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.
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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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).
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.
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I'll be live at the Section VI boys lacrosse championships this afternoon and evening at Orchard Park. I'll be getting updates from the baseball and softball action as well.
The Class A game starts the tripleheader at 3:30 p.m. as defending champion Orchard Park meets Clarence. Up in Niagara Falls, Clarence is also in action in the highly anticipated AA softball final against Williamsville North.
The rest of the boys lax action includes defending champion Hamburg meeting Amherst at 5:30 in the B final and top-seeded Eden facing defending champion Silver Creek in Class C at 8.
The Class A softball final has Williamsville South playing Amherst at 6 p.m. at Niagara Falls while the Class D baseball final at Jamestown has Pine Valley meeting North Collins at 4:30 p.m. The Georgetown Cup championship series will be set today when St. Francis faces St. Mary's in a game at St. Joe's that was postponed from Thursday.
We'll update as soon as it is possible -- just hit refresh once every couple of minutes.
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3:52 p.m.After the FIRST QUARTER of the AA game, Orchard Park has a 4-1 lead. A few technical difficulties at the start here; my apologies. The OP field is new, but not the press box, but we have a seat and somewhere to type, and I can see all the action -- if I move my head back and forth around the .
A report from correspondent Nate Beutel at softball in Niagara Falls - Clarence took a 2-0 lead over Will North after two innings.
4:06 p.m. OP is having a nice run to take a 7-1 lead with 4:14 left in the second quarter, prompting a timeout by Clarence.
A good timeout after a very pretty goal by OP, which came just 13 seconds after senior Kevin Kelly scored off an assist by senior Sean Purtill. On the ensuing faceoff, junior Trevor Vargo won it, fed sophomore longstick middie Kole Robinson, who handed ahead to Purtill, who fed Vargo in front of the cage for the goal with 4:14 left.
4:09 p.m. OP now up, 8-1, after a great solo underhanded effort by Matt Wilson -- his third of the game -- after he charged from behind the cage.
4:13 p.m. We are at HALFTIME of the Class A game and OP leads Clarence, 8-1.
4:17 p.m. Update from Niagara Falls: CLARENCE BEATS WILL NORTH IN THE CLASS A SOFTBALL FINAL, 2-0, on a one-hitter by senior standout pitcher Jen Sansano. I set up a separate post for the game for comments.
4:29 p.m. OP's lead is now 9-1 after another pretty passing play that started with a ground ball by junior defenseman Cullen Mangino -- who scooped it up and cleared it across midfield himself. He moved deep into the offensive end and then started a tic-tac-toe play with a pass to the right side of the cage to Purtill, who fed cross-cage to wide-open sophomore Ben Johnson for an easy score with 8:54 left in the third quarter.
4:35 p.m. OP now up, 10-2, answering a Clarence goal by junior David DeCirce with yet another pretty passing play in transition. A great stick-check by Mangino on the defensive end became a clear that went from Mangino to Gary Davies to senior middie Dan Nesci, who fed Purtill on the right side, who fed back into the high slot (hockey term) to Sean Rimmer for a liner he put past Clarence junior goalie Zach Johnson.
4:40 p.m. Timeout with 2:06 left and OP owning its 10-2 lead.
5:01 p.m. After some frustrating browser/connection problems, we're back. Our apologies. OP's lead is 14-4 after a goal by junior middie Peter Biondi with 3:01 left in the game.
5:05 p.m. OP now up 15-4 with 2:03 left after a goal by junior Brian Kaspzyk.
5:09 p.m. We have a FINAL SCORE and we have a CLASS A CHAMPION. Orchard Park beats Clarence, 15-5, for its 16th straight sectional title and 19th in the last 20 years.
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5:46 p.m. We're about to start the Class B game. At the start of warmups, while I was doing interviews at the sideline, the Hamburg and Amherst teams did some serious woofing across the midfield line -- very reminiscient of college football pregame woof-fests. Everyone stayed on their side of the line, so just some good, clean (loud) fun.
5:48 p.m. First possession for Hamburg but two shots go wide and Amherst hears the ball back on the backup.
5:52 p.m. Adam Dings makes it a 1-0 Hamburg lead on a nice leaping bounce shot with 6:48 left in the first quarter.
5:55 p.m. Hamburg goes up, 2-0, on a similar move as Andy Velazquez comes from the right side across the middle and fights off a defender as he gets his scoring shot off.
6:01 p.m. Timeout Hamburg with the ball with 19 seconds left in the first quarter.
6:03 p.m. We are at the END OF THE FIRST QUARTER and Hamburg leads Amherst, 2-0.
6:21 p.m. We're still at 2-0 Hamburg; the teams have exchanged extra-man opportunities, turnovers and hits but no goals.
6:22 p.m. As soon as I type that, Hamburg's Josh Kerr scores off a feed from Ryan Feuerstein -- which came off what the press box says was the 13th turnover by Amherst. The goal was at 4:14 left in the quarter.
6:23 p.m. Thirty seconds later, at 3:47, Max Maxwell comes from behind the goal, beats a defender and scores on a low shot for a 4-0 Hamburg lead and prompts a timeout by Amherst coach Stefan Henn.
6:26 p.m. Timeout Hamburg with 2:37 left in the second quarter.
6:29 p.m. Hamburg adds another. After a save by Amherst goalie Scott Theilman, Josh Kerr picks up a ground ball on the left side and fires it in the top right corner for a 5-0 lead with 1:48 left in the second.
6:32 p.m. Hamburg's late surge in the second was pretty good, but Ryan Feuerstein made it outstanding. With the clock ticking down, he came from behind the right side of the goal and whipped around a shot that went in the goal with just one second left in the half. Hamburg leads, 6-0, with :01 left, which means ...
We are at HALFTIME and Hamburg leads Amherst, 6-0.
6:37 p.m. Update from Niagara Falls in SOFTBALL: Amherst leads Williamsville South, 2-0, after three innings of the Class A final.
6:44 p.m. We have an update from BASEBALL: Pine Valley beats North Collins, 6-0, to win the SECTION VI CLASS D CHAMPIONSHIP.
6:46 p.m. We have started the third quarter. Hamburg senior goalie James Maxwell just made a nice one-on-one stop at the left doorstep on Amherst senior Bryan Lawson.
6:53 p.m. Hamburg scores on a pretty goal by Josh Kerry from Ryan Feuerstein with six minutes left; Amherst scores on its next possession thanks to senior Jack Huck; Hamburg, 7-1, with 5:35 left in the third.
6:55 p.m. Hamburg goes up, 8-1, with four minutes left on a nice rush from behind the right side of the goal by freshman Max Maxwell.
7:01 p.m. At the END OF THE THIRD QUARTER, Hamburg leads Amherst, 8-1.
7:08 p.m. Hamburg goes up, 9-1, with 7:00 left on a goal by Chris Feuerstein, who dodged past a double-team and scored from the right side.
The Hamburg fans were cheering on their defense, which has been outstanding all game. Amherst has had long possessions, but excellent checks have limited the Tigers to a few fairly easy shots saved by James Maxwell.
7:14 p.m. Timeout with 4:50 left and Hamburg up, 9-1.
7:20 p.m. Timeout Hamburg with 1:13 left; still a 9-1 game.
7:23 p.m. We have a FINAL SCORE and we have a CLASS B CHAMPION. Hamburg beats Amherst, 9-1, for its fourth straight sectional title.
* * *
7:54 p.m. We have a SOFTBALL update. AMHERST WINS THE CLASS A CHAMPIONSHIP. Tigers beat Will South, 3-1.
7:55 p.m. A couple minutes away from the start of the C game between defending champion Silver Creek and top-seeded Eden. Skies are greying but hopefully we don't get in any rain trouble.
8:07 p.m. Silver Creek takes a 2-1 lead on a Levi Jones goal off a nice John Jimerson pass with 8:59 left in the second quarter -- the Black Knights also scored on the opening faceoff as Zack Williams won it and charged right in for the goal.
The teams split their two meetings this season, with Eden winning on the road,16-12, on April 7 and the Black Knights winning in Eden, 20-9, on May 3.
8:15 p.m. Some big-time back-and-forth going on. Silver Creek is up, 4-3, with 4:21 left on a sweet, low swooping shot by Zed Williams.
8:17 p.m. Like I said, back and forth. Derek Wilder scores off a nice through-the-defense pass by Mike Janker and we're tied at 4-4 with 2:39 left in the first. Looks like we have our best game of the day.
8:23 p.m. At the END OF THE FIRST QUARTER, Eden has a 6-5 lead over Silver Creek. Neither team has had more than a one-goal lead.
8:30 p.m. The wild back-and-forth swings continue with a Silver Creek spurt -- it leads 7-6 with 10:15 left in the second after a hard shot by Ryan Mitchell.
8:33 p.m. Timeout Eden after Zack Williams sheds two shoves in the defensive end, clears it himself and goes in alone to score on a low overhand shot for an 8-6 Silver Creek lead with 8:37 left in the second.
8:35 p.m. The highlight show continues in a major way. Sophmore John Jimerson took a pass on his own side of midfield, sped towards the Eden goal, and as one defender chased him and anothe rdefender approached, he put on the brakes and did a super spin-o-rama move before charging in a few steps and burying a shot in the top left corner. Awesome. Check it out on Time Warner Cable SportsNet this week. SC leads, 9-6, with 8:09 left in the second.
8:50 p.m. We are at HALFTIME and Silver Creek has an 11-7 lead over Eden. What a fun half -- crazy scoring.
Time for me to get some writing done for Saturday's paper.
9:10 p.m. We're back to action, and the teams have kept up their pace with four goals in the opening five minutes. Silver Creek leads, 13-8, with 7:03 left in the third.
9:16 p.m. A slight drizzle started a few minutes ago, and then the officials called for the game to be suspended because lightning was seen in the distance. That's an automatic 30-minute delay. Ordinarily, I'd be a furious reporter right now, but the delay gives me a chance to write my story. I'll let you know of any more details, but we'll be back at 9:46 p.m. at the latest.
It's 13-9 Silver Creek with 3:40 left in the third quarter.
9:44 p.m. A steady downpour has subsided but apparently there has been more lightning during the delay, which has extended the delay. I'm typing a press box atop an empty bleacher.
10:05 p.m. Story is done for the paper and we just saw lightning again -- we've got to be looking at a suspended game that gets finished tomorrow.
10:19 p.m. A blast of thunder and another flash of lightning and ...
Section VI chairman John Faller has notified us that the game will be picked up Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. here at Orchard Park. That's Silver Creek leading, 13-9, with 3:40 left in the third quarter.
10:48 p.m. We've updated our story for tomorrow's paper and we're outta here. After the game was called, there was some serious lightning and thunder accompanied by a serious downpour. All is much calmer now.
Next lacrosse stop is Tuesday night at the regionals.
* * *
Some postgame interview videos:
If you were at any of the games, let us know how it went and what you thought of the action.
We're live at Niagara Falls' Hyde Park, home of Sal Maglie Stadium, site of three Section VI baseball championship games this week.
Today it is a great matchup between top-seeded Clarence and No. 2 seed and ECIC I rival Orchard Park in the Class AA final at 4:30 p.m. We'll keep track of the action, inning-by-inning.
4:46 p.m. Clarence standout junior pitcher Zach Lauricella pitched a perfect top of the first, striking out two with a weak fly to left sandwiched between them.
4:54 p.m. Clarence threatened in the bottom of the first as it had first and second with one out, but did not score. Leadoff batter Adam Urschel hit a line drive off of the OP pitcher; the third basemen picked the ball up and threw him out on a nice play although it appeared that Urschel beat the throw.
5:03 p.m. This time OP gets on, but we're still scoreless after the top of the second. Paul Leavell and Jimmy Fitzgerald had back-to-back singles after one was out, but Lauricella got a foul pop up by Bryan Lang and struck out Scott Tatay looking for the third out.
5:35 p.m. My apologies for some technical difficulties.
Clarence has a 4-0 lead after three innings thanks to a four-run second. Ben Smith drew a bases-loaded walk, Urschel followed with a sharp two-run single up the middle and, after a strikeout and an intentional walk to Lauricella, Andrew Lawrence dinked into an RBI single into left field.
OP got a single from Dave Crowley in the top of the third but nothing else. Clarence got a leadoff single from Mark Armstrong in the bottom of the inning but nothing else.
5:43 p.m.OP gets on the board and Clarence leads, 4-1, in the middle of the fourth. Max Korzaniewski lined a single to left field to bring in A.J. Witkowski from third. Witkowski had led off with a walk, moved to second on a walk to Leavell and to third on a double play.
5:52 p.m. Clarence picks up another run to take a 5-1 lead after four. Matthew Grazen led off with a walk, moved to second on a single up the middle by Lauricella, then scored from second when the OP second basemen couldn't keep a tough ball in the infield off the bat of Lawrence.
6:03 p.m. Clarence kept its 5-1 lead after the top of the fifth thanks to a fantastic inning-ending double play. With the bases loaded, second basemen Mike Elwood handled a tough, hard hop just to the right of the bag and flipped to Urschel, who fired it on to first to a roar from the hundred or so on hand from Clarence.
6:12 p.m. Mark Armstrong led off the bottom of the fifth with a single for Clarence, but that was all and the Red Devils' lead remains 5-1.
6:19 p.m. Another inning-ending double play for Clarence to end a threat. Wow. With runners at the corners, Lauricella handled a comebacker by Scott Tatay and fired to shortstop Urschel at second, who went on to first.
That play was preceded by a fabulous defensive play by Ellwood, who came in on a slow roller and used just his glove to field and then flip to Urschel for a force play at second. Great play. Clarence still leads, 5-1.
6:29 p.m. Clarence added another two runs for a 7-1 lead after six. Grazen led off with a walk and scored on a triple by Lauricella, who bombed the ball over the right fielder's head to one-hop the wall. Lauricella later scored on a sacrifice fly to centerfield by Matt Creenan.
6:39 p.m. We have a FINAL SCORE: Clarence 7, Orchard Park 3.
OP's Dylan Baun had a two-run blast of a home run over the left field fence in the top of the seventh. Off to do interviews; we'll have more here later.
* * *
Celebration time for Clarence as coach Dave Smith gets dunked after some nice Red Devils teamwork kept him distracted.
* * *
Postgame reaction from Clarence:
Elwood was one of the most important players in the game -- even though he was the player who was replaced in the lineup for a designated hitter.
"It just gives me a better chance to focus on my defense," he said. "It feels great [to contribute]. We won the championship and that's all that counts."
* * *
Orchard Park coach Jim Gibson:
"We had our opportunities -- we actually outhit them [9 to 8], but we didn't do it with men on base. We hit into three double plays, all with chances to score runs. I thought we shot ourselves in the foot and I thought there were a few questionable calls that hurt us. Clarence is a good team -- they take advantage of your mistakes."
6:55 p.m. We're online from the press box at Paul Fitzpatrick Field at the George J. Hartman Playfields here -- what is commonly referred to as Tifft Farms. Quite a mouthful. We're to have some sort of pregame senior night tribute.
7:18 p.m. Orchard Park to a quick 4-0 lead with OP calling a timeout with 3:32 left in the first quarter. The Quakers look very good at both ends.
Timon standout Chris Kane, who is in uniform and was announced before the game as one of the Tigers' seniors, is not playing. Word in the press box is that it is due to a suspension of some kind. More to come on that later. Obviously disappointing that one of the best players in the area is not on the field for one of the best matchups of the year.
7:24 p.m. At the END OF THE FIRST QUARTER, Orchard Park still has a 4-0 lead on Timon. Timon ended the quarter with an extra-man opportunity but couldn't convert -- the final play was a transition chance for OP and Timon goalie Dave Scarcello made a nice save on Sean Rimmer at the horn.
7:40 p.m. OP's lead is still 4-0 with 2:59 left in the second quarter; Timon just called a timeout following a solo clear by goalie Scarcello. OP has continued to have the better of the play but Timon has had more possessions.
7:46 p.m. OP with a timeout with 18 seconds left in the second quarter with OP now up, 6-1. OP has the ball in the Timon end and called the timeout to set up a final possession.
After the last timeout, that worked well for Timon, which scored its first goal after that whistle when Brett Carroll scored off an assist by fellow senior Mark Almquist with 2:45 left.
OP responded just over a minute later on a very nice solo effort by Rimmer, who flat-out beat his longstick as he came from behind the right side of the goal and then unleashed another low stinger of a shot that got a piece of Scarcello but then rolled over the line.
With 38 seconds left in the half, OP cashed in just after the end of an extra-man opportunity in which it had great ball movement -- Rimmer was found wide open in front of the cage by Johnson.
7:48 p.m. We are at HALFTIME and OP leads Timon, 6-1. Scarcello stopped a Ben Johnson hard shot just before the end of the half.
Rimmer has three goals and an assist to lead OP while Sean Purtill, Johnson and Kevin Collins also have goals; Matt Wilson, Kole Robinson, Johnson and Rimmer have assists.
Some details on OP's start: Matt Wilson won the opening faceoff to gain a possession that ended with Purtill scoring just 35 seconds into the game; Johnson scored all alone in front off a nice long feed from the top right by Wilson for a 2-0 lead with 7:43 left in the first; Collins coverted a behind-the-cage feed from Rimmer with 5:52 left.
The best goal of the half was the fourth, as Robinson, the sophomore longstick middle, came out of a scramble in the OP end, cleared the ball and zinged a pass ahead to Rimmer, who scored on a slick sidearm shot.
8:13 p.m. At the END OF THE THIRD QUARTER, OP leads Timon, 7-1.
Rimmer added another goal off an extremely pretty passing play. The Quakers killed off an extra-man opportunity for Timon thanks to a strong ground ball and a clear by junior Cullen Mangino. OP worked the ball around, waited for the penalty to expire, then set up a play (with assistant coach Larry Catalano calling some of the moves being carried out) in which junior midfielder Trevor Vargo drove hard down the right side, passed back to the right corner to senior attack Sean Purtill, who found an open Rimmer in front of the net. Textbook.
8:30 p.m. OP calls a timeout with 3:04 left in the game owning an 11-3 lead.
Rimmer added another goal as Wilson found him open right in front of the net. Timon senior Luke Mann provided some highlights for the home crowd with two nice efforts for goals to make the game 8-3 -- but OP came right back and ended any chance of drama.
Mike Fischer scored off a Trevor Vargo pass just 47 seconds after Mann's second goal to put OP up, 9-3, with 7:51 to play. Collins collected a high pass from Wilson as he bore down on Scarcello to score over the goalie with 6:43 lef for a 10-3 lead. Rimmer added his sixth goal after Timon started getting desperate -- Scarcello rushed Rimmer well outside the cage but he was able to get the ball past him before the hit.
8:33 p.m. OP calls a timeout with 1:17 left in the game with its 11-3 lead. OP looks as it has cleared the bench.
8:37 p.m. We have a FINAL SCORE: Orchard Park 11, Timon 3.
Off to get quotes and write a story.
* * *
Postgame reaction from OP:
* * *
My story is online here, where Timon coach Mike Burke called the suspension of Kane a "school administration suspension."
It obviously would have been great to see Timon with Kane -- it's not often that OP plays a team from Western New York that is a truly significant threat. I think OP probably still wins, but you never know.
OP jumped to a 4-0 lead and that set a tone for both sides, and even the press box -- it was a message that OP had brought the complete game it always does. Timon hung around all the way to into the fourth quarter, but I think that after that start OP knew what it had and knew it wasn't going to get beat.
The Quakers are annually impressive with its athletic midfielders and defenseman -- just the speed and the stature of the players while they are going on solo clears is enough to earn a "wow." Robinson, Gary Davies, and Cullen Mangino were just some of the very strong sticks with very strong legs.
However, Timon made enough plays -- and Scarcello made enough saves (and started enough clears) -- that it sure would have been interesting to see if they had Kane to simply possess the ball on offense. Several early possessions were short-lived against a serious OP defense. Burke said Kane -- who played at attack in some games -- would have played midfield (as he did last year) and would have made an impact throught on both ends.
Despite the close call to Clarence this week (11-7), OP is again an overwhelming favorite in Section VI Class A as the tournament starts next week. Timon rolled through the Monsignor Martin Association and should is expected to earn a berth in a Catholic state title game against one of the powers from Long Island.
Just got confirmation earlier about the site of Friday night's boys lacrosse showdown between host Bishop Timon-St. Jude and Orchard Park. It's 7 p.m. at Tifft Farms' Paul Fitzpatrick Field in South Buffalo.
Orchard Park is 13-1 with its only loss coming to Pennslyvania power Mount Lebanon in OP's only game against an out-of-town opponent. Timon (12-4) and has won 12 of its last 14; its losses have been to Long Island's Holy Trinity, Pennsylvania's Seneca Valley, West Seneca East and Aquinas (11-7 on Wednesday).
OP won last year's game, 18-3, before advancing to the Class A state championship game.
Also Friday night is the Section VI tournament seedings meeting, where the sectional schedule will be finalized.
Instead, he took an eight on the par 5, 10th hole, putting back-to-back
shots in the fields to the right of the fairway. Petrosian wasn't much better taking a 7, but
it was enough to win the title.
Kammerer settled for second place in the field of 72, not a
bad consolation prize.
Kammerer posted the lowest score after the first 18 holes, a
1-under 71. He had a 39 over the final 9.
"It bothers me that I kind of blew up on the playoff hole, but it really doesn't bother me
too much because I'm going to states. I'm still happy about the day," said Kammerer. "I pushed
my drive and got a real bad kick, and it pushed into the hazard. [Then] I made stupid move. I
should have made a smarter play and ended up hitting a shot back into the hazard. From there
on, it was just a disaster."
* * *
* With the win, Petrosian joins a select fraternity of Lew-Port golfers who have won
Section VI golf titles. Frank Garcia won it in 1998 and Nick Morreale of the Lancers was the
1997 champion. Petrosian looks to continue his golf career as a walk-on at Division II
University of Tampa.
* Lew-Port was the only team to qualify two golfers. Joining Petrosian was teammate Mike
Boss, a junior. Iroquois had two make the team, but only junior Brennan Fonfara is expected to
play while Kyle Kapturowski is the alternate. Fonfara birdied No. 14 twice and made a nice
save on No. 15 after hitting into the hazard.
* Diamond Hawk made a big impression on some of the top finishers. Most said the greens
were firm and rolled great.
* Senior Scott Brady of Olean earned his first trip to states. His round was highlighted by
a 50-foot, par-saving putt on his last hole. He's taking his golf talent and ping-pong skills
to St. Bonaventure in the fall.
* Austin Nowak of Lancaster returns to states after finishing 13th last year.
* Williamsville East's Sean
Mahon's first 18 holes included chip-ins on No. 7 and No. 16.
* Kyle Jeziorski of Orchard Park carded an eagle on No. 9, capped with a 20-foot
* How about that Niagara Frontier League with golfers finishing 1-2, on an Erie County
course, no less?
* The Lancaster-Depew rivalry doesn't quite extend to golf as Andrew Romano of Depew and
Austin Nowak of Lancaster have played their share of rounds together. They'll play two more at
states. "Right now I'm not playing to my full potential," said Romano. "Me and Austin, gees we
got so many rounds in. We actually had good weather to start the year off, but we could both
play so much better."
Keith McShea has covered high school sports at The News since his hiring in 1999. The 1995 University at Buffalo graduate and Long Island native (North Babylon Bulldogs) covers — and live blogs — everything from scrimmages to state championships & helps head The News' All-Western New York selections.
Lauren Nicole Mariacher joined The News in 2009 after graduating from the Columbia University School of Journalism. The Elma native and Iroquois graduate can usually be found on a sideline, capturing highlights for PrepTalkTV. She also hosts Prep Talk's weekly live show, with Keith McShea, as well as The News' live postgame Bills show — [BN]TheHuddle.