The unofficial conclusion of the football season was this afternoon at the 25th annual Western New York High School Football banquet at Classics in Niagara Falls.
As he has done for a quarter century, Dick Gallagher organized the event, which honored more than a hundred of this season's top players. It was a great event, as always.
In addition to the presentation of trophies and plaques to the All-Western New York team, the Buffalo News Player of the Year, the News poll winners, the All-WNY academic football team and multiple league and postseason MVPs, here is a rundown of some of the top honors:
Andrea Marsh -- yes, she's a she -- was honored with the Day-Day Morris Award for courage after a standout season as a starting defensive back for Panama. Marsh is a national finalist for the Rudy Award.
Joseph Smith of St. Francis won the WNY Football Scholar-Athlete Award.
Jim Dombrowski Award (offensive linemen): Devon Leach, Orchard Park; Michael Senn, Orchard Park.
Jim Burt Award (defensive lineman): Cortland Haines, Jamestown.
Ron Jaworski Award (quarterback): Chad Kelly, St. Joe's.
Ron Pitts Award (defensive back): Jordan Johnson, Sweet Home.
Shane Conlan Award (linebacker): James Fitzgerald, Orchard Park.
James Lofton Award (wide reciever): Ben Johnson, Orchard Park; Jordan Williams, Bishop Timon-St. Jude.
Jim Kelly Football Camp Underclassmen of the Year: Nigel Davis, St. Joe's (offense); Alec Dietsch, Clarence (defense).
Joe Foyle Award (large school coaches of the year): John Faller, Sweet Home; Jerry Smith, St. Francis; Gene Tundo, Orchard Park.
Gene Masters Award (small school coaches of the year): Dick Diminuco, Alden; Curt Fischer, Maple Grove; Jay Sirianni, Southwestern; Dan Greco, Chautauqua Lake.
Frank Constantino Award (JV coach of the year): Mike Morlock, Frontier.
Stan Barron Award (media): Rich Kozak, Intense Milks Game of the Week on WJJL-AM.
Mike Perry Memorial Award (referees): Skip Brechtel, Ken Harris.
Jerry Butler Award: Maurice Howie, South Park; Ryan Radke, Lancaster.
Andy Benson Award: Ben Whitney, Jamestown.
Tim Schwab Memorial Award: Mike Prevorse, Pioneer.
Unsung players: Justin Davis, Bennett); Ben Holmes, Orchard Park; Jordan Sanders, St. Joe's; Brian Stoldt, Alden; Cody Stumpf, Williamsville South.
Cross-Training Award: Josh Koester, Hutch-Tech (city); Terrance DeJesus, Jamestown (large school); Brandon Davis, Cleveland Hill (small school); Tom Noonan, Nichols (private); Pat Walch, Wilson (wild card). Cross Training Legacy Builder Award: Tom Calzone.
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The event concluded, as it has in recent years, with the passing of the torch (picture above) from some standout seniors -- Kyle Briggs (St. Joe's), Jake Swan (Southwestern), James Fitzgerald (Orchard Park) and Akeel Lynch (St. Francis) to some standout juniors, including Ben Holmes (Orchard Park) and Trent Ferguson (Williamsville South).
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As a surprise to Gallagher, he was presented with his own award about halfway through the ceremony.
MC extraordinaire John Murphy, Denny Lynch of the Buffalo Bills and Dennis Sarow of the Connolly Cup presented Gallagher with a silver football trophy commemorating the 25th year of the event that was started and has continued to be organized by Gallagher.
I have said/written this before, but it bears repeating: Western New York in general, and particularly the local high school sports community, is a much better place because of Dick Gallagher. Next time you see him -- maybe it'll be next year on the football sidelines -- thank him for what he has done for Western New York high school sports.
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Memo to Kiss 98.5: Your involvement with high school football is very appreciated. It is great that you support the sport and this event.
But next year, don't order -- literally -- the highest trophy the trophy store can put together. The awards (well deserved by Chad Kelly for the Monsignor Martin Association and Jordan Johnson for Section VI) were taller than Dick Gallagher. I don't even know how the players got them home. Where are they going to put them? When people are walking away from the event saying how ridiculous and tacky the trophies are (it's inarguable), instead of how great the players who won them are, something is wrong. If you want to dump a lot of money into something special for the winners, there are plenty of trophies with heft, with cool icons on top, that would be impressive, special momentos without being ridiculous.
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Memo to those players who attended the banquet and posted stuff on Twitter about it DURING the banquet: There were some sentiments of gratitude, which were obviously nice to see.
However, many of the tweets were ridiculous, disrespectful and totally out of line. You are a guest at a banquet and, even though Mr. Gallagher asked everyone to put away their phones, you sat there tweeting repeatedly. On top of that, you were being disrespectful to the event and other award winners IN your tweets.
Those that tweeted disrespectful things, and they know who they are, should absolutely be ashamed of themselves.
(@KeithMcSheaBN on Twitter)
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