Football's national signing day is here, and it's a pretty solid day for Western New York.
James Gaines of Canisius signed with Miami, David Fluellen of Lockport signed with Toledo and, as has been the case in recent years, several players signed with the University at Buffalo.
Jasen Carlson of Southwestern, Adam Redden of St. Francis and Andre Davis of Maryvale are headed to UB. The entire recruiting class for UB can be discussed at the Campus Watch blog. Delano Fabor of St. Francis, who was a high school senior last year, is on the list after enrolling at UB in January.
Also today, D.J. Nettles of Sweet Home signed with Rhode Island of Division I-AA (now the Football Championship Subdivision). Interesting note: the Rams open their season at UB on Thursday, Sept. 2.
It's a Friday, and there are a ton of games tonight, so I'm reprising my Friday Night Live blog entry as I slush-slide my way around Western New York trying to catch as much action as I can.
My goal is to end up at the Amherst at Maryvale game in which son Chris Kensy of the Tigers will be coaching against his father, Mark. There are a lot of potential stops in between now and then, but we'll see how much we can squeeze in.
4:58 p.m. After a stop at the office, our first stop is an easy one - the earliest game of the night is a 4:15 p.m. Yale Cup contest between Burgard and Middle College at the Kats' home court -- ECC-City's Flickinger Center.
Upon my entry, I was handed a Middle College program -- a great-looking, 12-page full color edition with photos, bios and ads. It's even got an excerpt of the Prep Talk blog on the back page. We like that.
Middle College is up more than I expected -- 40-15 at halftime. Burgard is coming off a nice win over McKinley to start Yale Cup play on Wednesday.
Darale Young was honored for being the school's first 1,000-point scorer at halftime. That was a better highlight than much of the action on the floor -- Middle was running Burgard off the floor.
5:22 p.m. Middle's lead is now 62-23 after three quarters. Overwhelming defense by the Kats. Burgard had a two-point second quarter, according to a report from Centercourt.
With my stories posted and the next round of Yale Cup games set to start at 5:30, I'm outta here.
5:49 p.m. It turns out I was outta there a few minutes later after getting some more computer stuff straight, fending off an aggressive parking lot attendant who thought I wasn't going to pay, slip-and-slide driving over to Hutch-Tech, and getting the Darale Young video posted in the parking lot.
5:50 p.m. Then I walk into Hutch-Tech, right on time ... for the end of the JV game between the Engineers and McKinley! Arghhhhhh!
I've got no time to waste, so I'm heading to Grover.
6:07 p.m. We arrive at Grover to an expectedly frenetic pace between the Presidents and Seneca.
6:10 p.m. No. 15 for Grover just SLAMMED a one-handed dunk down off of a standing start at the left side of the hoop. Wow. I gotta find out who that guy is. Too bad I didn't have the iPhone going. Centercourt (he got here before me) was calling for the iPhone on that one. Bummer.
6:14 p.m. At the end of the first quarter at Grover, the Presidents lead Seneca, 25-18. Ricky Alejandro hit three three-pointers in the quarter, including one in the final minute, for Grover. He only missed one shot in the quarter, reports Prep Talk Nation member Hollywood. Looks like I'm going to the right games, running into these guys.
6:16 p.m. I've got a little bit of a cushion, time-wise, since Canisius hosts St. Francis in a 6:30 p.m. scheduled start. I'm planning on stopping by there and then heading north to the Kenmore schools (7 p.m. starts). The targets are then Will North at Clarence and finally Amherst at Maryvale. We'll see how it goes.
6:21 p.m. Seneca's Aaron Frazier just scored on a slick drive while being fouled but couldn't hit the free throw. It's a 31-26 Grover lead with about four minutes left in the second. There is a very -- spirited, shall we say -- discussion going on between an adult female Grover fan and an adult male Seneca fan. People getting fired up but nothing out of hand. Good stuff. One of the best things at this game is Grover's big dog of a mascot -- you should be able to spot the spotted fella behind the baseline on a video highlight I post later.
6:28 p.m. We're off to Canisius soon, where hopefully the JV game is finished by the time I get there. Grover leads Seneca, 36-27, with two minutes left in the second quarter.
6:29 p.m. One very important quick correction before we split -- the Grover dog mascot is a female.
Some great videos featuring said dog ...
Was it a three? Just keep your eye on the dog, dog.
The action doesn't stop, the dancing doesn't stop. Outstanding.
6:43 p.m. I inexplicably take a much longer way to Canisius than I should have and arrive to catch the last seconds of the first quarter, which has Canisius leading, 15-9.
6:45 p.m. Back in the car to get some writing done, and my computer is on the fritz. Ugh.
7:07 p.m. Just pull into a primo parking spot at Kenmore West, where the Niagara Falls visit has a pretty full lot here.
Adding a few pictures then will get a very quick look at the game.
7:18 p.m. Walk into Ken West just in time for the Pledge of Allegiance.
Not soon after, Niagara Falls has an 8-0 lead.
C.J. Cox gets things started with a steal-and-basket.
Maurice Respress gets up for a rebound and a follow.
As Davon Marshall hits a long two-pointer, I'm out the door at 7:23 p.m.
7:32 p.m. Pull into Kenmore East, where Lockport is visiting.
7:44 p.m. Back in the car -- Lockport had a 15-3 lead after one quarter and is now up, 16-7, with 6:02 left in the first half. Shannon Haynes had two twos and a three for seven points in the first quarter.
Nice basket by East's Peter Crawford, followed by a near-miss by Lockport's Haynes.
Another near-miss by Lockport.
The play was a bit choppy and I wasn't able to get a quick highlight like I was at West. Off to Clarence.
8:11 p.m. Arrive at Clarence, and who is working the door to the gym but Buffalo News Hall of Fame Sports SuperClerk Alex Chambers, now a teacher and coach at Clarence. Gotta love it.
This was my first trip to the Clarence gym -- I've been here plenty of times for outdoor sports when the parking lot isn't all snowy.
8:20 p.m. Clarence and Williamsville North are tied at 27-27 in the final minute of the first half. I saw about two minutes of more choppy game action, but it was enough to see what people have been talking about with regards to talented eighth-grade starter Sterling Taplin of North.
Taplin sets up a teammate for a North basket.
With halftime approaching, I'm outta here and off to Maryvale.
8:37 p.m. Pull into Maryvale parking lot, hoping for at least a good chunk of the second half still to go.
8:59 p.m. After three failed tries at doors to the Maryvale gym (score one for security!), I find the right one and sneak under the bleachers to center court (two words) and there's a lot of basketball to play.
I catch some end-of-third-quarter action and Maryvale has a 54-40 lead over Amherst heading to the fourth.
9:09 p.m. With 2:58 left to play, Maryvale is up, 58-49.
Twice in the fourth, Amherst comes within seven points ...
... but both times Blair Estarfaa comes up big with a basket. Above is one of those times.
9:17 p.m. Maryvale is going to win this one, up, 63-52, with 25.7 seconds left.
9:24 p.m. Maryvale beats Amherst, 66-56. An embrace between the coaches at the end of the handshake line, then Chris Kensy with a little hug for all of the Maryvale players, who he coached as the Flyers' JV coach the last three years.
I had a great talk with both Kensys after the game -- I'll write more about their meeting in Tuesday's Scholastic Spotlight.
* * *
In total, seven games at eight sites in less than 4-1/2 hours. Not bad. I'm still irked that I got to Hutch-Tech while the JV game was still going on. Could have been eight!
To review: I went from Middle College to Hutch-Tech to Grover Cleveland to Canisius to Kenmore West to Kenmore East to Clarence to Maryvale.
I planned the route based on geography and time -- and it pretty much worked out. I went a long way to not spend much time at Clarence, but I think it was worth seeing Taplin in what was a good ECIC I game. I saw Lockport and Shannon Haynes and got an idea of where their recent good play has come from. I wish I could have stuck around for more of what looked to be a very entertaining Grover-Seneca contest.
And the end worked out great -- it was a blast seeing the Kensy-vs.-Kensy coaching battle at Maryvale. An outstanding atmosphere at that game. Amherst brought a lot of fired-up fans -- it seems the entire program has gotten a boost behind coach Chris Kensy.
I'm not sure the total mileage -- don't worry, I'll have it ready for the expense report -- but the route unfolded pretty well. My main tough call driving-wise was whether to take Sheridan all the way out between Ken East and Clarence -- I opted for the 290 to the Thruway to Transit to Wehrle to Harris Hill to Main. That was probably was best move considering the stop-and-go-ing on Maple and likely Sheridan, especially since you had to be careful with the slick roads.
Looks like I missed a big second half for Clarence, which went on to beat North; I was right about Grover's win over Seneca being a fun one (76-70). Middle College, Canisius, Lockport and Falls all rolled, which was expected even before I stuck my head in their games.
The one other game I wanted to check out but thought it was a little too far out of the way was Lew-Port at North Tonawanda -- and waddya know, NT wins in three overtimes. Whoa.
Centercourt was heading up to Newfane and he saw a great one it seems as the Panthers knock off Medina, 54-53. Another whoa.
Nice showing again from Cleveland Hill, which falls to Holland in overtime. A bit curious about Lackawanna only beating Tonawanda by eight; good job by the Warriors to keep it to single digits.
We'll leave this on a pretty cool note, a video of coaches Kensy:
Last week I headed out to do research on the fine boys soccer seasons going on in Cheektowaga -- both for Maryvale and the Warriors of "Central" (that's Cheektowaga Central to those who only visit the Galleria or the airport and aren't down with the lingo).
Cheektowaga was undefeated -- up until Monday night, hours before my story had to be finalized for Tuesday's Scholastic Spotlight. Call it the Spotlight jinx -- I did a story on Iroquois golf being undefeated a few weeks ago, and the Chiefs lost on the Monday before the story came out.
It's always great to get out and see teams in their own environment. Even just a few moments spent with Cheektowaga before their game and watching them play the first half against Springville last Thursday gave me a good look at a team that has come a long way.
I saw their photo of their empty banner in the locker room and snapped a shot of it. Despite Cheektowaga's 3-1 loss to Maryvale Monday night, the Warriors can still wrap up the school's first soccer championship of any kind on Wednesday at home against winless Pioneer.
After seeing Cheektowaga take a 2-0 first-half lead in what would be a 3-1 win over Springville, I headed up Union Road to Maryvale, were I saw them finish off a 3-0 victory over Depew. Included was an extremely pretty goal which began with a one-touch from a midfielder to the left wing to Dan Fox, who one-touched it back across the middle, where Jared Starzynski one-touched it into the net. Great stuff.
Cheektowaga's first loss of the season didn't exactly mess up my story -- since it was a loss to Maryvale it actually worked right into the storyline of how both teams from the town are having great seasons.
Both programs' coaches -- Cheektowaga's Matt Haberl and Maryvale's Tom Staebell -- lauded the Cheektowaga Soccer Club for aiding in player development in the town. Check out the Cheektowaga Soccer Club site here.
Here are a couple of plays from Cheektowaga's game against Springville -- one goal (where the ball girl had her head in the game) and one save.
The Class B field is set, and there are favorites everywhere you turn -- Cheektowaga is tops in the polls, Depew is coming off a tremendous performance against No. 1 large school Lancaster, East Aurora might be the hottest team in the bracket, and Lackawanna is the defending champion.
WGR's Web site states it will be broadcasting the following games on Friday nights:
Friday: East Aurora at Iroquois Sept. 11: Williamsville North at North Tonawanda Sept. 18: Depew at Maryvale Sept. 25: Sweet Home at West Seneca East Oct. 2: Orchard Park at Lancaster Oct. 9: Iroquois at Williamsville South Oct. 17 (Saturday): Kenmore East at Kenmore West
A quality lineup of games, and it's definitely cool to see high schools going primetime -- especially on a station where they high school sports talk has been quarantined to one hour on Saturday mornings for years.
Iroquois is a big winner with two games, but both are good matchups. The Monsignor Martin Association is a big loser with zero games, but it's somewhat understandable since there aren't any Friday nighters screaming for coverage. If GR is still doing games on Oct. 30, it might not be a bad, spread-the-wealth idea to go with the Monsignor Martin championship rematch of Canisius at St. Francis rather than a Section VI semifinal.
The list is a good mix of games, teams and areas, and it shouldn't be a surprise that the lineup consists of all Erie County teams other than just-across-the-bridge North Tonawanda. Randolph-Maple Grove is a great game for high school football fans, but GR wants to move the ratings needle, especially in a first-time venture like this.
This should be interesting. I've got a list of scrimmages and a plan mapped out, and that list has already gotten rained on.
Oh well -- the umbrella is in the trunk as we head off to Cleveland Hill first to see the Golden Eagles and Cardinal O'Hara in action.
9:52 a.m. Hard-hitting football season has officially begun.
It turns out that Grover Cleveland and Hutch-Tech also scrimmaged at Cleve Hill, so I got more action than I thought in my first stop.
A steady drizzle met me as I stood behind a Cleveland Hill coach doing his own video from a ladder set up behind an end-zone area. A big hit by a defender on a run brought an "OOHHHHHHH!" from the blue-and-yellow helmeted players on the Cleve Hill sideline. On the next play, a Grover quarterback rolled out, prompting the Cleve Hill sideline to yell, "PASS!" Oh yeah, it sure sounds like football season.
Cleveland Hill coach Glen Graham was in midseason form, urging players to assemble quickly after plays. "Everybody runs back to the huddle!"
I stepped over to an adjacent field, where O'Hara -- which looked like they were ready for gameday in the familiar white jerseys with black numbers and gold helmets -- set up against Hutch-Tech and its maroon practice gear. I spotted Jerry Falgiano for Hutch-Tech as well as O'Hara coach Angelo Sciandra as I captured my first highlight of the day.
We're in a bit of unchartered video territory as we try out our iPhone -- I can do videos with the phone, then upload them to the blog via YouTube. It's like the future.
But it's with my old-school notebook and pen that I capture a gem. Standing on the sideline of the O'Hara-Tech field, a big hit was audible from the Grover-Cleve Hill field. That prompted one mom to say, "Ohhh they doin' some hitting over there."
I returned to the Cleve Hill-Grover field, where Tony Alessi was coaching Grover and longtime Cleve Hill coach Denny Mason was also on hand.
Cleve Hill had a big run gain as I headed to the parking lot. The rain has seemed to let up. Excellent.
10:19 a.m. We're hitting the road to Clarence next since it's close by and we can shoot up to Lockport right after. But uh-oh -- the rain has picked up big-time.
10:37 a.m. OK. We've made an executive decision. We made this decision as we were driving down Main Street towards Clarence, analyzing on the way if I should just go right up to Lockport. Then I passed Williamsville South on the left, and I said, "Duh -- there's like seven teams practicing there."
Originally I thought I'd be able to get Clarence in, but the writing and posting does take a little time. We'll check out the action here, then head to Lockport, then North Tonawanda, then hopefully Canisius will still be going when we get there.
11:18 a.m. The stop at Will South was a good one -- I just posted videos to the PrepTalkTV channel on YouTube featuring Bishop Timon-St. Jude and Tonawanda, St. Mary's and Maryvale and WilliamsvilleSouth and Eden. South Park was also on hand. The rain has been hit and miss, and right now it has held off.
On the main Will South field, Timon and Tonawanda were on one half and Maryvale and St. Mary's on the other.
Some nice defense by Timon here ...
... and a good -- and quick -- play here by a St. Mary's lineman.
Here's my best highlight of the day, thanks to a reverse by South that came right at me. Gotta have quick feet and your head on a swivel when you're taping on the sidelines.
South had a few nice plays in addition to this scoring play, some on the ground and a few close calls in the air.
11:28 a.m. We're heading up to Lockport with hopes that scrimmages go longer than three hours.
11:59 a.m. Whoops. Swing and a miss. No sign of anything going on at Lockport. Empty parking lot, empty field. So much for my idea that teams scrimmaged all day. We're headed to North Tonawanda, where hopefully I won't be too late.
12:22 p.m. Argh. As I'm pulling into NT, buses from Grand Island and Riverside are pulling out. Argh. Note to self: Scrimmages don't go much over two hours. That's probably a state guideline that I should have known before I started this adventure.
I still got some good bang for the buck in my two stops, seeing a total of 10 teams.
I'll see some more this evening -- I'll start at Iroquois at 5 p.m. and spend a decent amount of time there since they're hosting Frontier and Lackawanna.
5:20 p.m. I arrive at Iroquois' scrimmage, but it wasn't exactly easy to find. The Chiefs, Lackawanna and Frontier were set up on a backfield, accessible via a dirt road that went well behind the high school building. There was a "Field of Dreams" feeling to it as you made your way down a hill, and all of a sudden in a clearing there was some high school football.
One thing that onlookers couldn't help but notice was the wording on a trailer behind the practice field's near end zone.
"EA All the way" was how the duct tape lettering spelled out.
Apparently it was a prank by some Blue Devil backers from neighboring East Aurora who snuck onto the field one night.
Iroquois coach Frank Payne said the message is staying up until the Chiefs' Week One game -- which is against East Aurora.
On the field, the action was the best I saw all day -- which I suppose I shouldn't be surprised about since Iroquois and Lackawanna are two of the area's best programs, while Frontier has been a ranked large school in recent years while they've slugged it out in AA South.
The gathering of quality teams brought out plenty of fans in folding chairs, despite the remote location.
One of the first plays I saw upon my arrival was a Lackawanna run in which the ball carrier hesitated before being swarmed by Frontier defenders. "Don't stop!" yelled Steelers coach Bruce Lakso.
Frontier had a number of quality defensive plays in back-to-back series against Lackawanna and Iroquois, including two straight batted down passes by -- I believe -- the same lineman on Iroquois rollouts.
Above is a pass play by Iroquois finished off with some good hits by Frontier (it makes for a much better highlight when they come to my side of the field).
Here's a big interception and a nice runback -- check out the blocks -- by Lackawanna against Frontier.
A big sack here by Lackawanna against Iroquois.
I headed over to the other side of the field for a few plays and tried to get a photo to show how isolated the location was. It turned into a beautiful night for football after the rainy start to the morning.
6:57 p.m. I pulled in to Amherst, where the Tigers are paired up with Lake Shore on one half of the field while Kenmore East is knocking heads with West Seneca West on the other.
Check out West Seneca West's line pushing through for a touchdown.
A nice finish of a TD run up the middle by Lake Shore.
Amherst with a nice over-the-middle pass play for a score.
Amherst passes right at me (thank you) and the receiver makes a great catch-and-dodge before going down the sideline for a TD.
Kenmore East goes in for a touchdown on a nice keeper through traffic by their quarterback.
8:17 p.m. Back in the car for a ride home, where we'll do some editing and post some cool stuff from the evening scrimmages.
Scrimmage Saturday is officially over.
Overall, it was a great way to get a taste of football before the season gets rolling next weekend.
It's hard to make any great proclamations based on what I saw today -- it is, after all, a scrimmage. The coaches are looking for specific things from their respective units, and they'll be poring over the videos of their day to how their guys did.
As Lake Shore coach Bill Moore said to his team at the close of their evening at Amherst, "the film never lies."
To sum up the evening, here's Kenmore East coach Matt Chimera talking about how nice it was to take his guys up against another team after training camp.
Our apologies about the audio at the end -- he finishes saying he was pleased with his team's physical play: "That's what we asked, to go out there and be physical."
* * *
If you went out at a scrimmage, let us know what you saw.
My first stop in the old building was downstairs to seek out a bathroom. With a game going on the gym floor directly one floor up, the thundering sounds above made it seem like you were beneath some sort of furniture-moving contest.
The gym is a bit under-sized -- the three-point line literally is one sneaker-length away from the sideline.
That didn't stop Depew and Bishop TImon-St. Jude from knocking down a ton of threes. I counted a combined 10 from both teams in the first half. At one point in the first half, after a Depew player hit three three-pointers, Timon's Jim Palano called a timeout and said in his usual quiet, calm tone to a player, "that guy has three threes, you think you want to check him?"
In two weeks, I've seen two coaches in flip-flops -- this time it was Depew's Larry
Jones, who otherwise was in midseason form, hollering out plays and at one point filling the tiny, steamy gym with, "WHAT ARE WE DOING?!?!"
There were small groups of parents out to watch the games, many of them doing so in folding chairs that you'll otherwise see these days at the beach or the park. It was a little discouraging to see that an official had to chastize one parent for hollering during a game. That kind of riding the officials is grating during games that mean something, but we need to hear it during a summer game?
Again, it really hit home how teams are made in the offseason. Both of these teams are always quality programs, and the work the players and coaches are doing in July will pay off come winter-time. Timon had a strong finish to win the game by 10.
The second game pitted Maryvale against Lancaster. Lancaster brought a lot of players (I think there were 12) and had a fired-up following of parents get excited as the team took a lead in the second half, but then Maryvale surged back to win going away (by about 20) behind pressure defense, its usual disciplined basketball and several standout performances.
Who was the most impressive? My notebook is fairly full of notes, but I'm not letting them out of the bag until basketball season, or close to it. It's still the summer, after all.
Some teams are trying out different styles or concentrating on certain aspects for entire games; some teams are short-handed; some teams are rotating players to get everyone equal playing time.
I never made it to Lancaster because those games were postponed. Thanks much to Dave Hoch for letting me know about the games in general (and then passing on word that the Lancaster contests were canceled -- I was going to try and get to both places).
The raffle drawing is scheduled for early next week. I don't think I'll be able to continue the raffle ticket tour, but if you have a suggestion
for a good summertime stop for high school fans (of any sport), drop me a line below or at
Last-minute requests for tickets are certainly welcome. If you'd like to buy some, email
me and I'll set aside tickets for you and give you the information
on where to send a check. Thanks.
I have a late afternoon meeting, but I'm hoping to at least get to the Depew end of the Depew-Lancaster Boys & Girls Club summer league playoffs in boys basketball.
At the Depew (60 Preston St.) location, Bishop Timon-St. Jude is playing Depew at 6 p.m., followed by Maryvale against Lancaster at 7.
At the Lancaster (5440 Broadway St.) location, Pioneer meets West Seneca West at 6 p.m. followed by Clarence and JFK at 7.
Hopefully I'll be at Depew for the end of the first game and the beginning of the second with enough time to zip down the street for the second game at Lancaster -- or maybe I'll zip back and forth :-). I get to check out some hoops and raise money for a great cause.
It was great to get to Sweet Home last week on my first stop of the tour, where several coaches and fans were gracious enough to buy the $5 raffle
The raffle drawing is Sunday, July 19. If you'd like to buy tickets, email
me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'll set aside tickets for you and give you the information
on where to send a check. Thanks.
The rosters have been announced for the 34th Kensington Lions All-Star High School Football Classic -- check them out here.
Expanded details on the players and a ton of other info on the game is available at kensingtonlions.org.
Football junkies can get a sneak peak at this year's players at practice sessions that start Wednesday. The North team is practicing at Sweet Home, while the South team is set for Maryvale. Practices are open to the public at 6 p.m. on weeknights and 10 a.m. on Saturdays.
The game is slated for July 29 at North Tonawanda. Kickoff is 7 p.m. Presale tickets are available at all Tops establishments and from players and coaches. Tickets cost $6 for adults and $2 for children 12 and under.
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.
Lauren Nicole Mariacher joined The News in 2009 after graduating from the Columbia University School of Journalism. The Elma native and Iroquois graduate can usually be found on a sideline, capturing highlights for PrepTalkTV. She also hosts Prep Talk's weekly live show, with Keith McShea, as well as The News' live postgame Bills show — [BN]TheHuddle.