Tonight marks one of the biggest days on the high school basketball calendar: Section VI's Quarterfinal Friday.
There are 28 games across seven classes tonight, with the winners advancing to the final four at Buffalo State (Classes AA, A-1, A-2, B-1, B-2) or Jamestown Community College (C and D). Prepare for the big night by reviewing game previews for almost all of the matchups on our scoreboard page.
Here's our video preview of the night:
Today's snowstorm has postponed four games as of 3:15 p.m. -- all of which were to be hosted by Southern Tier teams.
Section VI boys basketball chairmain Jim Walker said that the Class D matchups of Olmstead at Sherman, North Collins at Panama and Ellicottville at Clymer, as well as the Class B-1 game of Buffalo Arts at Dunkirk have all been postponed to Saturday at 2 p.m.
PrepTalkTV will visit some early games before settling in for the evening at Williamsville North, which is hosting McKinley at 7 p.m. in a highly anticipated Class AA quarterfinal.
We'll have a live blog of the action from Will North, and we'll provide updates from other games as we receive them; feel free to join the chat via your smartphone or chime in afterwards in our comments section. The same scoreboard page that has the previews during the day will be updated with results and box scores as soon as we receive them at One News Plaza.
5:24 p.m. The first game of the night is a 5 p.m. start for Sweet Home at Hutch-Tech, and the host Engineers have rebounded very nicely after a slow start.
Maurice Miles just took two defenders to the hole and scored for a basket and a foul; he hit the basket for a 26-24 lead with 2:41 left in the second quarter. Sweet Home scored the first seven points of the game and led after one quarter, 17-12. Hutch-Tech has stepped up the defense and is rebounding very well. Sweet Home has brought its usual energy but they've had trouble finishing shots. Miles has been too much to handle for Sweet Home defenders while Hutch-Tech has gotten good contributions from other players, including John Cherry and Marcus Nelson, who hit a three-pointer to give Tech its first lead of the game at 23-20.
5:31 p.m. We are at HALFTIME here at Hutch-Tech, and the Engineers have gone into the locker room on an upswing and with a 33-28 lead over Sweet Home. Miles swished a three-pointer with about 25 seconds left, and, after a basket by Sweet Home guard Rashan Crule (11 first-half points), John Cherry hit a shot in the lane at the buzzer for Tech. Cherry has four baskets for eight points, all in the second quarter.
Miles, as I mentioned, has been simply too much to handle for Sweet Home -- he has 17 points already. Whew. He does a nice job bringing the ball up and distributing as well.
5:49 p.m. With 3:46 left in the third quarter, Hutch-Tech tracks down a loose ball and calls timeout owning a 37-32 lead.
5:59 p.m. At the END OF THE THIRD QUARTER, Hutch-Tech leads Sweet Home, 45-35.
Hutch-Tech continues to look good on defense and on offense with some unselfish passing plays, while Sweet Home continues to put up wild shots, most of them rebounded by Hutch-Tech. Nelson had a great steal and no-look pass for a Tim Whittlehead basket late in the third.
6:03 p.m. Great play by Miles to put Tech up 14 (49-35) and prompt a timeout by Sweet Home coach Scott Martin with 6:22 left. Miles stole an errant outlet pass -- dribbled up to the lane, went behind the back, then scooped a pass ahead to an open Nelson for a layup. Sweet.
6:12 p.m. Another very strong play from Miles, who shakes his defender on the right wing, then beats two more defenders on his way to a dominant drive and a 57-38 lead for Tech with 3:20 left. It was all the more impressive because on the previous defensive play, Miles was undercut and fell HARD to the floor. Scary play, but he jumped right back up.
6:13 p.m. Miles off a lob and he scores while being fouled for a 59-40 lead with 1:50 left.
6:17 p.m. We have a FINAL SCORE: Hutch-Tech 59, Sweet Home 43. Very impressive win for the Engineers as they take care of business and advance to next Wednesday's Class A-1 semifinals at Buffalo State.
I'm heading up to Will North and I'll have a live blog from that game.
6:59 p.m. Hello from Williamsville North. Here we go with the live blog.
10:59 p.m. Wheeeewwwww. What a night. Story and PrepTalkTV work is finished. We'll post the video later as I take a look ahead to the semifinal matchups at Buffalo State and Jamestown Community College.
Big win for Riverside, obviously. I know some might say I should have been at Maryvale, but as I discover from time to time, I can only be in one spot. McKinley was the highest-ranked team among the four, and with them playing on the road against a good team, and with it being a higher class (bigger schools), it was an easy choice.
I REALLY appreciate all the updates in the chat. It really made the night enjoyable for me and hopefully others "tuning in."
Other big wins? Some thoughts after a scan of our scoreboard:
How about Kenmore East going to win at Williamsville East? Really nice win there. ... Cleveland Hill going south to win its way back to Buffalo State -- nice job by that program. ... Lancaster with a solid home win over Kenmore West. ... With the way Frontier was playing that looked like it might be a scary game for Niagara Falls, but they run away with it and return to Buffalo State. ... The margin for Williamsville South over ECIC II rival Iroquois was an eyebrow-raiser. Joe Licata remains one three-pointer away from tying the all-time state record. ... Olean lived up to the hype that I and others were giving a young team that has been on quite a run with a rout at Amherst. ... Cheektowaga joins Cleveland Hill in returning to Buffalo State with a nice win over Lew-Port. ... No surprises in B-1. ... Maple Grove by one! That was fun to follow on the blog. Great job by Silver Creek. ... Impressive Class C wins for I-Prep, OTC and Tapestry -- which gets 32 from Dazmon Knight in a nice win over MST Seneca. ... Jordan Farrant of Holland scores 33 of his team's 41 points against OTC. What a finish of the regular season for him.
Big day tomorrow as well -- I'll be at Canisius College for the semifinal doubleheader of St. Mary's against Canisius at 6 and St. Joe's against Bishop Timon-St. Jude at 7:45 p.m.
Hello from Northampton Street and a very key Yale Cup and top 10 large school showdown between host East and McKinley.
Sorry for a slow start but the laptop has been a little stingy.
6:01 p.m. With 3:43 left in the first quarter, McKinley leads East, 7-4. All of the Macks' points have come on free throws.
A lot of energy in the gym. Loud. A great Yale Cup atmosphere.
6:08 p.m. A lot of free throws in this first quarter. With 1:26 left, East leads McKinley, 13-12.
6:11 p.m. Starling Bryant is hit with a technical and he deserved it for being all over the officials. Too much, and definitely too early.
6:15 p.m. At the end of the first quarter, East leads McKinley, 22-16.
Big three-pointer in the final seconds of the quarter by Chris Boyd, who celebrates right in front of a bleacher along with East grads from last year, Domonique Jackson and Deon Robinson. Fun scene there.
6:17 p.m. Dujuan Rutledge with a three to open the quarter for McKinley (22-19).
Dennis James covers the ball on the floor and McKinley coach Zaire Dorsey calls timeout with 6:46 left in the second. East coach Starling Bryant throws something behind the bench, pretty standard for him.
6:22 p.m. Timeout East, which leads, 27-21, with 4:53 left in the second quarter.
Sweet steal-and-finger-roll by Chris Boyd for East, 29-21.
Big three right in front of me -- left side of the arc -- from Andre Jackson for a 32-22 East lead.
6:29 p.m. A lot going on here -- I'm going to switch to the 'live' blog we use for chats for the second half. Game is too quick, and normal blogging can't handle it (or my typing. heh).
East up, 34-29, in final minute.
6:33 p.m. We are at HALFTIME and East leads McKinley, 36-29.
Second half below:
Here's the best highlight I caught on the iPhone, Jasen Oden finding Andre Jackson to push the lead from four to six under two minutes:
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Like I said at the end of the game, great win for East. And yes, I have had East ranked quite low (or not at all) this year. I was reminded of that from two East superfans after the game. :-)
I do think they have gotten a lot better since that first meeting with McKinley.
A tradition unlike any other continued tonight as I and plenty of other high school hoopheads checked out opening night of the week-long Pastor-Cooper Memorial Tournament at Daemen College.
I wasn't there for a quality start of the season for the St. Mary's girls team, which beat Williamsville North, 37-34.
I caught the last four minutes of McKinley beating the St. Mary's boys, 66-51. The Macks looked good as they finished off the Lancers, very active on defense and some nice fast-break finishes, including one by a high-rising Antonio Avery, a returning senior starter. It appeared that the Macks are back to their throw-a-lot-of-bodies-at-you, up-tempo attack as they had 12 people scoring. I saw some nice decisions down the stretch as well.
The final game had Grover Cleveland taking on Orchard Park, with many (including me) expecting the Presidents to win since it has some key returning players (very key in Chris Holland). However, OP played smart and Kyle Witkowski kept hitting three-pointers (five for all 15 of his points) in a 57-52 victory.
First eyebrow-raiser was that Grover is now wearing uniforms to reflect the school's name change to International Prep at Grover. As the picture shows, it's now I-Prep at Grover on the uniforms, and the colors are a deep navy blue and white. Throw in how former assistant Shawn Ryan has taken over for longtime head coach/sideline comedian Earl Shunk (who retired and is now coaching Tapestry Charter), and it really was like watching a new entity.
Chris Holland was back, along with fellow seniors guard Kenny Pringle and big man Kadeem Hillman. Holland showed why he is a returning All-Western New Yorker with his usual well-rounded game that showed off scoring, rebounding (especially rebounding), passing and defense (steals and blocks). Junior Maurice Cheatom showed some great energy for the Presidents but overall the team could have used some more; could be the football season hangover as many players were on the Class C North champions' roster.
Grover did trim the lead to 49-48 with 4:37 left, but OP responded with an up-and-under move off a baseline drive by senior Zach Schenk (watch below) and a jumper by senior Ryan Lindquist. Schenk and junior Matt McCormick delivered some clutch two-for-two trips to the foul line in the final 1:30 to push a 53-51 lead to 57-51 with 43.7 seconds left.
Let's go to the iPhone video:
Great starts for McKinley and OP, great to have hoop season back. I'll be at Friday's championship triple-header, which I will start looking forward to as soon as I get through a ton of work this week.
In related stories, my weekly chat will be Wednesday at 9 p.m., the All-Western New York football team will be published Saturday, the Connolly Cup will be awarded Saturday, the boys basketball preview will be published next Tuesday, and we are working on a new feature for our Web site that we're hoping will be really, really cool (and it will include a master season schedule). Stay tuned.
One spot left for Ralph Wilson Stadium, and it's being decided today as McKinley visits Sweet Home in a Section VI Class A semifinal.
2:15 p.m. We're getting caught up here in closed quarters. I'm in a folding chair in the back of the cozy press box with WGR doing the game on the radio.
McKinley got one first-down run but punted after four more plays; Sweet Home went three-and-out; McKinley has called a timeout with 5:20 left in the first facing a second-and-11 at its 30.
UPDATE from correspondent Nate Beutel at Canisius' Stransky Complex in West Seneca: Mercer Timmis scores on a 1-yard run to give Canisius a 7-0 lead over St. Francis.
2:23 p.m. Sweet Home's second drive was a short one but a good one as the Panthers took advantage of excellent wind-helped field position to score. The wind is a huge advantage for teams heading right to left on your computer screen :-).
After taking over at the McKinley 30 after a Macks punt, Sweet Home got a 21-yard TOUCHDOWN from senior Ralph Neasman, who made a tackler miss near the line and then burst through to the right side for an easy finish to the end zone. The snap for the extra point is wild and a flailing pass attempt fails; the Panthers lead McKinley, 6-0, with 3:02 left in the first quarter.
2:30 p.m. Sweet Home takes advantage of more great field position set up by an interception by senior Kyle Luchey. Nice play by Luchey on a ball that was held up in the wind -- definitely a solid second guess of the Macks passing there. The Panthers took over at the McKinley 25 and five plays later, on third-and-3, Neasman pinballed his way into the end zone on a very nice 6-yard TOUCHDOWN run. Sweet Home's two-point conversion attempt is no good after a shotgun snap goes over Jordan Johnson's head. With 1:01 left in the first quarter, Sweet Home leads McKinley, 12-0.
2:35 p.m. At the END OF THE FIRST QUARTER, Sweet Home leads McKinley, 12-0.
UPDATE: Canisius is up, 13-0, on St. Francis after a 22-yard pass by Travis Eman with 10:58 left in the second quarter.
2:41 p.m. McKinley is on the board as it converts on its first possession with the wind in the second quarter. Quarterback Marquell Ingram makes a great read after initially going back to pass, then runs cleanly right up the middle for a 5-yard TOUCHDOWN. McKinley's two-point conversion is also no good after a bad snap and Sweet Home leads McKinley, 12-6, with 10:44 left in the second quarter.
2:47 p.m. We have a Sweet Home timeout with the Panthers facing a fourth-and-4 at the McKinley 44 with 8:45 left in the second quarter.
2:49 p.m. A Johnson pass into the wind falls incomplete and McKinley takes over at its 44 with 8:40 left in the second.
2:56 p.m. McKinley punted and Sweet Home took over at its 20; with 4:50 and counting down, Sweet Home faces a fourth-and-2 at its 44 and appears to be going for it.
2:57 p.m. Sweet Home gets the first down to the McKinley 49 thanks to an endaround run by senior K.J. Zinermon.
3:05 p.m. Sweet Home calls a timeout with :06 left in the first half. First down at the McKinley 9.
3:07 p.m. We are at HALFTIME after a great finish to the half for Sweet Home, who scores a TOUCHDOWN on the final play.
On the final play, Johnson rolled left, rolled left, then ran past the left pylon for a 9-yard score and a 18-6 halftime lead for Sweet Home. The two-point conversion attempt for Sweet Home fell just short as Neasman was stopped going up the middle. Neasman had a nice 11-yard run to set up the first-and-goal.
Here are some first-half highlights -- including all three touchdowns -- thanks to wind-battling video reporter Lauren Mariacher:
3:16 p.m. UPDATE from West Seneca: Canisius has a 21-6 lead. The Crusaders extended its lead with the second of two Eman-to-Theo Russell pass plays.
According to Canisius athletic director Jim Mauro, here's the scenario for Canisius, which with a win would force a three-way tie atop the Monsignor Martin's League AA at 2-1. The first tiebreaker is point differential with a maximum of 20 points. With Canisius having lost by more than 20 to St. Joe's, and St. Joe's having lost by 20 to St. Francis, Canisius needs to win by 20 or more to force thing to the next tiebreaker -- which is points allowed among the three teams. St. Joe's allowed 75; Canisius allowed 50 and St. Francis 21 entering the game. For Canisius to jump over St. Joe's, it needs to win today by 20 and hold St. Francis to 24 points or less.
3:25 p.m. We're about to start the second half here and it appears that some kind of penalty has been called on Sweet Home. Apparently it is a 15-yard penalty for the Panthers not being present on the sideline after the break. That's a first. Interesting call there.
It was just announced; officially it is a delay of game penalty.
Impressive first half by Sweet Home, which, as we've seen before, was hampered by some penalties but overcame them. The score at the end of the half was huge obviously. Gives Sweet Home a nice cushion against a McKinley team which can move the ball.
3:29 p.m. With the 15 yards pushing Sweet Home back, they kick off and a short McKinley return moves the Macks to their 49 to start the second half. McKinley is going left-to-right and into the wind so we're starting the second half as we did the first with Sweet Home having the wind.
3:31 p.m. McKinley's first drive is a three-and-out in which Mikal Coleman had a sack on third down; Sweet Home takes over at its 46 with 10:50 left in the third quarter.
3:41 p.m. With 6:21 left in the third, a Sweet Home junior lineman Scott Schriver is down and is helped off the field; the Panthers face a third-and-1 at the McKinley 46.
3:43 p.m. UPDATE: St. Francis scores to cut Canisius' lead to 20-13 late in the third.
3:46 p.m. Just as in the first meeting between these teams, mistakes have killed McKinley. The Macks had a penalty on their punt return to knock them back to their own 7 with 5:16 left, and on the first snap, a fumble led to Mikal Coleman covering the ball in the end zone for a Sweet Home TOUCHDOWN. The extra point kick is good by JV callup Sean Huber and Sweet Home leads McKinley, 25-6, with 5:08 left in the third quarter.
3:52 p.m. Another error for McKinley, which had been moving the ball well, but the drive ends with an interception by junior Brian Barnes and Sweet Home takes over at its 14.
4:01 p.m. A very unfortunate and disappointing development here as three players were ejected after some post-play activity that brought a total of five flags. Sweet Home's Rashaad Rogers and Tim Oaks have been ejected as has Mileec Deberry of McKinley. After a run by Ralph Neasman, there was some activity at the right (far) sideline and players got together and I believe Oaks and Deberry took their helmets off for an automatic ejection. Radio reports have Rogers being ejected for coming off the Sweet Home sideline.
After all the fallout, Sweet Home had first-and-10 at its 10.
4:08 p.m. At the END OF THE THIRD QUARTER, Sweet Home has a 25-6 lead over McKinley.
McKinley will start the fourth with a third-and-10 at the Sweet Home 33.
UPDATE: Canisius' lead is 21-13 after three quarters.
4:14 p.m. UPDATE: Canisius leads, 21-19, with four minutes left after stopping St. Francis' two-point conversion following a touchdown.
4:25 p.m. We're under five minutes here.
4:25 p.m. Kyle Luchey returns a punt 35 yards for a TOUCHDOWN and Sweet Home leads McKinley, 31-6, with 3:17 left.
4:39 p.m. We have a FINAL SCORE: Sweet Home 31, McKinley 6.
FINAL from West Seneca: Canisius 21, St. Francis 19.
That means, that based on the point differential tiebreaker, today's result makes St. Francis (2-1, plus-18 point differential) the top seed, followed by St. Joe's (2-1, even, beat Canisius head-to-head) then Canisius (2-1, minus-2).
The Monsignor Martin AA semifinal matchups are 4-Bishop Timon-St. Jude at 1-St. Francis, and, get a load of this: 3-Canisius at 2-St. Joe's, a rematch at the site of St. Joe's blowout win over Canisius in Week Five.
As always, we want to hear from you about any games you saw: Let us know what you thought of the players, teams -- even the concession stand -- in the comments section below.
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Also, if you will be at a game and are interested in supplying updates to the Prep Talk blog, email me with your name and cell number at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll get in touch -- or you can just email me updates from one of those fancy phones. We don't need every play or even every possession -- just scoring plays and the score after each quarter and anything else that would cause you to blow up a fellow fan's phone with a text/email. I'll definitely give you a shoutout here, as I have the last few weeks, for helping pass the word along during the Friday Night Live and Saturday Afternoon Live blogs.
Canisius is at St. Joe's, Clarence is hosting Frontier and Cardinal O'Hara is hosting St. Mary's, but we're checking out two-time defending state champion Sweet Home hosting McKinley in a large Class A North matchup and what is anticipated as the Panthers' first real tough test of the season.
2:32 p.m. Our first chance to update -- Sweet Home is up, 7-6, late in the first quarter.
The Panthers looked very state champ-like on their opening drive, which quickly moved downfield and ended with K.J. Zinermon's end-around run from the left side to the right end and a 10-yard TOUCHDOWN. Steve Stapleton's kick was good for the 7-0 lead.
McKinley answered with an impressive, eight-play, 75-yard drive that ended with senior quarterback Markell Ingram leaning in off left tackle for a TOUCHDOWN on a sneak on fourth-and-goal from the 1. McKinley's two-point conversion run was stuffed by junior Rashaad Rogers.
2:33 p.m. A big play for McKinley turns into a HUGE play for Sweet Home.
The Macks faced a fourth-and-1 at the Sweet Home 29 on an impressive drive. McKinley senior quarterback Markell Ingram put a pass up to the left flat and senior defensive back Kyle Luchey stepped in front of it and went 75 yards for the TOUCHDOWN. The extra point was missed; Sweet Home leads McKinley, 13-6, with 1:10 left in the first quarter.
2:39 p.m. Wow the momentum is changing fast in this one. McKinley came out strong and looked very good, but some mistakes have put Sweet Home ahead, 19-6, with 20 seconds left in the first quarter. On fourth-and-11 from its 25, McKinley had bad snap mishandled by the punter, the ball bounced to the end zone and Rashaad Rogers fell on it for the TOUCHDOWN. The point-after run failed.
2:41 p.m. At the END OF THE FIRST QUARTER, Sweet Home leads McKinley, 19-6.
2:59 p.m. I was just thinking that if McKinley finds its footing after those mistakes, they could be right in this game. They just might have done that. Sophomore Kwame Duah runs right and scores on a 9-yard TOUCHDOWN. The pass fails and Sweet Home's lead is 19-12 with 5:19 left in the second quarter.
A great pass from Ingram to sophomore Stephon Johnson down the right side on third-and-6 from the McKinley 49 helped the Macks move along. It went for 42 yards -- great lofted pass dorn right side and great adjustment to make the catch just in bounds.
3:01 p.m. Just when you think this game is going to tighten up, Sweet Home stretches it out again. Junior quarterback Jordan Johnson fakes a handoff, then runs it up the middle through the linebackers and then sprints away from the defense for a 75-yard TOUCHDOWN. Johnson hits senior Ralph Neasman on the right side for a two-point conversion pass and Sweet Home's lead is 27-12 with 4:59 left in the second quarter.
3:19 p.m. Sweet Home takes advantage of a possession with just 51 seconds left in the half that came with great field possession after the Macks punted from their end zone. After a penalty (Sweet Home has had a bunch of those), Jordan Johnson faked a handoff on first-and-15 at the McKinley 28, then ran right up the middle for another TOUCHDOWN. Another two-point conversion pass, this one from Johnson to Zinermon -- who made a nice spin-off a few tacklers to gain the end zone -- gives Sweet Home a 35-12 lead with 40 seconds left in the first half.
3:27 p.m. We are at HALFTIME with Sweet Home leading McKinley, 35-12.
3:32 p.m. OK. We're outta here. I've been listening to the St. Joe's-Canisius game online at WGR and St. Joe's has a stunner of a 30-12 lead at halftime. WOW.
St. Joe's had a 23-12 lead but added a touchdown on a Chad Kelly pass with 2:34 left in the second quarter.
Another update from photographer John Hickey -- he's at Clarence, where the host Red Devils had a 28-0 lead on Frontier at halftime.
I'm off to St. Joe's, I should be there in plenty of time for the finish ...
4:22 p.m. WOW, WOW, WOW.
We are at the END OF THE THIRD QUARTER AND IT IS ST. JOE'S 44, CANISIUS 12.
Just a stunning score and a tremendous performance by St. Joe's.
I heard St. Joe's score on their opening drive of the second half after a major statement of a drive, then was on hand to see Nick Hall run in for a 21-yard touchdown on their next possession. The St. Joe's defense has been outstanding, pressuring and bottling up Canisius quarterback
4:26 p.m. Canisius gets on the board in the second half with a 10-yard touchdown run by Mercer Timmis. The extra point is good. St. Joe's leads Canisius, 44-19, with 10:13 left in the game.
Update from photographer John Hickey: A final score at Clarence, where the Red Devils beat Frontier, 41-8. Hickey reports that there was a heated discussion between coaching staffs after the game after Clarence went for two on its final touchdown. Just a silly move that could certainly be called classless; there's no need for it and all it can do is welcome criticism.
4:32 p.m. Wow again. Chad Kelly keeps it and runs in for a 23-yard TOUCHDOWN for a 50-19 St. Joe's lead over Canisius with 8:34 left.
4:44 p.m. This one is all but over. St. Joe's leads Canisius, 50-19, with the clock winding under two minutes. Gotta shut down for now. Wow.
4:47 p.m. Check that. Late touchdown for Canisius with 27 seconds left. Joe's leads, 50-26.
6:37 p.m. Sorry -- been busy for a bit but just to confirm that the shocking, stunning FINAL SCORE: St. Joe's 50, Canisius 26.
Back at the office after taking care of PrepTalkTV duties, now writing my story and the shock of the result is still sinking in. Not just that St. Joe's won -- if it was a close game, you could understand that considering the rivalrly. But an absolute crushing? Only the biggest Marauder fans could have really expected that. I've said it before, I'll say it again ... wow. :-)
Some more wows, both from Williamsville. Will North beats NT, word at St. Joe's was that Will East beat Grand Island but we haven't gotten a call on that one. Nice wins by Burgard and Cardinal O'Hara as well.
Final in from Sweet Home is the Panthers taking it, 41-32. Sweet Home was up, 35-18, heading to the fourth. The Macks scored a safety then a touchdown to come within nine (35-26), and then the teams traded touchdowns for the final score.
One note -- we went to "production" right after the St. Joe's game and didn't know about Williamsville North's win over NT at the time. I certainly would have mentioned that at the end; my apologies about that.
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).
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.
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.
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Hello and Happy First Day of Football Season to you.
Today is the first day that football teams -- as well as many other fall sports -- can hit the practice field for the 2010-2011 school year.
It is always a big day in football as every program starts its official training after an offseason full of weight room visits, passing leagues and camps, but this season there is a little more buzz in the air due to the addition of Buffalo Public Schools to Section VI. That is a major part of the new year, with new teams and a new alignment for Section VI and a serious test for the city programs.
There's plenty of other things to watch this year: again, Western New York boasts four defending state champions. Canisius returns quarterback Travis Eman to its championship team, while rival St. Joe's has a new coach in Dennis Gilbert and a new QB in junior Chad Kelly, the nephew of the famed Buffalo Bills' Jim. Speaking of quarterbacks, Joe Licata is due to set more passing records for Williamsville South. And there will be plenty more to keep an eye on.
I've got plans to visit a few schools throughout the day. I'm going to start by heading south to Canisius' field in West Seneca and might check out St. Francis and Orchard Park as well. I'm scheduled for a midday stop at Sweet Home and have St. Joe's and Riverside on my target list as well. Should be a fun time. There was an overnight thunderstorm but its another great day in what has been a super summer for Western New York.
Before heading south I'm going to swing by All High Stadium behind Bennett High on Main Street to see if the Tigers -- or any other city school -- has hit the field.
Stay tuned and feel free to file any first-day reports in the comments section below.
9:29 a.m. I pull into All High Stadium and there are some orange t-shirts and white t-shirts among a group working out on the turf. Looks like Bennett has started its season. Back with a report soon.
9:57 a.m. My first goof of the season -- as I got closer to the field, I realized the white helmets and black-and-orange uniforms where those of McKinley. As a group of 30 or 40 went through drills at three different stations, I spoke with defensive coordinator assistant head coach Kenny Boone, a Riverside grad who played at Buffalo State.
"We're very optimistic," said Boone. "In terms of being able to compete, we're at that level from an athletic perspective regarding our kids. But I think it will be a good opportunity for them to see other ball players. I think we'll fit in very well, very well. They're excited now. Guys are ready to go."
McKinley has the All High field from 8 to 11 a.m., so perhaps we'll stop by later to visit with another team. For now, time to head south.
11:28 a.m. We just visited Orchard Park, where the Quakers just finished their morning practice, which they spent mostly on offensive material.
After a huddle, some players spent the break eating their lunch tailgate-style in the parking lot. Coach Gene Tundo and assistant Bob Ferrentino went over some defensive drills that would be used in the afternoon session -- with Tundo running through imaginary drills himself. I think I saw him put a swim move on Ferrentino at one point.
Here's coach Tundo on opening day (wouldn't be opening day without some opening day cliches :-) ):
We have to admit we probably should have to run a few laps for driving to Canisius' field at its Stransky Complex, where the JV was practicing. The varsity is at the school -- I'll take the blame on that one, although it gets a little confusing when you're trying to differentiate the Stransky Complex and Tripi Field and Koessler Field and where they play and where they practice and where they scrimmage. We're hoping to catch the Crusaders during their afternoon set.
Next it's maybe St. Francis, maybe North Tonawanda, maybe both, before hitting Sweet Home.
1:19 p.m. Just arrived at Sweet Home after spending some time at North Tonawanda -- and no, not enough time to swing by St. Francis.
At NT, I was hoping to get a couple of words from coach Eric Jantzi, and I did. "Hi Keith."
Just having some fun with coach there. Jantzi was understandably busy running his practice, from the extensive warmup featuring walks like "Frankenstein" and "Spiderman" to the four-station, and then six-station setup. Jantzi coached the offensive lineman in a simple drill in which he went into serious detail about body position and leverage.
The tone and the energy of the practice was something that you'd expect to see from a defending state champion.
2:30 p.m. Speaking of state champions, the practice at Sweet Home was very business-like as well. They had six and sometimes seven stations going, including two in which players caught not footballs but tennis balls in what appeared to be an agility/hand-eye coordination drill.
There were some cool sights and sounds, but you're going to have to wait for those. Sweet Home was the site of our first episode of PrepTalkTV for the 2010-11 season. I met videographer/reporter Lauren Mariacher at Sweet Home and you'll see the video up here later today.
I'm heading to Canisius next (they had an afternoon session starting at 2:30) with Riverside a definite stop -- they begin at 4 p.m. St. Joe's, Williamsville South and St. Francis are also possibilities.
3:25 p.m. If I played for Canisius, I'd be cut by now. After a quick pit stop home, I thought I'd hit Canisius before Riverside, but as I drove up I saw the last players leaving the field. They go again at 6 tonight, so I'll be back.
4:55 p.m. Had a good stop at Riverside, where coach Tony Truilizio gave a cafeteria full troops a rousing welcome and educated them on how big a season this is for all city football teams.
Here's a portion of what Trulizio told his team.
His take on getting started with the season.
6:15 p.m. Watched the end of the first practice for St. Joe's, then talked with first-year coach Dennis Gilbert and new junior quarterback Chad Kelly.
You could definitely pick out Kelly at practice. He's won national NFL Punt, Pass and Kick competitions and the zing on his passes, whether they were deep balls, thrown with his feet quickly planted or thrown on the run. He certainly has commandeered the team already -- you could hear his calls at the line in drills a block or two away around Kenmore Ave.
We're catching up on some multimedia blogging material from our own home sweet home before heading to Williamsville South and finally Canisius.
7:02 p.m. Check that. We're running out of time so we'll hit Canisius on the way to One News Plaza -- we've still got a story to put together for Tuesday's paper. I'm bummed but there's no way I'd get down Main St. to Will South and back to Canisius before their practice ends at 7:45 p.m.
The good news is that video interviews are up from Riverside and St. Joe's. Gotta run.
8:20 p.m. Back in the office after a visit to Canisius, where there were so many wind sprints that I got tired just listening to all of the gasps for air. I have some more video interviews to post but I've got to get some stories for tomorrow's paper done first.
Here is the feedback from Canisius -- my apologies on the wind gusts that whipped up during coach Brandon Harris' talk.
The Canisius setup is unique to all of Western New York, I have to believe, in that the team is actually at a training camp at the Delaware Ave. school. Coach Harris has done that each of his previous three seasons here. The team stays and eats at the school, with three practices held during the day: morning, afternoon and evening.
Having the entire team together for a training camp has to have enormous benefits not only for attention to detail and a player's mindset, but also for team building and camaraderie. While other teams end practice and players go home, Canisius players literally are eating, drinking and sleeping football.
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As promised earlier, here's what we put together after our visit to Sweet Home's opening practice: the season debut of PrepTalkTV.
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Stay tuned throughout the preseason for more updates. We'll be making the rounds on Scrimmage Saturday (Aug. 28) with another blog and video and we'll have our annual season preview -- including video and Web features in addition to our comprehensive special section -- in the week leading up to Week One (Sept. 3-4).
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Since we weren't able to do much live blogging Wednesday night from the Section VI Class A-1 semifinals, we've got plenty left over to post here on the blog. Here's some notes, observations and plenty of quotes that didn't make the print edition:
* Markus Mathews scored the first five points of the game, including a three-pointer, to help Bennett to a 5-2 lead against McKinley. Dwain Laws also had five points, including a three-pointer, for Bennett in the first quarter. The Tigers used an opportunistic defense to create steals. As you'll read later in this post, McKinley coach Zaire Dorsey called his offense tentative in the first eight minutes.
* Bennett's Dion Artis has a ton of athleticism, but often met with McKinley's Shaquille Holman at the basket. Holman was a huge presence in the game, blocking five shots and altering several others. In a two-point game (47-45 McKinley), that made all the difference.
* Bennett's free-throw shooting was a huge reason for the Tigers loss. Coach Randy Rakowski estimated after the game his team had shot between 50 and 60 percent (he hadn't looked at the stats yet), a number that sounded right.
* Here's my first shot at stealing a page from Keith McShea's playbook and posting a video. Sorry it's only one relatively standard play, Antonio Averyscoring on a backdoor cut and nice pass from Tamar Redden. I'm still learning the video game (and trying to figure out how Keith handles 15 things at once).
Here's some additional quotes from the game:
Bennett coach Randy Rakowski
On going to a press in the fourth quarter: "It was almost do or die at that point. You have to give them pressure. It seemed to be working. It got us back in the game and almost ahead, but we just fell a few baskets short there at the end."
On the end-to-end play: "That’s how it is when you pay in sectionals against another Yale Cup team. You can go back and forth like that. Sometimes we’ve been down and we’ve had to come back. You never count any team out and you never count yourself out, You just keep plugging away and making adjustments and go from there."
McKinley coach Zaire Dorsey
His breakdown of the game: "I thought the first quarter we played really slow and kind of tentative. Second quarter we got going, third quarter was pretty good. Fourth quarter we kind of relaxed and were careless with the ball. We didn’t rebound as well."
On Shaquille Holman: "His presence was big tonight. It’s been big all year. He’s averaging about four or five blocks per game. All of the city kids know each other, they play recreation ball, they play AAU ball together. They know what he can do around the basket. He was a big force."
On other contributors and the team's outlook: "Erik Simmons was big for us tonight. He grew up a lot. We've got one more game to win. Our goal coming in was Glens Falls. We’ve got six losses, but we learned from every one of them.
On protecting the rim: "I rely on my teammates to force [other teams' players] into me to block their shots. Without them [his teammates], I wouldn’t get that many blocks."
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.