Timon and St. Mary's were scheduled to play on Dec. 23, so the schools are working on finding a new date for that game.
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Coaches and athletic directors are asked to send rescheduled games, times and dates to firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as they are set. It is especially important for us to have rescheduled games as soon as possible so we can adjust our new Web scoreboard/schedule feature.
One spot left for Ralph Wilson Stadium, and it's being decided today as McKinley visits Sweet Home in a Section VI Class A semifinal.
2:15 p.m. We're getting caught up here in closed quarters. I'm in a folding chair in the back of the cozy press box with WGR doing the game on the radio.
McKinley got one first-down run but punted after four more plays; Sweet Home went three-and-out; McKinley has called a timeout with 5:20 left in the first facing a second-and-11 at its 30.
UPDATE from correspondent Nate Beutel at Canisius' Stransky Complex in West Seneca: Mercer Timmis scores on a 1-yard run to give Canisius a 7-0 lead over St. Francis.
2:23 p.m. Sweet Home's second drive was a short one but a good one as the Panthers took advantage of excellent wind-helped field position to score. The wind is a huge advantage for teams heading right to left on your computer screen :-).
After taking over at the McKinley 30 after a Macks punt, Sweet Home got a 21-yard TOUCHDOWN from senior Ralph Neasman, who made a tackler miss near the line and then burst through to the right side for an easy finish to the end zone. The snap for the extra point is wild and a flailing pass attempt fails; the Panthers lead McKinley, 6-0, with 3:02 left in the first quarter.
2:30 p.m. Sweet Home takes advantage of more great field position set up by an interception by senior Kyle Luchey. Nice play by Luchey on a ball that was held up in the wind -- definitely a solid second guess of the Macks passing there. The Panthers took over at the McKinley 25 and five plays later, on third-and-3, Neasman pinballed his way into the end zone on a very nice 6-yard TOUCHDOWN run. Sweet Home's two-point conversion attempt is no good after a shotgun snap goes over Jordan Johnson's head. With 1:01 left in the first quarter, Sweet Home leads McKinley, 12-0.
2:35 p.m. At the END OF THE FIRST QUARTER, Sweet Home leads McKinley, 12-0.
UPDATE: Canisius is up, 13-0, on St. Francis after a 22-yard pass by Travis Eman with 10:58 left in the second quarter.
2:41 p.m. McKinley is on the board as it converts on its first possession with the wind in the second quarter. Quarterback Marquell Ingram makes a great read after initially going back to pass, then runs cleanly right up the middle for a 5-yard TOUCHDOWN. McKinley's two-point conversion is also no good after a bad snap and Sweet Home leads McKinley, 12-6, with 10:44 left in the second quarter.
2:47 p.m. We have a Sweet Home timeout with the Panthers facing a fourth-and-4 at the McKinley 44 with 8:45 left in the second quarter.
2:49 p.m. A Johnson pass into the wind falls incomplete and McKinley takes over at its 44 with 8:40 left in the second.
2:56 p.m. McKinley punted and Sweet Home took over at its 20; with 4:50 and counting down, Sweet Home faces a fourth-and-2 at its 44 and appears to be going for it.
2:57 p.m. Sweet Home gets the first down to the McKinley 49 thanks to an endaround run by senior K.J. Zinermon.
3:05 p.m. Sweet Home calls a timeout with :06 left in the first half. First down at the McKinley 9.
3:07 p.m. We are at HALFTIME after a great finish to the half for Sweet Home, who scores a TOUCHDOWN on the final play.
On the final play, Johnson rolled left, rolled left, then ran past the left pylon for a 9-yard score and a 18-6 halftime lead for Sweet Home. The two-point conversion attempt for Sweet Home fell just short as Neasman was stopped going up the middle. Neasman had a nice 11-yard run to set up the first-and-goal.
Here are some first-half highlights -- including all three touchdowns -- thanks to wind-battling video reporter Lauren Mariacher:
3:16 p.m. UPDATE from West Seneca: Canisius has a 21-6 lead. The Crusaders extended its lead with the second of two Eman-to-Theo Russell pass plays.
According to Canisius athletic director Jim Mauro, here's the scenario for Canisius, which with a win would force a three-way tie atop the Monsignor Martin's League AA at 2-1. The first tiebreaker is point differential with a maximum of 20 points. With Canisius having lost by more than 20 to St. Joe's, and St. Joe's having lost by 20 to St. Francis, Canisius needs to win by 20 or more to force thing to the next tiebreaker -- which is points allowed among the three teams. St. Joe's allowed 75; Canisius allowed 50 and St. Francis 21 entering the game. For Canisius to jump over St. Joe's, it needs to win today by 20 and hold St. Francis to 24 points or less.
3:25 p.m. We're about to start the second half here and it appears that some kind of penalty has been called on Sweet Home. Apparently it is a 15-yard penalty for the Panthers not being present on the sideline after the break. That's a first. Interesting call there.
It was just announced; officially it is a delay of game penalty.
Impressive first half by Sweet Home, which, as we've seen before, was hampered by some penalties but overcame them. The score at the end of the half was huge obviously. Gives Sweet Home a nice cushion against a McKinley team which can move the ball.
3:29 p.m. With the 15 yards pushing Sweet Home back, they kick off and a short McKinley return moves the Macks to their 49 to start the second half. McKinley is going left-to-right and into the wind so we're starting the second half as we did the first with Sweet Home having the wind.
3:31 p.m. McKinley's first drive is a three-and-out in which Mikal Coleman had a sack on third down; Sweet Home takes over at its 46 with 10:50 left in the third quarter.
3:41 p.m. With 6:21 left in the third, a Sweet Home junior lineman Scott Schriver is down and is helped off the field; the Panthers face a third-and-1 at the McKinley 46.
3:43 p.m. UPDATE: St. Francis scores to cut Canisius' lead to 20-13 late in the third.
3:46 p.m. Just as in the first meeting between these teams, mistakes have killed McKinley. The Macks had a penalty on their punt return to knock them back to their own 7 with 5:16 left, and on the first snap, a fumble led to Mikal Coleman covering the ball in the end zone for a Sweet Home TOUCHDOWN. The extra point kick is good by JV callup Sean Huber and Sweet Home leads McKinley, 25-6, with 5:08 left in the third quarter.
3:52 p.m. Another error for McKinley, which had been moving the ball well, but the drive ends with an interception by junior Brian Barnes and Sweet Home takes over at its 14.
4:01 p.m. A very unfortunate and disappointing development here as three players were ejected after some post-play activity that brought a total of five flags. Sweet Home's Rashaad Rogers and Tim Oaks have been ejected as has Mileec Deberry of McKinley. After a run by Ralph Neasman, there was some activity at the right (far) sideline and players got together and I believe Oaks and Deberry took their helmets off for an automatic ejection. Radio reports have Rogers being ejected for coming off the Sweet Home sideline.
After all the fallout, Sweet Home had first-and-10 at its 10.
4:08 p.m. At the END OF THE THIRD QUARTER, Sweet Home has a 25-6 lead over McKinley.
McKinley will start the fourth with a third-and-10 at the Sweet Home 33.
UPDATE: Canisius' lead is 21-13 after three quarters.
4:14 p.m. UPDATE: Canisius leads, 21-19, with four minutes left after stopping St. Francis' two-point conversion following a touchdown.
4:25 p.m. We're under five minutes here.
4:25 p.m. Kyle Luchey returns a punt 35 yards for a TOUCHDOWN and Sweet Home leads McKinley, 31-6, with 3:17 left.
4:39 p.m. We have a FINAL SCORE: Sweet Home 31, McKinley 6.
FINAL from West Seneca: Canisius 21, St. Francis 19.
That means, that based on the point differential tiebreaker, today's result makes St. Francis (2-1, plus-18 point differential) the top seed, followed by St. Joe's (2-1, even, beat Canisius head-to-head) then Canisius (2-1, minus-2).
The Monsignor Martin AA semifinal matchups are 4-Bishop Timon-St. Jude at 1-St. Francis, and, get a load of this: 3-Canisius at 2-St. Joe's, a rematch at the site of St. Joe's blowout win over Canisius in Week Five.
As always, we want to hear from you about any games you saw: Let us know what you thought of the players, teams -- even the concession stand -- in the comments section below.
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Also, if you will be at a game and are interested in supplying updates to the Prep Talk blog, email me with your name and cell number at email@example.com and I'll get in touch -- or you can just email me updates from one of those fancy phones. We don't need every play or even every possession -- just scoring plays and the score after each quarter and anything else that would cause you to blow up a fellow fan's phone with a text/email. I'll definitely give you a shoutout here, as I have the last few weeks, for helping pass the word along during the Friday Night Live and Saturday Afternoon Live blogs.
Just checking in on some national Web sites' rankings of New York high school football. It's always interesting to see how they slot New York, which is certainly a step behind much of the country when it comes to the sport.
Sweet Home, as it did in the preseason, is getting the nod for the top team overall in the state by several polls.
The National Prep Poll has Sweet Home as its only team from New York. The Panthers didn't make the Northeast top 10 (one of seven regional rankings) but it was listed as the only team "just missing out" in from the Northeast.
The USA Today regional rankings have Sweet Home at No. 4 in the East, impressively (and surprisingly) ahead of Bergen Catholic of New Jersey.
In this week's ESPNRise regional rankings, Sweet Home is the first team from New York tabbed at No. 7 in the East (consisting of 13 states and the District of Columbia).
I'll probably get an email making sure I know that St. Anthony's of Long Island is tucked right behind the Panthers at No. 8 in the East. ESPNRise rates the top 20 teams in five regions in addition to its national top 50. Gauging by East No. 5 Bergen (N.J.) Catholic being just left out of the top 50, one might guesstimate that Sweet Home is hovering perhaps a just a chain-link inside a national 100.
Speaking of St. Anthony's, a pretty good gauge of downstate and how it stacks up with some neighbors is the MSGVarsity Tri-State Top 25 (even if you can't see all 25 because you have to pay to see the site). St. Anthony's was ranked fifth with Sachem East of Long Island at No. 8. Bergen Catholic is No. 2 behind another Jersey school, widely acknowleged national power Don Bosco.
Of course, then there are the state rankings put together by the New York State Sportswriters Association. Sweet Home No. 1 in A in front of Aquinas; Monroe-Woodbury (which is eligible for the MSGVarsity poll) ahead of both St. Anthony's and Sachem.
As I wrote in the preseason, I think it's a deserved spot for Sweet Home based on their past success, and they've kept rolling this year. I think Sweet Home and St. Anthony's are the certainly the top contenders for the spot, with Aquinas needing to be noted along with Monroe-Woodbury and Sachem as the next tier.
I have my doubts about M-W as a No. 1 in the state in AA since longtime keen downstate high school writer Kevin Devaney Jr. (who moved from the Journal-News to MSGVarsity) has had New Rochelle ahead of M-W in his poll.
Thanks to Prep Talk blog first-ballot Hall of Famer Milt Latimer for this one: Southwestern's 36-game win streak, which is one short of the Western New York record of 37 held by Lackawanna (it ended in 1999), is also tied for the third-longest win streak in the nation.
Southwestern is tied with a team from Kentucky (Highlands) and Tennessee (Alcoa) at 36, and the top spot isn't too far off. The top win streak of 39 is owned by West Rowan of Mt. Ulla, N.C., while Phoebus of Hampton, Va., is second at 37.
That's not all -- Sweet Home is next on the list behind Southwestern, tied with Hamilton of Chandler, Ariz., for sixth at 33.
I'm starting the day at Grand Island, which is hosting Sweet Home in a matchup that always seems to be entertaining (the game is on WGR 550 AM). Afterwards I'll head to Canisius' Stransky Complex in West Seneca, where the Crusaders are hosting Rochester power Aquinas in a 3 p.m. start. I might leave early depending on how this first half goes.
2:01 p.m. We've kicked off.
2:23 p.m. Sweet Home has a 6-0 lead. On third-and-goal from the 9, Jordan Johnson rolled right and patiently waited before passing to the right side to Nick Spidell, who made a nifty move and then took a hit as he broke the plane. Steve Stapleton's extra point kick was wide left. We have just over a minute left in the first quarter.
2:26 p.m. We are at the END OF THE FIRST QUARTER with Sweet Home leading Grand Island, 6-0. GI faces fourth-and-23 at its 13.
2:31 p.m. GI's Nate Benoit makes a great save of a bad snap to avoid a safety and get away a punt, but Sweet Home took advantage of the good field position.
On third-and-1, Ralph Neasman turned his first-down run into a TOUCHDOWN run by scooting through a nice lane to the right, bouncing off a tackler to gain the right sideline, then got a good block and did well to fend off a tackler with one arm while reaching the ball across the goal line for the score. On the two-point conversion try, Johnson passed to the left flat to K.J. Zinermon, who had great blocking and tunnelled in to the end zone. With 10:19 left in the second quarter, Sweet Home leads Grand Island, 14-0.
2:44 p.m. Another short possession for GI, which had two passes dropped and then turned the ball over on an interception by Nick Spidell of Sweet Home, and another scoring drive for Sweet Home.
Spidell has starred today -- he took an inside handoff after going in motion from right to left, then sprinted to the left side and outran the defense to the left pylon for a 21-yard TOUCHDOWN with 5:46 left in the second quarter. The two-point conversion is missed when Johnson's pass sails out of bounds. Sweet Home leads Grand Island, 20-0.
2:54 p.m. Another TOUCHDOWN for Sweet Home as Mikal Coleman burrows in out of Sweet Home's tight "Big Bird" package for a 1-yard score with 45.9 seconds left in the second quarter. Stapleton adds the extra point and Sweet Home has a 27-0 lead at Grand Island.
3 p.m. It is HALFTIME and Sweet Home leads Grand Island, 27-0. I'm heading to Canisius' game, especially with a 20-minute half here (at least) for senior day.
3:38 p.m. Hello from Canisius' Stransky complex, where Aquinas just took a 16-10 lead as I walked in.
UPDATE I got en route from John Hickey at Williamsville North: North leads Niagara Falls, 21-14, at halftime. When I got out of the car, Sweet Home had just intercepted Grand Island's first possession of the second half.
3:49 p.m. Aquinas adds a 26-yard FIELD GOAL by Eric Terhaar in the final minute of the second quarter and the Little Irish lead Canisius, 19-10.
An interesting situation here as an Aquinas fan with a cowbell (which was discussed in this week's chat!) was approached by a West Seneca police officer in an effort to have her move her location in the Canisius bleachers -- just to the right of the press box in front of me. The fan, wearing the 74 of Jarron Jones and I'd have to guess it is his mother, moved down to the front row and is continuing to cowbell it up. Some Canisius adult fans/parents -- including one with a cowbell -- yelled at her to go to the other side of the field, where mostly maroon-clad Aquinas fans have filled up the visiting bleachers. Ahh, the joys of high school sports.
3:53 p.m. We are at HALFTIME with Aquinas leading Canisius, 19-10. Canisius' last-minute drive didn't go far, similar to their previous drive. Quarterback Travis Eman is under serious pressure while the Little Irish have cut down Canisius ball carriers in the backfield a few times.
UPDATE via WGR's online broadcast: Sweet Home leads Grand Island, 34-6, entering the fourth quarter.
4:10 p.m. We've kicked off the second half here with Aquinas receiving the kickoff.
UPDATE from Sal Constantino of Niagara Falls: North leads, 27-14, with seven minutes left.
4:13 p.m. Aquinas with a great start to the second half after a great play. Mike Messina took a reverse handoff, running left to right and around the side for a 56-yard TOUCHDOWN. Before the play, I believe the Aquinas quarterback went out to the wide reciever spot to the right and exchanged with a wideout. After the shift, Messina came running in motion from the left. Nice play. Terhaar adds the extra point and Aquinas has a 26-10 lead with 10:22 left in the third quarter. That drive was only three plays.
4:17 p.m. Canisius has a sign of life on its next drive as Mercer Timmis breaks out a 59-yard run, weaving his way down the field, but on the next play, a first down at the Aquinas 27, the Little Irish come up with an interception by Chris Bostick -- who made a great play and will take over at their 1 wtih 8:09 left in the third quarter.
UPDATE from photographer Mark Mulville at today's big rivalry game: Kenmore West leads Kenmore East, 14-6, at halftime.
4:22 p.m. Aquinas forced to punt from deep in its territory, a bad snap leads to a poor punt and Canisius takes over at the Aquinas 27 with 6:17 left.
4:27 p.m. UPDATE from Prep Talk blog Hall of Famer Centercourt: Wilson 27, Newfane 14.
We have a timeout here with 2:40 left in the third quarter -- Canisius had first and goal at the 7 but has moved backwards since then as Aquinas has been all over the Crusaders. It is now fourth-and-goal from the 22.
4:30 p.m. Aquinas takes over at its 22 with 1:50 remaining in the third. On fourth down Travis Eman's pass went incomplete after he was hit as he threw -- more pressure from Aquinas.
FINAL from Grand Island: Sweet Home wins, 34-6.
4:34 p.m. At the END OF THE THIRD QUARTER, Aquinas leads Canisius, 26-10. Aquinas has a first down at the Canisius 41.
4:43 p.m. Canisius got the ball back at its 24 with 8:13 left by stopping Aquinas on a fourth down, but needing a quick scoring drive, the first play was disastrous. Eman ran to the right on a keeper but was stuffed by the Aquinas defense and fumbled -- sophomore Jake Guy got a hold of the ball and ran it about 18 yards for a TOUCHDOWN. The extra point by Terhaar gives Aquinas a 33-10 lead at Canisius with 8:04 to play.
4:50 p.m. Canisius' next drive ends with a punt, which was returned well by Aquinas to start at the Canisius 21, and they soon went in for another TOUCHDOWN. Messina runs in the left side from 4 yards out and Terhaar adds another kick to give Aquinas a 40-10 lead over Canisius with 4:07 left in the game.
Canisius scored on its first two drives but did not score after that.
4:59 p.m. Canisius adds a late touchdown as backup quarterback Chris Jugovic hits Theo Russell for an 18-yard score. The extra point misses. Aquinas leads Canisius, 40-16, with 15.8 seconds left.
5:02 p.m. We have a FINAL SCORE: Aquinas 40, Canisius 16.
Third impressive win for Aquinas over a Monsignor Martin school this year (home vs. St. Joe's, at St. Francis) and second straight big loss for Canisius.
I'm heading down for interviews and then back to One News Plaza.
Canisius is at St. Joe's, Clarence is hosting Frontier and Cardinal O'Hara is hosting St. Mary's, but we're checking out two-time defending state champion Sweet Home hosting McKinley in a large Class A North matchup and what is anticipated as the Panthers' first real tough test of the season.
2:32 p.m. Our first chance to update -- Sweet Home is up, 7-6, late in the first quarter.
The Panthers looked very state champ-like on their opening drive, which quickly moved downfield and ended with K.J. Zinermon's end-around run from the left side to the right end and a 10-yard TOUCHDOWN. Steve Stapleton's kick was good for the 7-0 lead.
McKinley answered with an impressive, eight-play, 75-yard drive that ended with senior quarterback Markell Ingram leaning in off left tackle for a TOUCHDOWN on a sneak on fourth-and-goal from the 1. McKinley's two-point conversion run was stuffed by junior Rashaad Rogers.
2:33 p.m. A big play for McKinley turns into a HUGE play for Sweet Home.
The Macks faced a fourth-and-1 at the Sweet Home 29 on an impressive drive. McKinley senior quarterback Markell Ingram put a pass up to the left flat and senior defensive back Kyle Luchey stepped in front of it and went 75 yards for the TOUCHDOWN. The extra point was missed; Sweet Home leads McKinley, 13-6, with 1:10 left in the first quarter.
2:39 p.m. Wow the momentum is changing fast in this one. McKinley came out strong and looked very good, but some mistakes have put Sweet Home ahead, 19-6, with 20 seconds left in the first quarter. On fourth-and-11 from its 25, McKinley had bad snap mishandled by the punter, the ball bounced to the end zone and Rashaad Rogers fell on it for the TOUCHDOWN. The point-after run failed.
2:41 p.m. At the END OF THE FIRST QUARTER, Sweet Home leads McKinley, 19-6.
2:59 p.m. I was just thinking that if McKinley finds its footing after those mistakes, they could be right in this game. They just might have done that. Sophomore Kwame Duah runs right and scores on a 9-yard TOUCHDOWN. The pass fails and Sweet Home's lead is 19-12 with 5:19 left in the second quarter.
A great pass from Ingram to sophomore Stephon Johnson down the right side on third-and-6 from the McKinley 49 helped the Macks move along. It went for 42 yards -- great lofted pass dorn right side and great adjustment to make the catch just in bounds.
3:01 p.m. Just when you think this game is going to tighten up, Sweet Home stretches it out again. Junior quarterback Jordan Johnson fakes a handoff, then runs it up the middle through the linebackers and then sprints away from the defense for a 75-yard TOUCHDOWN. Johnson hits senior Ralph Neasman on the right side for a two-point conversion pass and Sweet Home's lead is 27-12 with 4:59 left in the second quarter.
3:19 p.m. Sweet Home takes advantage of a possession with just 51 seconds left in the half that came with great field possession after the Macks punted from their end zone. After a penalty (Sweet Home has had a bunch of those), Jordan Johnson faked a handoff on first-and-15 at the McKinley 28, then ran right up the middle for another TOUCHDOWN. Another two-point conversion pass, this one from Johnson to Zinermon -- who made a nice spin-off a few tacklers to gain the end zone -- gives Sweet Home a 35-12 lead with 40 seconds left in the first half.
3:27 p.m. We are at HALFTIME with Sweet Home leading McKinley, 35-12.
3:32 p.m. OK. We're outta here. I've been listening to the St. Joe's-Canisius game online at WGR and St. Joe's has a stunner of a 30-12 lead at halftime. WOW.
St. Joe's had a 23-12 lead but added a touchdown on a Chad Kelly pass with 2:34 left in the second quarter.
Another update from photographer John Hickey -- he's at Clarence, where the host Red Devils had a 28-0 lead on Frontier at halftime.
I'm off to St. Joe's, I should be there in plenty of time for the finish ...
4:22 p.m. WOW, WOW, WOW.
We are at the END OF THE THIRD QUARTER AND IT IS ST. JOE'S 44, CANISIUS 12.
Just a stunning score and a tremendous performance by St. Joe's.
I heard St. Joe's score on their opening drive of the second half after a major statement of a drive, then was on hand to see Nick Hall run in for a 21-yard touchdown on their next possession. The St. Joe's defense has been outstanding, pressuring and bottling up Canisius quarterback
4:26 p.m. Canisius gets on the board in the second half with a 10-yard touchdown run by Mercer Timmis. The extra point is good. St. Joe's leads Canisius, 44-19, with 10:13 left in the game.
Update from photographer John Hickey: A final score at Clarence, where the Red Devils beat Frontier, 41-8. Hickey reports that there was a heated discussion between coaching staffs after the game after Clarence went for two on its final touchdown. Just a silly move that could certainly be called classless; there's no need for it and all it can do is welcome criticism.
4:32 p.m. Wow again. Chad Kelly keeps it and runs in for a 23-yard TOUCHDOWN for a 50-19 St. Joe's lead over Canisius with 8:34 left.
4:44 p.m. This one is all but over. St. Joe's leads Canisius, 50-19, with the clock winding under two minutes. Gotta shut down for now. Wow.
4:47 p.m. Check that. Late touchdown for Canisius with 27 seconds left. Joe's leads, 50-26.
6:37 p.m. Sorry -- been busy for a bit but just to confirm that the shocking, stunning FINAL SCORE: St. Joe's 50, Canisius 26.
Back at the office after taking care of PrepTalkTV duties, now writing my story and the shock of the result is still sinking in. Not just that St. Joe's won -- if it was a close game, you could understand that considering the rivalrly. But an absolute crushing? Only the biggest Marauder fans could have really expected that. I've said it before, I'll say it again ... wow. :-)
Some more wows, both from Williamsville. Will North beats NT, word at St. Joe's was that Will East beat Grand Island but we haven't gotten a call on that one. Nice wins by Burgard and Cardinal O'Hara as well.
Final in from Sweet Home is the Panthers taking it, 41-32. Sweet Home was up, 35-18, heading to the fourth. The Macks scored a safety then a touchdown to come within nine (35-26), and then the teams traded touchdowns for the final score.
One note -- we went to "production" right after the St. Joe's game and didn't know about Williamsville North's win over NT at the time. I certainly would have mentioned that at the end; my apologies about that.
9:03 a.m. We traversed our way through North Buffalo to Cleveland Hill to see Burgard warming up on a practice area and O'Hara and Cleve Hill going at it on the main field (which appears to be getting some upgrades -- newly paved asphalt and concrete is taped off in some areas).
It is sounding more and more like football season with coaches yelling and pads popping.
It doesn't take long for O'Hara coach Angelo Sciandra to find midseason form. After a play didn't go the way he wanted, he exclaimed from behind the line of scrimmage: "Are you kidding me?!!? You've GOT to be kidding me!!"
The parents were ready to go as well. A Cleveland Hill run play against O'Hara invoked cries of "Get him! Get him!" by a mom.
9:16 a.m. After a series between O'Hara's defense and Cleve Hill's offense (in which Joe Pops and his camera almost got run over on the sideline -- twice :-) ), Burgard's defense takes on O'Hara's offense. The Bulldogs looked ready to go, with No. 0 Victor Peoples calling out plays for the defense, which stuffed a few O'Hara plays in the series I watched.
Here's a nice pass breakup by O'Hara (below) -- check out the deft move by Joe Pops to pull the tripod out of the way just in time. This was our first play of the day. Some more good commentary by coach Sciandra as well.
Here (below) Burgard did a good job to bottle up O'Hara standout back Robert Davis (who had some big fans on the sideline):
9:24 a.m. We've seen enough quality stuff (and gotten it on video) to hit the road up to Lockport, which is hosting Sweet Home, North Tonawanda, Grand Island, St. Francis and Williamsville South. Kensington Ave. brings us to the I-290 and we're headed to the 990, Millersport Highway and Transit Road.
9:55 a.m. Arrive at Lockport's Emmett Belknap Middle School, home of the Lions' football field (my first visit). We see the end of the first session and are on hand for a great show between defending state champions Sweet Home and North Tonawanda, which was a blast to watch.
The first session had quarterback and Jordan Johnson moving Sweet Home's offense very well against NT's defense; the second session had NT starting slowly but finishing strong with several scoring plays.
All teams are pretty hyped up to start Scrimmage Saturday -- there were loud pregame hollers going on at Cleveland Hill -- but you got the sense from both defending state champions that this scrimmage matchup would mean more than most.
You can hear the energy in the teams' opening play, as NT players are clapping it up before a tone-setting run by Sweet Home's Ralph Neasman that the sideline loved (above).
After another run by Neasman, check out this great play (above) -- Johnson for his scramble and Coleman for a lot of reasons.
Coleman -- in the backfield -- dispatches with a blitzer to help enable Johnson to get free on a run that he would end extremely solidly in a big collision with an NT defender. But listen and watch Coleman after the play. Sweet Home players were understandably fired up with the big hit, but then Coleman tells them to "take a knee!" as the player is down.
I believe you can hear him off camera telling the player he's going to be alright. The player did get up and walk off under his own power, and Coleman yells to the player, "You good, you good! Told you it was just a stinger!"
After a tough Coleman run up the middle, Neasman took a pitch to the far right (above) for a touchdown.
Sweet Home's next possession started with a Johnson scramble to the left side, followed by Juwan Douglas with a run to the right (above) in which he kept his legs churning.
After a pass to the left, Coleman went in easily for a touchdown run (above), taken from a scrimmages-only camera vantage point (leaning on a goal post on the back line of the end zone).
When Sweet Home headed back near midfield for a new series, coach John Faller hollered at his team, "Let's have some fun ... all those two-a-days ... this is fun. Let's have some fun."
The Panthers' next possession was a quick one as K.J. Zinermon went in motion and caught a pass from Johnson before he dodged some tacklers to speed down the right sideline (and right by me) for a touchdown (above).
Another quick strike by Sweet Home: Johnson heaves it down the right side (above) and Brian Barnes adjusts to the ball and goes in for a touchdown.
NT gets an interception of Johnson (above); Sweet Home obviously had a nice offensive set but NT did get some pressure up the middle and a few sacks on some other plays. We can't show 'em all, of course.
The second session during this rotation was outstanding because while NT's offense came on to battle Sweet Home on one half of the field, fans got to watch University at Buffalo-bound quarterback Joe Licata and the Williamsville South offense take on Lockport on the other.
Licata twice hit Kevin O'Connell on the right side, once to get into scoring range and the second time for the touchdown (below).
Here's the fun second session in a nutshell (below) ...
... Licata completes a long pass on the left side of the field, then Joe Montesanti runs for North Tonawanda on the right side.
NT finds a big hole in the defense for a rushing touchdown (above) that gives Lumberjack players and fans cause for celebration.
Back to the South scrimmage ... Licata hits Phil Stasiak (I believe) for a long completion (above) but there's a fumble at the end of the play.
Here's another two-for-one clip (above) and it's defensive minded as Sweet Home and Lockport both stopped up run attempts by NT and South, respectively.
NT finds another hole in the defense (above) by running to the left for a touchdown.
Afterwards, Sweet Home coach Faller scolded some of his frustrated troops with: "Don't point fingers! Don't point fingers ... unless you're perfect."
The run-and-fun-and-gun Billies of South haven't seemed to change much, as they show here with an nice reverse run for a score.
I'm disappointed I didn't get over to watch two outstanding programs in Grand Island and St. Francis go at it on the practice field behind the bleachers (Joe Pops did with the video camera, however), but there was just too much going on on the main field. As is the case with the entire day, there's just not enough time to catch everyone.
10:57 a.m. Back in the car and ready to move shortly. This was our first chance to actually catch up on the blog, pounding away at the laptop in the car in the parking lot at Lockport.
11:08 a.m. We're on our way to Riverside, where a good group of the Frontiers, Bishop Timon-St. Jude, McKinley and Maple Grove are in action. This will be a relatively quick stop because we need to get out to Canisius' West Seneca field for their scrimmage with Orchard Park.
11:43 a.m. Arrive at Riverside and its newly paved parking lot adjacent to its new facility, which looks great with the four teams in action and a modest group of fans checking it out.
Maple Grove's offense is going against McKinley on one half, with new quarterback Alex Grace completing several screen passes against the Macks. On the other half of the field, Riverside's defense is standing very tall against Timon's offense.
Here's a look:
12:11 p.m. We're off to zip around the I-190 to Canisius' Stransky Complex in West Seneca.
12:27 p.m. We arrive at Canisius' fine facility on Clinton Street, where in a mile or three you go from citylike to suburbanlike to countrylike surroundings.
This scrimmage might have just two teams, but if you're going to check out a two-team affair, you can't get much better than the defending Monsignor Martin champion and one of Section VI's best programs.
When we arrived, the teams were going through rudimentary special teams plays, like punt and kickoff returns without the full units on the field.
It was a good time to catch up on what happened earlier, and word on the sideline (just for the record, it was the Canisius sideline, but all from very reliable sources :-) ) was that the Crusaders had a great early session when the No. 1 offense and defense from both teams matched up.
Canisius had two touchdowns on early drives while it stifled OP's drive, which, sources said, didn't get across midfield while the Crusaders also had at least three takeaways. A standout was Canisius running back Mercer Timmis, a transfer from Canada who had plenty of people talking after some strong runs.
I was pleased to find out that the No. 1s would be going at it again, and Orchard Park fared much better than it apparently did earlier. It moved the ball quite well, including a nice completion by senior quarterback Kyle Witkowski (below).
In the next nine-play segment, Orchard Park had a great start with a few run stops as well as an interception (above).
Canisius showed the offensive firepower it displayed last season when Eman, after hitting a pass across the middle, delivered a deep spiral down the left side and Theo Russell stretched out to reel it in.
OP came up with a good finish to the session as well. It stopped two runs inside the 10 and, on the ninth-play on what would have been a third-down, a linebacker made a nice read on an Eman pass for another interception (above).
In a final series between the top units, Eman hit Russell -- this time for a long touchdown -- just before the close of the scrimmage.
1:39 p.m. After shooting our "stand-up" (TV term) for PrepTalkTV -- which is also referred to by me as my "blabbity-blah," we're heading back to the office where I'll be updating a ton on the blog.
1:48 p.m. We're back at One News Plaza, where I'll update the blog with a lot of stuff while Joe Pops puts the episode of PrepTalkTV together. I'll have that posted here as soon as it's completed.
I'll be heading out two two evening scrimmages (hosted by Iroquois and Amherst) and will have more updates and details later.
4:36 p.m. I'm hitting the road again, hitting Iroquois and then Amherst.
5:19 p.m. Make that Amherst and then Iroquois. It made too much sense to swing by Amherst after driving Joe Pops back to his car.
5:28 p.m. With some good highlights in the phone, I'm off for my lengthy trip to Elma and the Chiefs' scrimmage with Lackawanna and Frontier.
There were some nice plays between Hutch-Tech's offense and West Seneca West's defense on one half and the Kenmore East defense and Amherst offense on the other.
Hutch-Tech scored a touchdown on West Seneca West as I walked into Dimp Wagner Field, then put in a two-point conversion. Amherst scored a nice passing touchdown on one of the first plays I watched; on the next play on that half, Kenmore East's sideline got fired up after its defense knocked the Tigers back for a loss.
Here's how it went down:
5:52 I arrive at Iroquois and, thanks to my trip here last year, I know where I'm going.
I take the dirt road behind the school to near the baseball field, then walk through some high grassy and wooded areas into a clearing and what you could call the Chiefs' practice field of dreams.
I'm told by noted Prep Talk Nation first-ballot Hall of Fame blogger Milt Latimer that there has yet to be a touchdown, and there won't be in my stay there, although there are some solid plays.
Lackawanna's Keith Taggart probably had the play of the day -- he managed to handle a pitch that bounced on its way to him, then evaded tackler after tackler has he advanced well into the secondary.
The Steelers had some effective pass plays in the time I was there, while Frontier and Iroquois both had some nice stops.
Here are the best ones the phone and I captured from the sidelines:
6:59 p.m. After a good discussion about the day's action as well as the upcoming season with Milt, I walk up the hill, drive back up the dirt road, pass Latimer Field, and head back to One News Plaza.
The two evening trips brings us to a total of 22 teams covered across six sites. Whew. That's over a quarter of the teams in Western New York (87). Booyah.
(And 35 video clips! Booyah again.)
If you were at any scrimmages, let us know which ones and what you thought of the action in the comments section below.
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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.
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.
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.
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.