. Wow, after a failed drive and a punt by GI, South takes over on its 9. But it's not there for long. Licata goes bombs-away down the left sideline and hits Phil Stasiak for a 44-yard gain. But three Licata incompletions from the GI 43 end the possession and GI takes over.
2:33 p.m.Grand Island has taken a 10-7 lead with 13.3 seconds left in the first after a 25-yard FIELD GOAL by Benoit. Nice series by GI, which always has a good kicking game to finish possessions like this off. GI actually had a first-and-goal at the 6 after some nice runs by Andy Lalonde.
2:35 p.m. At the END OF THE FIRST QUARTER, Grand Island leads, 10-7.
2:40 p.m.Williamsville South has a 13-10 lead following a 12-yard TOUCHDOWN pass from Licata to Kevin O'Connell, who grabbed a deflected pass just before it hit the grass. Licata was aiming for another receiver, and the pass was deflected on a nice play by a GI defender. That's two deflected passes for touchdowns in this game. Wacky. A low extra point kick was blocked.
2:48 p.m. We have a timeout with 6:26 left in the second quarter. GI's last drive ended with a punt, South takes over at its 38.
2:53 p.m. South is hit with an offensive pass interference penalty on its first play and soon punts. GI takes over at its 48 with 5:01 left in the second quarter.
2:57 p.m. GI punts, South takes over at its 20 with 3:17 left in the first half.
3:01 p.m. Williamsville South has a TOUCHDOWN, and it came on the ground as No. 7 (not in your program) zipped in for a nice 10-yard run after taking a handoff from Licata after a shotgun snap. Licata's pass goes incomplete on the two-point pass attempt, and South has a 19-10 lead with 2:23 left in the first half.
3:08 p.m. Grand Island gets a nice score before the half on a very nice 39-yard TOUCHDOWN pass from Klock to Kellner, who made a great, strong-handed catch on a slant from the left side, then broke away from a defender and sped to the end zone. Very impressive play there. Grand Island cuts the WIlliamsville South lead to 19-17 with 1:14 left in the second quarter.
3:20 p.m. We are at HALFTIME and Williamsville South leads Grand Island, 19-17. Both teams had possessions end with turnovers in the final minute. GI's Ben Tompkins forced a fumble that was recovered at the Will South 40, but the half ended with an interception by Krempa for South.
3:28 p.m. Definitely an entertaining opener. Licata can definitely air it out, so South will indeed be an interesting team to watch all season. GI is GI, making some hard-hitting tackles and executing on offense. Before GI's last score, there was a feeling that South might run away because they had some momentum going. Can't say enough about that last GI scoring drive -- they took over with 2:11 left in the half.
3:33 p.m. We've posted the video from the opening kickoff -- not the best video, but it's video. No zoom on the iPhone. Although it sure would help if the plays came to my side of the field instead of the other way around. We'll try and get selected plays in the second half, but it's tough keeping track here, and taking notes, and shooting videos with the phone, so we'll see. This technology stuff is pretty crazy. :-)
3:41 p.m. The second half has started. South starts at its 30.
3:50 p.m. Williamsville South has extended its lead to 25-17 after scoring on its first drive of the second half. Licata went back to pass, was pressured, and threw a pass high in the air across his body to the left side of the end zone, where Michael Lang hustled over to as he made the TOUCHDOWN grab with 6:55 left in the third quarter. Licata's two-point conversion pass went incomplete. (iPhone video of tiny people below - hard to see what's going on, but the audio of GI fans tells a story)
3:54 p.m. Lalonde just went on the first highlight-reel run of the year for this reporter -- unfortunately I didn't have the video iPhone rolling. Lalonde got through the line and made a sweet deke on a defensive back to gain some running room to the right. Just when it appeared he would be knocked out of bounds, he somehow managed to fend off a tackler along the right sideline for the TOUCHDOWN. Grand Island's conversion pass goes incomplete and South's lead is 25-23.
4:08 p.m. Williamsville South took five minutes off the clock and had a first-and-goal at the 10, but couldn't score. Grand Island takes over at its 5 with 1:57 left in the third quarter.
4:11 p.m. At the END OF THE THIRD QUARTER, Williamsville South leads Grand Island, 25-23.
4:16 p.m. WOW! I wish I had the iPhone kicking for this one. Grand Island takes the lead, 29-25, on a TOUCHDOWN after a great razzle-dazzle play. Klock passed to the right side to junior Tom Dzielski, who was still behind the scrimmage -- he wound up and unleashed a beautiful pass across the middle to junior Pat Gallagher, who was a step behind a defender. Gallager ran on to the ball and on to the end zone for a 59-yard score. Great stuff. The two-point conversion pass went incomplete.
4:24 p.m. Williamsville South goes back in front, 32-29, after a 5-yard TOUCHDOWN pass from Licata to O'Connell in the right side of the end zone. Nice bounce-back scoring drive by South, which included three Licata passes -- hitting Coppola for 23 yards was a big one. (iPhone video of tiny football players below).
4:30 p.m. Grand Island was on a good drive, but it ends at the South 25 with a fumble. South takes over on its 26 with 6:44 left to play.
4:36 p.m. South calls a timeout with 3:06 left to play facing a third-and-4 at the GI 36.
4:38 p.m. South turns it over on downs. GI takes over at its 41 with 2:55 left.
4:44 p.m. GI was down to a fourth-and-8 at the South 40 with just over a minute left and its second try at razzle-dazzle almost worked. A double reverse ended with a pitch back to Klock, whose pass to Kellner in the end zone went just off his fingertips. Whoa. Definitely should have had the iPhone going -- a new technology brainfart on that one. A great highlight. South takes over at its 40 with 1:05 left.
4:49 p.m. FINAL SCORE: Williamsville South 32, Grand Island 29. Off to get interviews and get back to the office.
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6:50 p.m. I'm in the office writing a story for tomorrow and doing a bunch of stuff for the paper -- and buffalonews.com, of course. We have a scoreboard and a story that will be updated ASAP.
I'll have some videos of plays (although not of the important play at the end, because I'm a goofball sportswriter with an iPhone and not a camera guy :-) ) as well as some comments by the coaches uploaded on this file when I can.
As promised ... postgame reaction from Williamsville South coach quarterback Joe Licata and coach Kraig Kurzanski below.
Football is obviously the big sport in the fall, but this opening weekend is even bigger when you consider the big events that are getting other seasons started.
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In today's paper we mentioned two boys soccer events, the Clarence Tournament and the Coaches V. Cancer ECIC-NFL Challenge at Sweet Home. The Clarence event speaks for itself with top teams East Aurora, Nichols and Kenmore East visiting.
The Sweet Home event has organizers wondering aloud if it is the largest boys soccer event to be held in Western New York. With five games on Friday and five on Saturday, I can't think of anything of that scope.
It's a great format and a great cause. Officials will wear a commemorative shirt to honor former longtime Western New York official Tom Mingle, who passed away on Sept. 5, 2008. The officials -- who are donating all of their game fees to cancer research -- will make a presentation to Tom's family during halftime of the Sweet Home/North Tonawanda game at 12:45 p.m. Saturday.
The format of the event is two points for a win and one point for a tie; if the two leagues are tied the tiebreaker is fewest goals allowed.
Here's the lineup:
Friday's games Sweet Home vs. Kenmore West, 2 p.m. Wmsv. East vs. North Tonawanda, 4 p.m. Wmsv. North vs. Niagara Falls, 4 p.m. Wmsv. South vs. Lew-Port, 6 p.m. Hamburg vs. Niagara-Wheatfield, 6 p.m. Saturday's games Wmsv. North vs. Lew-Port, 10 a.m. Wmsv. East vs. Niagara-Wheatfield, 10 a.m. Sweet Home vs. North Tonawanda, noon Hamburg vs. Kenmore West, noon Wmsv. South vs. Niagara Falls, 2 p.m.
Also, this afternoon is the first round for the Eden Kickoff Classic, which features the hosts meeting Springville and Pioneer taking on Roy-Hart; the winners meet Friday.
Friday just isn't opening night for football at Orchard Park, Rochester boys soccer power Aquinas will visit OP at 5 p.m.
Speaking of Aquinas, on Saturday the Little Irish host Canisius while the girls team hosts East Aurora.
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Clarence also has a nice collection for its girls soccer tournament, held in conjunction with the boys. Friday's first-rounders are Nardin at Clarence and Nichols vs. Kenmore East.
Some nonleague girls soccer action Friday includes a great program showdown of Williamsville North at Grand Island as well as Williamsville South at North Tonawanda.
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Clarence just leads the league in big opening events -- the 23rd annual Clarence Invitational in boys volleyball includes a who's who of top teams in its 16-team field. Orchard Park,
Canisius, Eden and St. Francis will be there. The tournament starts at 8 a.m.
Speaking of volleyball, the boys get some serious bump-set-spiking in tonight as OP -- which went undefeated last year -- opens against St. Francis at home at 7 p.m.
On Friday, Catholic girls state champion St. Mary's opens up at Victor of Section V (Rochester area) while Williamsville North is at Starpoint.
The Alan R. Elia Sr. Memorial Basketball Tournament, which was known as the Can-Am for many years, will be held in Niagara Falls this weekend -- giving a weekend full of kickoffs a tip-off as well.
Here's a basic schedule and the rosters of local teams. The big news -- on this first day of school for many -- is that Stan Wier, who was an All-Western New York honorable mention as a freshman last year at East Aurora, is listed as Nichols. That confirms what some sources told me recently, that Wier had enrolled at Nichols to complete a transfer from EA.
That certainly gives the Vikings another scoring weapon to a team that returned four starters, and it gives them a serious outside threat -- which may make teams think twice about concentrating on Will Regan and Ron Canestro.
For those who want a hoop fix, there are games all day Saturday, starting at 9 a.m. and the final games scheduled to start at 7 p.m. All those games are at Niagara Falls High.
Sunday's playoffs are at Niagara Catholic. Semifinals at 9 and 10:15 a.m. will be followed by an 11:30 consolation and a 12:45 p.m. championship.
Here are the local teams, which feature Niagara Falls players on all three:
Niagara PAL Chiefs
Ka'ron Briggs (Sweet Home), Keegan Dunlop (St. Francis, Ont.), J.J. Harrington (Lancaster), Davon Marshall (Niagara Falls), Lucas Pachete (North Tonawanda), Joel Pike (Frontier), Dajon Street (Niagara Falls), Sterling Taplin (Williamsville North), Stan Weir (Nichols). Coach: Sal Constantino.
Gelajide Brown (Niagara Falls), Mike Carson (Niagara Falls), Jermaine Crumpton (Niagara Falls), Lorenzo Joseph (Niagara Catholic), Maurice Respress (Niagara Falls), Kenny Stokes (Niagara Falls), Jordan Street (Niagara Falls), J.J. Wilkes (Niagara Falls), Tajay Williams (Niagara Falls). Coach: Carlos Bradberry.
Ethan Baker (Wilson), C.J. Cox (Niagara Falls), Dan Hanbrauch (Newfane), Brennan Moxham (Wilson), Alex Short (Akron), Trevor Short (Akron), Jonas Stalyga (Grand Island), Tyler Truesdale (Wilson), Connor Vandegriff (Nichols), John Cincent (Wilson). Coaches: Jim Vandergriff/Walt Moxham.
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.
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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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.