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AA North playoff picture in better focus (updated)

Since our initial playoff breakdown of AA North was disputed by some (thank you!), including during last night's live chat) we had further consultation with Section VI, blogger extraordinare Milt Latimer, a bunch of charts and stuff (and seven cans of Diet Coke).

And here is our updated take on the playoff picture in AA North: 

Kenmore West (4-1): Clinched spot, can win division title by beating Riverside.

Lockport (3-2): Clinched spot.

Williamsville North (3-2): Clinched spot.

Riverside (3-2): A win not only gets them in but earns it the division title.

A loss means they are likely out and NT is in.

How likely? The only scenario that Riverside can make the playoffs with a loss is if they lose to Kenmore West in a close game (four points or less) AND Lockport or Williamsville North beats the other by a lot (16 points or more). (See explanation below).

North Tonawanda (3-3): Makes it if Kenmore West beats Riverside by more than a field goal OR the margin of the Lockport-Will North game is less than 19 (same explanation below).

Niagara Falls (2-3): Out no matter what.

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Why have Lockport and Will North clinched spots? And how can Riverside advance with a close loss?

The first tiebreaker is head-to-head. If two teams are tied, it's easy. If there are three (or more) teams tied, head-to-head only works if one team has beaten both (or all) of the others.

The next tiebreaker is point differential, as defined to me by Section VI chairman Ken Stoldt as a team's total point differential in all of its league games. There is a maximum differential of 20 points (if you win by 20 or more, you only get plus-20; if you lose by 20 or more, you only get minus-20).

The teams' point differentials entering the final week:

Williamsville North is +34. Lockport is +33. Riverside is +17. NT is finished at +6. NFalls is -26.

[Note: I had Lockport and Riverside's numbers both off by one because we at The News had Riverside's 23-16 Week Six win listed as 23-17. Sorry. Yikes.]

The loser of Will North-Lockport will be 3-3, will have beaten NT (3-3) and Niagara Falls (likely 3-3), will have lost to Riverside (3-3) and will own a strong point differential. Any scenario results in the winner of Will North-Lockport clearly making the playoffs and the loser making it on tiebreakers.

If Riverside loses, it is tied with NT, very likely Falls and the Lockport/North loser, all at 3-3. None of those teams have beaten all of the others, so point differential is used. 

Riverside's best-case point-differential after a loss (losing by one) is +16. Will North's worst-case point-differential (losing by 20 or more) is +14. Lockport's worst-case point-differential is +13.

If Riverside loses, NT is in and Riverside is out as long as Riverside loses by five or more (giving Riverside a +12, which would be less than Will North or Lockport's worst-case); OR Lockport beats Will North by 17 or fewer (giving Will North a +17 or greater); OR Will North beats Lockport by 16 ore fewer (giving Lockport a +17 or greater). Those +17 or greaters for Will North/Lockport would be better than Riverside's best-case scenario in a loss (+16).

Here's why: The Will North/Lockport loser would win the No. 3 spot based on winning the point-differential tiebreaker. Then the head-to-head tiebreaker comes back into play among the remaining tied teams, with NT taking No. 4 since it beat both Riverside and Falls.

A scenario of a close Riverside loss and a big margin of victory between Lockport and Will North would make Riverside the No. 3 team based on point differential; the Lockport/Will North loser would be No. 4 because the head-to-head tiebreaker comes back into play (the Lockport/Will North loser beat both Falls and NT).

(If there is an unthinkable tie in point differential, the Section VI handbook says the next tiebreaker is total points allowed. Since the tiebreaker would be between two teams, I sure hope it would rever to head-to-head).

Whew.

Why is Niagara Falls out? Because the only win it has over a team it might be tied with at 3-3 is over Riverside (Falls lost to North, Lockport and NT). If Falls beats Hutch-Tech, there will definitely be at least a three-way tie at 3-3. There's no possible scenario in which Falls' head-to-head victory over Riverside benefits them. Falls' maximum point differential is -6 (if it beats Hutch-Tech by 20 or more) so it loses out on any point differential tiebreakers.

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If this is not correct, email me. But break it to me softly.

---Keith McShea

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

Video: PrepTalkTV makes a statement in Week Four

It was Statement Weekend for Canisius, St. Francis and the Buffalo Public Schools. Find out why in PrepTalkTV's wrapup of Week Four:

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You can find all of our videos easily by going to the video player and clicking the "PrepTalkTV" tab.

---Keith McShea

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

Friday Night Live with PrepTalkTV: NT beats Riverside, 20-13; big wins for OP, East

Week Four is one that packs some punch with some very key matchups involving some of the biggest and best programs in Western New York, from the city to the suburbs to the private schools.

Nichols coach Colin Brinson talks to his troops before the game. (Keith McShea/Buffalo News) The marquee games of the evening are in Class AA, where Riverside takes on North Tonawanda at All High Stadium at 7 and Frontier hosts Orchard Park at 7:30.

Once again we'll have updates throughout the night here from our PrepTalkTV team, so check in throughout the night and get familiar with that refresh button.

3:38 p.m. We're off to Nichols, which hosts Niagara Catholic in a 4:30 p.m. start, a good location for us to get our night kicked off. The interesting thing about the game is that it is Niagara Catholic's opener, which postponed its Week One game with St. Mary's to the end of the season due to some problems fielding a full team, then had two bye weeks.

Video reporter Lauren Mariacher and I will be on hand and we'll have our video intro of the night up by around kickoff. 

4:28 p.m. It's just about kickoff time here. The Nichols public address announcer -- some may be familiar with him from basketball season -- is entertaining all by himself. He delivers arena-caliber introductions even though there is a friends-and-family crowd of tens here. Throw in a muscular sound system and we have some North Buffalo-mansion window rattling stuff here. His roaring announcement of the game featuring "YOURRRRR NICHOLLLLLLS VIKINGSSSSS!!!!!" is greeted with claps and cheers -- but it's only like 10 to 12 claps and cheers.

4:37 p.m. Here's our intro for the evening:

4:46 p.m. Nichols stops Niagara Catholic on its first drive, then quickly moves downfield -- with plays all on the ground -- and scores on a 6-yard run by senior standout Matt Benedict. Benedict adds the two-point conversion run and Nichols takes a quick, 8-0 lead.

Niagara Catholic started its next possession with 7:38 left in the first quarter and continued to look like it is their opener -- a bad snap leads to a fumble and a 20-yard loss deep in their territory; on the next play another fumble goes into its end zone and Nichols gets a safety for a 10-0 lead with 6:12 left in the first.

While we saw Nichols overwhelmed here last week by Cardinal O'Hara, the Big Green plays good football under coach Colin Brinson. It beat JFK in its opener and hung with Grover Cleveland in a Week Two game that went down to the wire.

Niagara Catholic may have had a late start, but it looks ready to go for its opener -- its cheerleaders are here and it has at least as many fans here as Nichols does.

4:52 p.m. Nichols rolls downfield again and Benedict runs in from 3 yards out for another score, followed by an Adam Noonan two-point conversion run, for an 18-0 lead with 4:11 left in the first.

4:52 p.m. Nichols is having a fine day here on its fine turf fields. The boys soccer team has a 5-0 lead on St. Francis and there's still more than 12 minutes left in the first half. That's a surprising score there since League AA soccer in the Monsignor Martin Association usually consists of tough matchups no matter who is playing.

5:05 p.m. At the end of the first quarter, Nichols leads, 18-0, and again has the ball deep in Niagara Catholic territory.

5:06 p.m. Another Benedict touchdown (2 yards) -- no points after this time -- and Nichols leads, 24-0, with 11:54 left in the second quarter.

5:18 p.m. Another Benedict touchdown, but this one is much longer -- 85 yards. Benedict got a great block for about the last 50 yards from freshman Mike Geiger, who shielded off the only tackler that had a shot for a TD-saving tackle. A two-point conversion pass failed and Nichols leads, 30-0, with 6:26 left in the second quarter.

5:35 p.m. It's halftime here with Nichols leading Niagara Catholic, 30-0. With a little rain coming down, Lauren and her laptop have hit her in-car editing booth and so have I and my laptop. Lauren is headed next to Riverside to catch a little early action of McKinley against Niagara-Wheatfield before joining me at All High Stadium for NT-Riverside. I'll be heading over there early to make sure I'm settled in for the big game.

Here are Lauren Mariacher's first-half highlights along with Niagara Catholic coach Don Marinucci talking about having his team start the season in Week Four:

6:30 p.m. After a pit stop, we've pulled into All High Stadium where there is already a decent crowd filing in for NT-Riverside.

7:02 p.m. We're about to kick off -- Riverside is kicking off to NT. In a not unexpected development, senior standout and starting quarterback for NT, Joe Montesanti, is said to not be playing tonight. He took a big hit late in the first half of last week's win over Niagara Falls.

7:03 p.m. Tonight's game is being broadcast by WJJL 1440 AM and is available online.

WGR (550 AM) has the Hamburg at Williamsville South game.

Here's Buffalo Public Schools superintendent James A. Williams chatting before the game with photographer John Hickey:

7:07 p.m. North Tonawanda didn't take long to strike, and their fans are being heard loudly here at All High. On second-and-4 at the NT 35, junior quarterback Pat Angelhow kept the ball on the Lumberjacks' option and Riverside just couldn't find him. He ran 65 yards for the TOUCHDOWN, Justin Bacon adds the extra point and NT leads Riverside, 7-0, just 1:40 into the game.

7:14 p.m. This one is going to be fun. Riverside comes back with a big-play drive that ends with a TOUCHDOWN by Harold Millender, who took and end-around to the right side for a 15-yard score. Sophomore Roland Wapalo -- who wasn't with Riverside last week it appears -- boots a low liner up and good for the extra point and we are tied at 7-7 with 6:57 left in the first quarter.

Earlier in the drive, junior quarterback Jeremiah Cormack hit senior Charles Pawlak down the left sideline for a big, 43-yard gain -- it was third-and-18 play from the Riverside 36 to move the Frontiers to the NT 21.

7:24 p.m. UPDATE from Lauren at Riverside: McKinley and Niagara-Wheatfield are scoreless after the first quarter.

All High Stadium is packed for a battle of champions. (Keith McShea/Buffalo News) 7:29 p.m. At the END OF THE FIRST QUARTER, NT and Riverside are tied at 7-7. Riverside has a first down at its 47.

7:32 p.m. Big play for NT as senior Ryan Daigler steps in front of a Cormack pass for an interception and he's tackled with a face mask. With the penalty, NT starts at the Riverside 28 with 11:05 left in the second.

UPDATE from Riverside: Niagara-Wheatfield takes a 7-0 lead on McKinley in the second quarter.

7:45 p.m. We have a timeout by NT with 3:15 left in the second quarter with NT facing a third-and-9 at the Riverside 35.

7:49 p.m. A lot to recap since that timeout. On the next play, Riverside senior Aweis Aweis (that's the name. I like it) knocked down a pass attempt on a halfback option by NT, which used that play to score a touchdown last week against Niagara Falls. On the next play, NT converted on fourth-and-9 when Angelow hit a swing pass to the left to a wide-open Justin Bacon, who nearly went for the score but was bounced out of bounds at the Riverside 4.

Two plays later, senior Rob Wikierski ran to the left behind a nice push from the line for a 1-yard TOUCHDOWN. The extra point by Bacon was wide right and NT leads Riverside, 13-7, with 2:14 left in the second quarter.

7:56 p.m. Again -- this will certainly be a fun one. Because again -- Riverside comes right back with a TOUCHDOWN after a big play. On third-and-5 at the NT 40, Cormack rolled right and let go of a pass while jumping, and Justice Faggens made a play of his own while jumping, leaping for a great hands-catch over a defender and getting Riverside to the NT 7.

One play later, junior D'Yontae Parker ran up the middle for a 7-yard score. Wapalo's kick went wide left and the score is tied at 13-13.

8:04 p.m. At HALFTIME, Riverside and NT are tied at 13-13.

UPDATES: Photographer Mark Mulville reports that Orchard Park leads at Frontier, 6-0, after the first quarter.

McKinley scores on a 58-yard pass play to cut Niagara-Wheatfield's lead to 12-8 with 1:35 left in the second quarter, thanks to a report from Lauren at Riverside.

Here's Lauren Mariacher's report from that game, including some pregame words from McKinley coach Ed Wilson regarding the Macks' big win over Grand Island last week:

Williamsville South had a 13-7 first-quarter lead over Hamburg, according to Roger Weiss' report on WJJL.

8:10 p.m. Great game and a great atmosphere here -- tough for me to judge the crowd, but it's the most people I've seen at All High for a game. I'd probably guess 1,500 or so -- the central sections here are pretty packed. Rich Kozak says this is probably the largest regular season crowd here in five years.

8:23 p.m. We're under way with the second half; Riverside set to receive. After another look around I'm bumping my estimate up over 2,000. Great crowd here.

8:25 p.m. UPDATE from Mulville at Frontier: OP's lead over the Falcons is 6-0 at halftime. The score was a 10-yard run by Okoya Anderson in the first quarter. ... Thanks to WJJL: Iroquois up, 19-14, at West Seneca East and McKinley has taken a 16-12 lead on Niagara-Wheatfield at Riverside thanks to a touchdown run and extra-point run by Rutledge. ... Lackawanna, 14-7, over Dunkirk in the first half.

8:49 p.m. My apologies about the delay, some blog problems here. At the END OF THE THIRD QUARTER, Riverside and NT are still tied at 13-13. NT had two good drives end in field goal attempts by Justin Bacon, but the first went wide left and the second was short.

8:51 p.m. UPDATES from Sean Bruso: Lew-Port leads Maryvale, 20-14, in third quarter -- game will be on Time Warner SportsNet Sunday evening at 7. ... Williamsville South up on Hamburg, 28-7, after three quarters.

Big one here -- report of Cheektowaga and East tied at 8-8.

8:58 p.m. Since Bacon's second missed field goal late in the third, Riverside punted, then NT punted after Riverside sophomore Tyler Biedron came up with a big sack on third down.

9:06 p.m. NT has gone ahead with a TOUCHDOWN on a 32-yard play by Wikierski -- tough to tell because it was on the far side, I believe it was an option pitch to the speedy back on the outside, because he scooted down the left sideline for the score. The extra point by Bacon was good and NT leads Riverside, 20-13, with 4:13 left.

There are radio reports that there were Riverside complaints that the play was either an illegal forward pass -- later radio report says it was a forward pass, but a legal one because Angelhow was not over the line of scrimmage. So it's a touchdown pass.

9:12 p.m. BIG interception for NT as Ryan Drass comes down with a pass that was off the hands of Charles Pawlak over the middle.

9:14 p.m. NT runs for a first down and that should be it -- Riverside calls a timeout with 1:10 left.

9:16 p.m. We have a FINAL SCORE: North Tonawanda 20, Riverside 13.

Time for interviews and some serious running around. What a game.

UPDATE from Mulville at Frontier: OP's lead is 27-0 over the Falcons in the fourth quarter. ... McKinley's lead is 24-19 over Niagara-Wheatfield with 3:18 left in a back-and-forth game.

Our photo gallery is up.

9:39 p.m. UPDATES: BIG RESULT from Cheektowaga, where East has beaten defending Class B champion Cheektowaga. ... OP leads Frontier, 30-6, with four minutes left. ... Lew-Port beats Maryvale, 33-14. ... McKinley wins, 24-19.

10:21 p.m. Whew. Story is done for first edition. Video report is coming soon.

Here it is:

The final from Frontier was OP with a huge, 30-6 victory over a fellow top 10 large school. Frontier was ranked fifth ahead of No. 6 OP in the poll (but I have to say not on my ballot). Okoya Anderson had three TDs.

11:10 p.m. Whew again. Story done for second edition. I called Riverside coach Tony Truilizio to get his take on the winning score, and he said it was "definitely forward ... there were lineman downfield."

I've watched our video a bunch of times and it sure is hard to tell from that angle. NT coach Eric Jantzi, Angelhow and Wikierski all said it was a lateral.

A little trivia: NT players wear their helmets during interviews because the Jacks have a rule that if they are on the field, they are wearing their helmet. I was wondering what was up with that, because the Jacks would do interviews that way last year as well. I like it.

In other finals: Lancaster 45, West Seneca West 0 ... Williamsvile South 42, Hamburg 7. ... Iroquois 38, West Seneca East 17 ... Here's the WOW score of the night: East 14, Cheektowaga 8 ... East Aurora 30, Springville 0 ... Lackawanna 28, Dunkirk 7 ... Albion 38, Tonawanda 15 ... Alden 31, Newfane 14 ... Wilson 14, Roy-Hart 0 ... Southwestern 38, Allegany-Limestone 0. ... Fredonia 45, Falconer 0 ... Portville 22, Cattaraugus/LV 7 ... Maple Grove 39, Clymer 0 ... Chautauqua Lake 36, Westfield 0 ... Randolph 55, Franklinville 0 ... Pine Valley 32, Ellicottville 0 ... Frewsburg 41, Forestville 0 ... The final from the game we started at tonight is not a surprise: Nichols 40, Niagara Catholic 0. ... Eden 48, Gowanda 6 ... Medina 18, Akron 6.

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Our Friday scoreboard is complete.

My apologies regarding our scoreboard not being update or being incomplete tonight. We had some massive malfunctions.

Due to those malfunctions, no audio wrap from me. I will go over the results here, if you miss the audio version, spoken word editions can be arranged for a fee. Baddump-bump.

The East win at Cheektowaga is tremendous, perhaps surpassing McKinley's win over Grand Island as the top city win of the season. Again, the city teams come through with another impressive weekend (and it's only Friday). Riverside and NT went right down to the wire as well, of course. McKinley got a sterner test than I expected from Niagara-Wheatfield, but the Macks came through in the end to keep some Class A North drama building -- next Saturday they're at Sweet Home.

The OP score is certainly impressive -- in the chat this week I mentioned how those teams have been known to play some close games in the past. I thought OP would win, with the chance of a Frontier upset, in a close game. Quality showing by OP but this was Frontier's first real test against a high-quality opponent this year -- maybe Frontier's 3-0 mark wasn't as worth as much as we thought.

Lancaster took out its frustrations big-time in getting its first win. ... Will South's score was close for a while but that's what we expected -- Joe Licata is two TDs away from setting the all-time WNY record. ... Nice win for Lew-Port by a surprising margin at Maryvale. ... Another huge victory margin for Fredonia. Whoa.

Here are our stories from the night: East's win leads our roundup; and here's my story on the NT-Riverside game.

See you tomorrow morning from the "Cleveland Bowl" -- a top 10 small school between Cleveland Hill and Grover Cleveland at Riverside at 10 a.m. After that I'm headed to Canisius' Stransky Complex in West Seneca at 2 to see how the undefeated Crusaders fare against Cathedral Prep's powerful program, and I'll probably check out All-High's 4 p.m. show between Lafayette and Amherst.

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As always, we want to hear from you about what you've seen tonight. Let us know what you thought of the teams, players -- even the hot dogs -- in the comments section below. 

---Keith McShea

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

Video: PrepTalkTV wraps up Week Three (all three days' worth)

Week Three of PrepTalkTV went from Thursday to Saturday night -- here's our wrapup, which includes action from all three days:

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Scroll down here on the blog or click here to watch a special edition of PrepTalkTV on Kenmore West's victory and the school's tribute to the late Brian Dugan.

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You can find all of our videos easily by going to the video player and clicking the "PrepTalkTV" tab.

---Keith McShea

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's a look:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's how it went down:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(And 35 video clips! Booyah again.)

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

* * *

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

If you are having any problems with registration or have any feedback you'd like to offer, email me at [email protected]

---Keith McShea

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Inbox: A (lengthy) vote for St. Anthony's over Sweet Home

It's not even Scrimmage Saturday, but fans are already fired up about high school football -- from all corners of the state.

Got this e-mail regarding my post on Sweet Home being regarded as the top team in New York:

Just happened to read your article titled "National football poll says Sweet Home is No. 1 in New York" dated 8/12/10. In your article you mentioned some of the other recent Top NYState Teams, which included St. Anthony's from the CHSFL. I would like to provide you with some facts about St. Anthony's since 1999:

Record: 120-12.
- CHSFL AAA Championship Game Appearances: 11.
- CHSFL AAA Championships: 8 ('01, '02, '03, '04, '05, '06, '07, '09).
- USA Today Final Top 25; #24 in '06.
- USA Today Final Regional Rankings: '02: East #9, '06: East #4.

- NYS State Sportswriters Top 5 Finishes in Class AA (8): '09: #3, '06: #3, '05: #5, '04: #3, '03: #4, '02: #2, '01: #5, '00: #4.

- NYS State Sportswriters Top 10 Finishes in Class AA (10): '09: #3, '07: #6, '06: #3, '05: #5, '04: #3, '03: #4, '02: #2, '01: #5, '00: #4, '99: #10.

Non-League Games:
'09: Played Delbarton, NJ.
'08: Played St. Joe's Prep(Philly) & Delbarton, NJ.
'06 & '07: Played and Defeated St. Joe's Collegiate.
'05: Played Don Bosco, NJ.
'04: Played Don Bosco, NJ.
'03: Played Poly Prep, NY.
'02: Played Poly Prep, NY.
'01: Played St. Joe's-Montvale, NJ.
'00: Played St. Joe's-Montvale, NJ.
'99: Played St. Joe's-Montvale, NJ.
*All of these teams except St. Joe's-Buffalo were Regionally or Nationally Ranked Programs by USA Today.

This year, on Friday-Sept 10th, St. Anthony's will travel and play State College HS in PA. State Collge was 12-3 in '09 and lost in the AAAA(Large School) PA State Championship game to LaSalle, a Philly Catholic League school.

Taking nothing away from any of the other school's accomplishments, and knowing you write for the Buffalo News, but with these facts in mind, and playing in the Highest NYState Classification and accomplishing the above over this extended period of time, even though there is not an all inclusive, 1-team per classification NY State Champion(like PA, but unlike NJ which has 20 Regional State Champions), it appears there is a best team in NYState, and it has been in the CHSFL for awhile now...

Hope you appreciate the "Food for Thought"...

Here's my response:

Appreciate the info and the email. High school rankings certainly are fun to discuss but near impossible to back up.

Right now I think Sweet Home's National Prep preseason poll ranking is certainly deserved, based on its performance the last two years and that locally we consider them a step ahead of North Tonawanda, which as I'm sure such an astute fan like yourself is aware, finished ahead of St. Anthony's in last season's state sportswriters' poll. 

The best-in-the-state argument is certainly a tough one but a fun one, and the way Western New York has been playing high school football lately, it should be something to monitor throughout the season. 

Also, if you missed it, check out some fun comments made on the original post on Sweet Home being No. 1 in the state.

* * *

The new commenting format is gaining some momentum as many of you have signed up and have provided some input, including an outstanding divisional outlook by the famed/infamous (depending on which team you like) Milt Latimer on our first day of practice post.

We appreciate your patience with the new look and registration procedure. A couple of regular users emailed me in the last day or so and we were able to clear up some confusion. Our Web team is still working on having the comments appear at the bottom of every page, which will help things progress.

There's more on the new format at a post I wrote in early August.

If you are having any problems with registration or have any feedback you'd like to offer, email me at [email protected]

---Keith McShea

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

Live from the first day of football practice (with video)

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.

McKinley hits the field at All High Stadium. (Keith McShea/Buffalo News) 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." 

NT coach Eric Jantzi is right in the middle of an offensive line drill. (Keith McShea/Buffalo News)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.

Here's coach Gilbert -- a 1984 St. Joe's grad who takes over for Bob O'Connor -- answering my question about if there was anything he did at the first practice to put any kind of personal stamp on the program or the new season.

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.

* * *

As promised earlier, here's what we put together after our visit to Sweet Home's opening practice: the season debut of PrepTalkTV.

* * *

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).

* * *

For the lowdown on the new and evolving commenting format, check the link at the right, read the previous post, or just click here.

---Keith McShea

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

National football poll says Sweet Home is No. 1 in New York

What's the best football team in New York State?

The preseason edition of PrepNation.com's National Prep Football Poll says it's Sweet Home.

I'd have to agree. After Sweet Home won its second straight state title, I've said that they need to be mentioned as one of the very best programs in the state.

They are too talented, too multi-dimensional, too well-coached, they have succeeded with very different teams the last two years and return enough key players (Mikal Coleman, Ralph Neasman, Jordan Johnson) to be seriously scary to its competition in Western New York (and the rest of the state).

The state sportswriters polls organize the best in the state by classification (AA through D), but there is no overall poll (Sweet Home is a Class A school).

John Faller and Sweet Home have taken home state championship plaques from Syracuse the last two seasons. (Mark Mulville/Buffalo News) The only gauge available for judging the best team in the state has been national polls. In recent years the top teams from New York have included Aquinas of Rochester (which Sweet Home has beaten in the Far West Regionals the last two years), St. Anthony's of Long Island, Iona Prep of New Rochelle as well as  Orchard Park (which earned a spot in USA Today's East Region top 10 following its 2008 state title).

While no New York school is in the national top 100, Sweet Home is the top New York school mentioned in its Northeast Region poll 25 -- the Panthers are 11th. Sweet Home isn't too far outside the national top 100, one would think, as New Jersey power Bergen Catholic is 97th nationally and ninth in the Northeast. Other New York schools in the Northeast poll are: 17. North Tonawanda; 23. St. Anthony's; 24. Aquinas.

The NT placement is deserved as well. We voted Sweet Home ahead of NT in last year's final poll, but not by much, and as the AA defending champion the Lumberjacks certainly should be part of the best-in-NY discussion.

Any national poll is super-tough to figure, but I consider the National Prep Poll the best. Just look at how exhaustive the polls are (top 100 as well as seven regional top 25s), and it is all combined with a great perspective. It has done the same with basketball and they've been doing it for a while (since the 1987-88 season). The National Prep Poll had Niagara Falls No. 1 in the basketball rankings for 2005 after the Wolverines won the state Federation title.

New York really doesn't deserve a football team higher than where Sweet Home is slotted for a number of factors, including New York's fractured alignment. There have been several seasons in which many teams end up undefeated due to separate titles and no crossover between NYS Public High School championships, Long Island championships, New York City's Public Schools Athletic League plus Catholic schools throughout the state who don't match up either (from WNY, LI and NYC).

Even if there was a consensus pick as the top team in the state, then you're talking about matching a team like Sweet Home against the best from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, California and Florida, never mind the rest of the country. A New York team really needs to make a statement to earn national attention -- like when St. Francis won at Cleveland-area power St. Ignatius in 2004 to vault itself into the USA Today Super 25 (albeit for only a week).

Sweet Home is also tops in the state according to the computer behind the Massey Ratings used at highschoolsports.net. 

The ESPN Rise Fab 50 poll is out and, not surprisingly, does not include a New York team. Same for the Yahoo's RivalsHigh 100, which makes it 0 for 113 for NY as it doesn't include an Empire State squad among it's "others receiving consideration." USA Today's Super 25 is not out yet. 

* * *

For the lowdown on the new and evolving commenting format, check the link at the right, read the previous post, or just click here.

---Keith McShea

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

2010-11 boys hoops, here we come: Niagara Falls' Cataract Classic field is set

Yes, the All-Western New York basketball issue just came out.

And yes, this is a post about the 2010-11 schedule.

One of the top early-season showcases is already set: the Cataract Classic at Niagara Falls. Event organizer Sal Constantino emailed the schedule to us today.

As always, a great mix of teams and some great matchups. Here it is:

Friday, Dec. 10
North Tonawanda vs. Lancaster, 5 p.m.
St. Joe's vs. Depew, 6:30 p.m.
Niagara Falls vs. Jamestown, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 11
Wilson vs. St. Mary's/Lanc., noon
V-Charles Finney vs. Amherst, 1:30 p.m.
V-Batavia vs. Williamsville North, 3 p.m.

Williamsville South vs. Canisius, 5 p.m.
Niagara Catholic vs. East Aurora, 6:30 p.m.
V-Aquinas vs. Niagara Falls, 8 p.m.

I sure hope the Pastor-Cooper Tournament is the week before (Nov. 29-Dec. 3) -- that's the way things have gone down the last two years. I've covered a state championship football game on the last Sunday in November and then seen some hoops at Daemen the next day.

We won't have a building-the-schedule post up for a little while yet, but if anyone out there has some confirmed dates, please feel free to add them here or to email me at [email protected].

---Keith McShea

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

Thursday Night Live from Buffalo State: Jamestown routs NT, Clarence shocks OP in OT (with video)

We're live at Buffalo State for one of what I think should be the best nights of the week.

Follow along below through the live chat.

DISCLAIMER: I won't be able to answer many questions because it gets pretty busy here, especially late in games, especially now that I've got the iPhone video going. THANKS for your understanding.

* * *

There is a separate post up with VIDEO of Clarence's buzzer-beater and its fans storming the court.

* * * 

Here's my story that was in our final edition; a slightly different version was in the Niagara edition and a hindered-by-a-frozen-computer version was in the Western New York edition.

* * *

And now the rest of the postgame show ...

Highlights and interviews from Jamestown's 57-34 defeat of NT:

Rivera hits a fallaway three late in regulation, his sixth of the game.

Jamestown reaction:

Coach Ben Drake starts here talking about Jamestown's defense against NT standout Aaron Davis.

NT coach Erik O'Bryan postgame:

"I don't know what it is. I'm not really sure what team that was out there tonight.

"I said at halftime, 'They made switches out, they had [Fletcher] Larson on the wing, and we had Lucas [Pichette] in the post, and we don't give him the ball.' I said, 'Yesterday in practice we give him the ball.'

"I thought Lucas, our big fella, showed up tonight. For whatever reason, we just didn't have the movement and the fun style of basketball that we've been accustomed to all year long.

"And let's not take away from how talented they [Jamestown] are. They're very talented. And the thing with Jamestown is you can't get down early. You get down early, and you're forced to play man, and coach Drake does -- and he always has -- they run great sets, and they know who to pick apart. You've got to get up, because they're a set team and they'll take advantage."

My take (and the scorebooks at right) ...

Jamestown scorebook NT scorebook Yes, I picked NT. Swing and a miss. I discussed this during the chat, I believe, and coach O'Bryan mentioned it -- about how NT was not the team it had been late in the season. I only saw them at home, so perhaps that gave me a rosier-than-reality view of the Jacks, but they definitely didn't play like they had been playing. The ball movement wasn't there, the patience wasn't there and the turnovers were everywhere.

Jamestown, on the other hand, was the team we thought they'd be all season. A tremendous job by Rivera and the Red Raiders displayed all of its weaponry -- big guys, quick guys, good defenders, good shooters, deep bench, and, as always, being well coached and running good plays. I suppose I bought into NT having a good thing going, and I suppose I bought into Jamestown not quite being able to put everything together (as has been the case this regular season).

I think people know from my polls that I'm a I'll-believe-it-when-I-see-it guy, in that I need to have a team prove its worth for me to vote for it high in a poll or pick it in a game or whatever. Well, Jamestown definitely proved it on Thursday night. They were terrific. Next stop, Saturday against Cinderella.

* * * 

Highlights and interviews from Clarence's 67-61 overtime victory over OP:

Some great fourth quarter action as Clarence takes a 46-45 lead with 1:25 left on Tyler Funk's free throws, which are answered by a Dan Nesci drive for OP (47-46 OP), which is answered by a Greg Lucsok drive for Clarence (48-47 Clarence), which is answered by a Troy Nowak jumper while being fouled (49-48 OP) with about 45 seconds left.

Nowak would miss the free throw. Clarence came upcourt and called a timeout with 23.4 seconds left and then ran an inbounds play for Mahoney but his shot was blocked by Robert Kugler, who was then fouled. Kugler made two clutch free throws for a 52-48 lead for OP.

Clarence scored quickly on a drive-and-dish from Stephen Eckert to Tyler Funk, called a timeout with 11.5 seconds left, then fouled Nowak with 10.5 seconds left.

Here is the link to the buzzer-beating three by Funk.

Here's a good stretch of overtime action, including Nick Mahoney's whirling drive to put Clarence up for good at 63-61.

David Hill is all over a turnover and he bursts downcourt for a layup and a 65-61 lead with less than 20 seconds left.

Here is the link to the end of the game.

OP coach Bob Rumschik postgame:

"They made some tough shots tonight. I thought we could have done a better job on our offensive boards, we were kind of one and done at times; and we forced a couple of key shots when we didn't have to. So close, you know, one free throw in the game could make a difference. I'm really proud of these kids, they had a great season. We played a great team today."

My take (and the scorebooks at right) ...

Orchard Park scorebook Clarence scorebook The first half was more than a little sloppy, but the last four minutes of regulation and the overtime were outstanding. There is a point during the best games at Buffalo State where one team hits a big shot and the crowd goes nuts, and then the other team answers with a big shot and the crowd goes nuts again. This game had that big-time. Best drama of the week.

Also mentioned this during the chat, but Clarence is just playing so comfortably, so together. No one gave them a chance to be where they are (I stuck with my poll ballot and went with OP, just for the record), but they just don't care. Funk is a load to handle down low, Hill kept OP's defense occupied all game because he is a threat -- and other players stepped up; Lucsok is a multi-tasker, Mahoney is all over the court and Eckert stood up well to OP's late pressure with some great drives and dishes. 

A great story. Also, great support from the Clarence fans, who not only came out in big numbers but were into the game big-time. Every time Nowak touched the ball, they booed, hockey-fan-style -- which is nothing but a huge compliment to a great player in Nowak, who hit plenty of big shots.

I feel bad for Robert Kugler of OP, who had a great block late in regulation and then went 2-for-2 at the line in a clutch spot (I'm pretty sure I've seen him struggle at the line in some games) to put OP up by four late in regulation.

---Keith McShea

buffalonews.com/highschool     facebook.com/preptalkblog     twitter.com/bufnewspreptalk
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About Prep Talk

Keith McShea

Keith McShea

Keith McShea has covered high school sports at The News since his hiring in 1999. The 1995 University at Buffalo graduate and Long Island native (North Babylon Bulldogs) covers — and live blogs — everything from scrimmages to state championships & helps head The News' All-Western New York selections.

@KeithMcSheaBN | [email protected]

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