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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For the lowdown on the new and evolving commenting format, check the link at the right, read the previous post, or just click here.
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.
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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.
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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.
The Class A final is set -- and it's not Iroquois-Grand Island.
Albion knocked off No. 1 large school and second-seeded Iroquois, 8-5, while Williamsville South toppled No. 1 seed and defending champion Grand Island, 11-5.
The undefeated Purple Eagles (21-0) take on the Billies (10-5) at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at Niagara Falls' Sal Maglie Stadium.
In the Monsignor Martin Association, we have three of the final four teams and one killer semifinal matchup.
St. Joe's beat Cardinal O'Hara, 9-0, while Canisius edged Nichols, 3-2 -- the rivals will meet in the semifinals at 3 p.m. Thursday at St. Joe's. The semifinal doubleheader at Joe's concludes with St. Mary's -- which knocked off Bishop Timon-St. Jude, 2-1 -- meeting the winner of Sunday's quarterfinal of Niagara Cathoic at St.Francis.
Lauren Mariacher and I will be back at Canisius College Tuesday night,
putting another episode together on the Manhattan Cup semifinals. We'll
have more action later in the week as the Section VI boys basketball
tournament tips off.
Let us know what you think.
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Here's your own PrepTalkTV DVR loaded with our previous episodes:
Are you ready for some playoff basketball? It starts today. The road ends in Glens Falls a little over a month from now.
We're at Canisius College for the Manhattan Cup quarterfinals -- four back-to-back-to-back-to-back games. Or a quadrupleheader, if you're into that terminology.
1:02 p.m. Pregame introductions have begun for the St. Joe's-Bishop Timon-St. Jude contest. St. Francis-St. Mary's, Canisius-Niagara Catholic and Nichols-Cardinal O'Hara. It's going to be a long but fun day.
The Joe's-Timon matchup is the 4-5 game (Timon is No. 4) and shapes up, as you would expect, as a good one. Also expected to be a top-notch game is the second quarterfinal between top 10 small school St. Mary's and St. Francis; St. Mary's coach Dan Gill told me the other day that something like three of the past four times the teams have met, the games have gone to overtime.
During our National Anthem, this thought pops in my head: Can the flags here at Koessler be a little larger? They look small compared to the advertising banners decorating the facility. Old Glory and Oh-Canada's flag look dwarfed. Maybe the Olympics are on the brain, but they should be more prominent.
1:19 p.m. We are at the end of the first quarter and Timon leads St. Joe's, 13-7.
1:23 p.m. Mike Scarcello just picked up his third foul, prompting a timeout a moment later by Timon coach Jim Palano. Timon leads, 16-12, with 6:23 left in the second quarter.
1:33 p.m. We are at halftime of our first quarterfinal of the day and Bishop Timon-St. Jude leads St. Joe's, 24-20.
1:44 p.m. The second half has begun. The entire season comes down to two quarters, so we'll definitely see a pickup in intensity. Things seemed a tad slow in the first half, sometimes a product of playing a familiar team at a neutral site in a huge game.
1:50 p.m. Timon calls a timeout with 4:13 left in the third quarter with Joe's on the best run of the game. Matthew Dyrek just hit a three-pointer to put Joe's up, 29-24. Joe's has made an effort to push the ball and it has worked in a 9-0 start of the quarter.
That was a big moment in the game for St. Joe's. The rowdies would be going nuts right now. Just wondering: Where are they?
First of all, the Yale Cup games are eariler, so I should be able to catch at least part of one (maybe two if my pickup hoops game goes short and the first Yale Cup game goes long) before moving on to one of the above prime-time contests.
Grover Cleveland is at Burgard at 4:15 p.m. and East is at McKinley at 5:30. (Note: the Hutch-Tech vs. Middle College game has been moved to 5:30 p.m. today at Hutch-Tech.)
Among the games listed above, there are four major rematches from this year and an intriguing nonleague rematch from last year.
The biggest upset of the season, and one of the biggest of the decade (whether it is last decade or this one :-) ) was North Tonawanda's64-62 overtime win at Niagara Falls, the first-ever Niagara Frontier League loss for the Wolverines. Falls' first-ever attempt to avenge an NFL loss gets started at 7 p.m.
St. Francis started making noise in the Monsignor Martin Association when it beat Bishop Timon-St. Jude at home, 56-54, on Jan. 20 to start a four-game win streak. The Tigers are coming off a top-notch victory at Canisius while Frannies has stumbled a bit with a loss at Nichols and a home loss to Canisius; tip-off in South Buffalo is 7:30 p.m.
The ECIC III battles between Maryvale and Depew have been outstanding for the last several years -- the Wildcats avenged their only loss of the season by winning at Amherst on Thursday. Back on Jan. 5, Depew won at Maryvale, 42-35. Tonight's battle is at 7:30.
The Niagara-Orleans League race likely rests on the 7 p.m. tipoff of Medina at Wilson. Medina won at home in the teams' first meeting, 62-53, on Jan. 15.
St. Joe's makes its first trip to Maple Grove
for a 7:30 tip. Last year the Red Dragons lost at St. Joe's, 79-64. The Marauders are struggling while the Red Dragons and Chris Secky appear to be primed for that Class D playoff run that everyone has been talking about since last year. A very intriguing matchup here.
Other games on the fast-breaking Tuesday include Lockport at Grand Island in the NFL, Orchard Park at Lancaster in ECIC I, Cleveland Hill at Alden in ECIC IV and St. Mary's at Niagara Catholic in a Monsignor Martin small school battle.
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Part of me wanted to let the voters literally decide where I end up, but due to logistics and some Web work I'll be taking care of with reporter/videographer Lauren Mariacher (stay tuned), I can not completely put my traveling fate in your hands. Not that I don't trust Prep Talk Nation, of course. For instance, the trip to Maple Grove would be great, but the travel time involved would wipe out any possibility of seeing some games beforehand and would also throw a wrench into some significant postgame Web plans we have.
I'd have to say I'm leading to Falls at NT considering the historical impact of the teams' first meeting this year. I thought after NT's home loss to Lockport last week that perhaps the game had lost all of its luster, but then Falls struggled to beat Kenmore West so we're kind of back where we started -- trying to make sense out of the NFL.
But vote early and often (:-) ), and, of course, let me know why in the comments section below. I certainly am looking forward to seeing what the people's choice is.
Football's national signing day is here, and it's a pretty solid day for Western New York.
James Gaines of Canisius signed with Miami, David Fluellen of Lockport signed with Toledo and, as has been the case in recent years, several players signed with the University at Buffalo.
Jasen Carlson of Southwestern, Adam Redden of St. Francis and Andre Davis of Maryvale are headed to UB. The entire recruiting class for UB can be discussed at the Campus Watch blog. Delano Fabor of St. Francis, who was a high school senior last year, is on the list after enrolling at UB in January.
Also today, D.J. Nettles of Sweet Home signed with Rhode Island of Division I-AA (now the Football Championship Subdivision). Interesting note: the Rams open their season at UB on Thursday, Sept. 2.
Hello from what should be a three-stop day of hoops.
6:28 p.m. We arrive at Erie Community College and it is a competitive first quarter -- until Darale Young hits a three and Justin Stokes puts down a one-handed slam (not on video! argh!) to give Middle College a 19-11 lead after the quarter.
6:50 p.m. So much for that competitive start -- Middle College is up, 41-16, after an obviously dominant second quarter.
Nice give-up by Davon Alexander for the Young finish.
6:52 p.m. Out the back door of ECC, across the street to the parking lot and we've got Lockport on WLVL -- it's fuzzy -- I think it might be a girls game. Yup. Just heard "Lady Lions" from Norm Palmer. We're off to NT for the Lockport boys' visit there.
7:23 p.m. We have arrived at NT with Lockport leading, 16-13, with less than six minutes left in the second quarter.
For you Lady Lions fans, Lockport leads the NT girls, 32-14, late in the second quarter. A fun listen with some great stuff from Palmer.
7:41 p.m. At halftime, NT leads Lockport, 27-24.
Darrik Bloomfield had a three-point play off a nice follow to give NT the three-point lead.
Lockport was up, 24-21, when Shannon Haynes found Andrew Bailey on a nice basket inside. NT tied it at 24 when Joe Montesanti hit a three-pointer.
Montesanti leads all scorers with 10 - he also banked in a three. Haynes has nine, Bloomfield has seven as does Lockport's Sean Smith while Aaron Davis of NT has six.
8:05 p.m. NT leads, 43-42, after three quarters.
8:16 p.m. NT is up, 49-46, with 2:31 left.
8:20 p.m. NT up, 50-49, with 1:10 left.
8:32 p.m. We have a FINAL SCORE: Lockport 54, NT 50. Senior Andrew Granchelli goes 5 of 6 at the line in the final minute. Clutch.
8:55 p.m. Nichols is up big, 69-56, with 2:52 left.
9:06 p.m. We have a FINAL SCORE: Nichols 74, St. Francis 64.
From what I heard on the St. Francis broadcast on my way here and from talking with some fans, Frannies played Nichols tough in the first half but it was all Nichols in the second.
We'll have more details ASAP and some videos later on.
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Let's go to Mary Jo Monnin live in the newsroom ... Grover Cleveland loses to Bennett, Jamestown loses at home to Orchard Park. Wow. More to come.
There were a TON of games tonight and they'll be on the Web as soon as possible.
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For people who like typing, "scores?????" when we're obviously trying to get them together as soon as possible, some good news: tonight's scoreboard has been posted.
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If you were out at a game, let us know what you thought of the action, the teams, the players and even the concession stand.
It is a slow-go out there tonight, and it looks like I may have only one stop. We'll see.
7:05 p.m. I've just arrived at Lockport, where Falls has a 36-31 lead on the host Lions in the second quarter. I've kept track of the game thanks to 1340 WLVL-AM.
7:16 p.m. At halftime we're enjoying the Lockport Royal Lions stomp team. Falls has a 45-35 lead. Falls has threatened to turn it into a blowout but Lockport has hung around -- if the Lions stop hanging around, I might try and make it to St. Francis.
7:50 p.m. Falls wins, 86-65. We are headed south and we'll see if we can catch the end of St. Joe's at St. Francis. Got a dunk from both sides on video, so that's cool. I'll post those later.
The matchups for the annual Martin Luther King Jr. basketball showcase organized by Buffalo Public Schools Athletic Director Dave Thomas are set for Saturday at Erie Community College's Flickinger Center downtown:
11 a.m. -- St. Francis vs. McKinley 12:30 p.m. -- St. Joe's vs. Grover Cleveland 2 p.m. -- Canisius vs. East 3:30 p.m. -- Sweet Home vs. Middle College
Admission is $5 and there are no passes, according to a Buffalo Public Schools press release.
All matchups are intriguing -- the last three should all feature battles between ranked teams; we'll have to see how tomorrow's polls stack up.
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.