Thursday, August 31, 2017 | BataviasBest.org
With the High School Football season kicking off tomorrow night across the area, be sure to take a look at what you should expect from YOUR favorite team this year:
The run which the Batavia Football team has put together throughout the past three seasons has been nothing short of historic. After years of dormancy, the Blue Devils are now coming off of three-straight Section V Class B Titles, and are the favorite to win their fourth in a row in 2017.
In an attempt to ramp-up their regular season schedule, Batavia has gone outside of the box and scheduled teams which they hope will provide them with a steeper challenge than their 2016 slate – in order to better prepare themselves for the postseason, where they’ve fallen just short of the State Final Four in each of their three Championship seasons.
However, upon researching each of their 2017 opponents, it seems as if the Blue Devils effort to do so may be all for naught – as they are likely to be favored to win many, if not all 7 of their regular season games.
Although they come into this year sporting a new quarterback under center, the experience which they possess at almost every other position on the field will help ease any growing pains their signal caller may experience. In addition, Batavia head coach Brennan Briggs has proven himself to be one of the top-coaches throughout Section V, and his ability to game plan, and make halftime adjustments has been what has put his team over the edge since his first year at the helm.
When it’s all said and done, I truly believe we will see Batavia win their fourth–straight Sectional Title. They remain as the best team within their classification, and from my perspective it will take a miracle of sorts to knock them off as Champion. However, the real question is – can this team get to the Carrier Dome for the State Final Four?
Time will tell.
Week 2 – Aquinas
Aquinas isn’t necessarily the team who is a favorite to win a State Title every year, and enter 2017 under new leadership. With that being said, I expect the Lil’ Irish to be one of the stronger teams on Batavia’s schedule this year – and could push the Blue Devils to the brink of defeat.
Week 5 – Bishop Kearney
Also entering the season under a new head coach, the Kings lost a bunch from their 2016 Class C Championship squad. However, they do have an experienced quarterback under center and the new HC which they have brought in has a reputation of success.
Week 6 – Wilson
Wilson has given Batavia the most trouble of any of their opponents in recent seasons – most recently pushing them in what finished as a 12-6 victory for the Blue Devils last season. This year, I expect they will give the Devils another tough game.
Ray Leach (RB/LB)
Ray finished as a first-team All-State selection last season, and may be the best player in Section V this season. He will be tough for any opponent to stop this season.
Butch Ray (OL/DL)
Butch was also a first-team All-State selection in 2016, and is the definition of an unstoppable force on the line of scrimmage. He, like Leach, is one of the top-players in Section V this season.
Chandler Baker (QB)
Chandler comes equipped with elite arm strength and could provide the Devils’ passing game with a boost this season. In addition, his athleticism is top-tier which makes him a dual threat in this offense.
“We have a very young team this season,” began Batavia HC Brennan Briggs upon our preseason discussion. “We should get better as the season progresses and the younger members become more comfortable with their role.”
“It is always tough to replace your QB as well as other key members of a football team,” continued Briggs. “But the 2017 football team is looking to put their stamp on the Batavia Football program. We have a lot of guys in new positions, but they are coming along. The goal is to go 1-0, and get better every day. We have some very difficult games along the journey, but our hope is it will prepare us for a solid post-season run.”
The second season of Cal-Mum/Byron-Bergen Football is upon us, and the Raiders’ 2017 outlook is one full of promise. A growing group, with several talented players on both sides of the ball, look for this team to turn some heads this year.
The Raiders will begin their 2017 campaign as my #2 ranked team out of the 10 which encompass my coverage area. This team possesses great size along the line of scrimmage, and in the backfield, and will be a tough matchup for each team on their regular season schedule.
Beginning the year with Bath on Friday night, C-M/B-B will be tested right out of the gate. However, as they move past the Rams, their schedule begins to lighten up – especially when you compare it to 2016.
With the landscape of their Division changing this season, the Raiders have found their slate absent of Livonia and Hornell – which were two extremely tough, almost impossible matchups for this team last year. Instead, the remainder of the Raiders’ schedule is filled with winnable matchups against LetSaw, Le Roy, Dansville, Oakfield/Elba, Wayland-Cohocton, and Avon – which should provide them with a really good chance at a resurgent season.
One major question mark for the Raiders, however, is the backfield. Although they have a returning starter under center who possess supreme athleticism, the remainder of the C-M/B-B attack seems to be built on brawn, and will have to prove they can outrun people this year. This may be a nitpick, though.
In the end, I expect the Raiders to have a chance to win the Class C Championship.
Week 1 – Bath/Haverling
Bath will likely be the toughest team on the Raiders’ schedule this season, and facing that challenge right out of the gate will not be easy.
Week 3 – Le Roy
Le Roy gave Cal-Mum/Byron-Bergen all that they could handle last season, but the Raiders managed to walk away with an overtime victory over the Knights. I expect this will be another great game this year.
Week 7 – Avon
Avon is historically very strong and should provide the Raiders with another strong challenge to finish the regular season.
Clayton Garrett (OL/DL)
Clayton is a returning starter on both sides of the ball and is entering his third season on the varsity squad. Hi size and strength rivals that of any lineman within his team’s division, and will serve as a strong anchor for the offensive and defensive line.
Ian Lenhardt (OL/DL)
Lenhardt is also a three-year varsity player, and will provide C-M/B-B with added leadership along the interior.
AJ Maye (QB)
Maye possesses incredible athleticism and with an improving ability to pass the football, could turn himself into a true dual-threat by season’s end.
Paul McDermott (OL/DL)
Paul is another strong asset in the trenches for C-M/B-B.
Lucas Stuccio (SE/CB)
Lucas will provide the Raiders with added athleticism along the outside on both offense and defense.
“Our goal is to win the Section V Class C Championship,” remarked Raiders’ head coach Billy Donegan last week. “We have challenged ourselves to put forth the effort it takes to improve. We are grateful for the opportunity to serve as representatives of our respective communities.”
“The road to the Class C Championship goes through Bath,” he continued. “They defeated us handily twice last year. We have our work cut out for us but welcome the opportunity.”
After dropping the League Title to Alexander a season ago, the Attica Blue Devils are back and ready to recapture what they believe is rightfully theirs, in 2017. A bit of transition has hit this year’s Devils’ roster, as they come equipped with a new head coach, new quarterback, and new running back, but I believe what they retain along the line of scrimmage will allow them to compete with the LCAA Titans on their schedule this season.
Attica has been hit with matchups vs Hornell, and Livonia this season – which will make matters extremely difficult for the Blue Devils outside of their Division. However, inside of their Division, I believe Attica is the team to beat for the Title.
Their size, and experience along the line of scrimmage goes unrivaled amongst other Genesee Region teams, and will likely be the driving force behind this team’s success in 2017. Aside from their ability up front, the Devils also possess enough athleticism in the offensive and defensive backfield that will allow the Attica backs/backers to take advantage of their big men in the trenches.
All in all, I believe, under new leadership, Attica will forge through their Divisional schedule and finish the season in the hunt for a Sectional Championship. Although, plenty can change throughout the course of the season, Attica sits as the #3 team in my HS Football Power Rankings – just ahead of last year’s Divisional Champ Alexander.
The changes coming to the Attica offense and defense, brought on by their new head coach, will hopefully allow this team to employ the element of surprise in Week 1 – where they meet 2016 Class B runner-up Hornell on the Devils’ home field. If Attica can somehow win this game, it would be a tremendous boost for their program as they move into their Divisional schedule.
Week 1 – Attica vs Hornell
Hornell lost in the Class B Championship game last season, and will present a difficult challenge for Attica immediately to start the season.
Week 4 – Attica vs Alexander
The Trojans got the better of the Blue Devils a season ago, but I believe Attica may be able to turn the tables come Week 4 2017.
Week 5 – Attica vs Livonia
Another non-divisional, strenuous matchup for the Blue Devils.
Week 6 – Attica vs Pembroke
Pembroke is a growing team who has a bunch of talented seniors this season. Attica will be tested in Week 6.
Eddie Strzelec (QB)
Eddie spent last season running the football out of the backfield, before making the transition to quarterback in 2017. He is an athletic talent who is teammates seem to gravitate to, which will allow him to provide leadership in his first season under center.
Clayton Thompson (OL/LB)
Clayton is the beast in the middle for the Devils. His size and strength will be tough for opponents to contend with on both sides of the ball.
Brad Lilac (OL/DL)
Brad is also a strong anchor in the middle for Attica, and should provide added strength to the Devils’ efforts on offense, as well as defense.
Mike Donahue (WR/CB)
Mike will provide increased athleticism along the outside for Attica on both offense and defense.
“The kids are working hard, the transition has been pretty smooth, and we are ready to go,” said Devils’ head coach Caleb Sabatino upon my visit to Attica Training Camp last week. “Playing Livonia and Hornell – two storied programs – is great for our program, and we are looking forward to the challenge.”
Alexander won their first-ever Section V Football Title last season, but enter 2017 needing several new faces to fill roles left empty by the graduation of the Class of 2016. The tradition of Championship-level success was solidified last year for the Trojans, and it will be up to this group to carry the torch forward into the future.
The Trojans face a steep challenge right out of the gate, as 2016 state-ranked Bolivar-Richburg will host the Trojans – who have few easy matchups this season. However, I believe what they return at running back and on defense should be enough to carry them to another big year. Currently, they sit as the #4 team in my HS Football Power Rankings, just behind longtime rival Attica.
While I expect Alexander to finish within the Top 2 or 3 in their Division, come Sectional time they will have to prove themselves to be a Title contender once again. This group is absent of many of the leaders from the Trojans’ 2016 Championship team, and new voices must fill the void in order to get this team to remain as a Class D Titan.
Lucky for them, it’s as steady as she goes when it comes to their head coach, as Tim Sawyer is back for yet another season in the Green and Gold. He has done a solid job surrounding himself with good people, and has produced a winner in Alexander. His leadership should allow for a seamless transition into 2017.
Week 1 – Bolivar-Richburg
Bolivar-Richburg was a strong team a season ago, and will likely be a tough out in 2017 as well. Alexander opens with a tough matchup on the road.
Week 2 – Pembroke
The Dragons could surprise this year as they have the 2016 GR League leading rusher returning to their backfield, accompanied by a three-year varsity QB. This alone should provide Pembroke with a chance to overcome the Trojans in Week 4.
Week 4 – Attica
Attica is my preseason pick to win the Division Title. If Alexander can knock off the Blue Devils for the second-straight season, it will likely be the Trojans who instead hoist the trophy at season’s end.
Jake Jasen Jr. (C/MLB)
Jake is a second-year varsity starter and is the anchor of the Trojans’ young offensive line. He is also a solid run defender on defense.
Erik Scharlau (DE/TE)
Erik recorded 7 sacks last season at defensive end, and will also serve as a big target at tight end, as the Trojans have a young QB this season entering his first year under center.
Chris McClinic (RB/DB)
Chris ran for over 500 yards last season as a sophomore behind a senior RB, but this year things will open up for him to extend his presence in the backfield for the Trojans.
Job Smith (LB/FB)
Job is a tremendously physical player who his coaches expect will provide great leadership on both sides of the ball.
Mitch Gordon (LB/FB)
Mitch led Alexander in tackles a season ago and will be big out of the backfield for his team this season as well.
“As a coach, I am excited for the challenge this season,” said Alexander HC Tim Sawyer upon our discussion last week. “I am pleased with the development and the work ethic of the players in our program. I believe if we all do our jobs to the best of our abilities, we will have a chance to win every week. I am fortunate to have a tremendous coaching staff at both the JV and Varsity level.”
Pembroke Football has had a rough go of things in recent years, but 2017 could be the season where we see them finally break out. With a familiar face making the move to Dragons’ head coach, and many experienced athletes returning to the roster, Pembroke is working towards a level of success which hasn’t been seen from this program in quite some time.
Former head coach, and 2016 assistant Justin Loeber has returned to the helm of the Dragons’ program and has also welcomed back another former Pembroke head coach, and Greater Buffalo Sports HOFer, Dick Diminuco as offensive coordinator. The rapport between these two has already been built – dating back to Diminuco’s time spent as HC – and it is Loeber’s belief that their working relationship will translate to a smooth transition on the field.
In addition to two familiar faces on the sidelines, Pembroke returns a QB who has previously run Diminuco’s offense, and return a RB who led the GR in rushing yards a season ago. A young offensive line may provide a bit of growing pains for this offense to begin the year, but expect their experience in the backfield to carry them through October – and into the Section V postseason.
I believe in this team this year, more-so than I ever have before. Their Divisional schedule has remained the same, and their non-Divisional games are both winnable. If the Dragons can take care of business, they should prove me right in 2017.
Week 1 – York/Pavilion
The Golden Knights are a big, strong team who will test the Dragons’ young offensive line immediately to begin the season.
Week 2 – Alexander
The Trojans won the GR League Title last season, and will be a tough out once again in 2017.
Week 5 – Geneseo
I have heard good things about Geneseo during the preseason. This will be another non-Divisional test for the Dragons.
Week 6 – Attica
Attica is my preseason pick to win the Division, giving this game in Week 6 the potential to be a very big game for Pembroke.
Reid Miano (QB/DB)
Reid returns for his third season under center for the Dragons, and leads an offense which has plenty of experienced talent behind him.
Zach von Kramer (RB/DB)
Zach returns as the GR League’s leading rusher, and will be out to defend his rushing title in 2017.
Damion Ramirez (OL/LB)
Damion is the most-experienced of the Pembroke lineman, and will have to do his best to bring the younger guys along throughout the year.
Brandon Kowalski (WR/DB)
Brandon is a steady contributor for Pembroke on both sides of the ball. His stats may not show it, but he is a vital piece to this team this season.
Jarrod Carrow (TE/DL)
Jarrod is another returning athlete for the Dragons who is due for a breakout year.
“What I learned my first (stint as head coach), was that I was so unprepared to take the job,” began second-time Pembroke HC Justin Loeber a few weeks ago. “Coach Diminuco came in, I had two years to work with him, and he showed me how to really practice, and get the most out of our kids. I feel much more-prepared my second-time around.”
The Golden Knights went winless a season ago, but return a long list of varsity-level talent and hope to make a run this season.
York/Pavilion welcomes back their starting QB, and leading rusher from a season ago and are likely due for a major bump in success this season. In addition to what they return in the backfield, along the line of scrimmage Y/P has great size which will allow them to compete with the tougher teams on their schedule.
With only 5 seniors this season, the Knights are certainly still a growing team, and next year could be the year where they truly take-off.
Their Division within the newly-merged LCAA/GRAA is one of the tougher divisions out there – with Avon, Bolivar-Richburg, Canisteo-Greenwood, Cuba-Rushford, and Geneseo all in the Knights’ way of success. That being said, none of these teams present an impossible challenge for Y/P, giving this program a solid chance of revival in 2017.
Week 1 – Pembroke
Pembroke is a formidable non-divisional opponent for the Knights right out of the gate.
Week 2 – Bolivar-Richburg
B-R finished the 2016 season as a state-ranked squad and should be another steep challenge for Y/P in 2017.
Week 6 – Geneseo
Winner gets the ‘Valley Ball’.
Matt McFarland (QB)
Matt returns to the team as a junior after he suffered a season-ending injury in 2016.
Ryley Elliott (LB/OL)
Ryley is a three-year varsity player and a returning team captain. He will play a major role for the Knights on both sides of the ball.
Nate Swede (RB/DB)
Nate is the Knights’ leading rusher from a season ago and returns to an offense looking to make some noice.
Sebastian Hackett (RB/LB)
Sebastian is one of the Knights’ top-athletes and his coaches are expecting a big year from him on both sides of the ball.
“I am proud of the work these guys have been putting into the season,” said Y/P second-year head coach Tyler Winter. “Our team is still young, but their effort and dedication to the program should help propel the program towards the next step. With the leadership and commitment these boys possess, we believe we can be competitive with each of our opponents this season.”
Holley finished with 3 wins a season ago, and is certainly looking to improve upon that mark in 2017. With plenty of seniors and experience on both sides of the ball, the time is now for the Hawks to take a step forward.
Although in my Preseason Power Rankings, the Hawks rank just above the bottom, but I just feel that they have to prove themselves before being considered as a top-tier team in the area. It’s not that I don’t see potential in this group, I am just waiting for them to tap into it.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, they drew two tough non-divisional matchups with Geneseo and York/Pavilion, but neither of those matchups will be impassable for Holley – and they should have the opportunity to compete in each and every game.
Expecting a postseason run may be asking too much from this group, but I do have faith that they will at least come close to a resurgent year.
Week 4 – Notre Dame
The Hawks have extremely difficult matchups Weeks 1-3, but after a win over ND last season – they will be confident going into Week 4.
Week 6 – Oakfield/Elba
Another must-win for Holley, who I have ranked just above OA/E in my Preseason Power Rankings.
Glenn Thrower (OL/DL)
Glenn is a returning force on the line of scrimmage for the Hawks and should provide them with a launching point toward a strong season for the offensive line.
Jeremy Mallett (QB/FS)
Jeremy returns as the team’s quarterback and in his second season is much more confident in his ability to achieve success.
“We should get better as the season progresses and the younger members become more comfortable with their role,” commented Holley HC Wil Prince. “This upcoming year, our goal is to improve each week to be the best possible team we can. Last year we took some steps in the right direction, but we know as a team and program that we can always improve.”
Several HS Football mergers have hit the area over the past several years. But, remaining as one of the few holdouts, Le Roy has been holding on to a tradition they’ve built over many years, and is anticipating a return to glory sooner rather than later.
Following a 3-4 finish a season ago, Le Roy is looking to a new cast of characters in order to restore this program as a championship contender. Equipped with 13 seniors, the Knights should have little trouble equaling their opponents experience level each week during the regular season.
What remains to be seen in LR is whether or not this new crop of seniors has what it takes to lead their team on a Section V Playoff run.
It’s tough for me to nail down exactly what to expect from this group, but with Week 1 just one day away – judgement day is coming.
The Knights will benefit from a much-lighter schedule than they had in 2016, with Livonia remaining as the one true Titan on their 2017 slate. The other 6 games sitting in front of Le Roy are all winnable – giving them a chance to put their best foot forward during the regular season.
As is the case with many local teams.
The merger between the LCAA and GRAA has made things much simpler for the teams in the surrounding regions, making this season one of the most-highly anticipated campaigns in recent memory.
Week 3 – Cal-Mum/Byron-Bergen
The Knights and Raiders endured an overtime battle for the ages last season, with the Raiders turning out the victor. Will this year be different?
Week 4 – Avon
Avon is historically tough and will likely present a difficult challenge for Le Roy in the middle of their schedule.
Week 5 – Notre Dame
An old-time rivalry returns to the fold in 2017.
Week 6 – Livonia
Livonia has finished within the top-4 in Section V Class B for several seasons in a row. This is going to be a tough matchup for Le Roy.
Bryce Bordonaro (OL/DL)
Bryce is a strong force inside for the Le Roy offensive line, and also serves as one of the team’s leaders.
Tyler Rider (OL/DL)
Tyler is another big man in the middle for the Knights, and another team leader.
Luke Stella (RB/LB)
Luke will play a major role in the team’s success this season as a well-sized running back and linebacker.
Cole Biggins (WR/DB)
Cole has flown under the radar in the past, but his performance this season might be too much to ignore for future opponents.
Gaven Cassidy (WR/DB)
Gaven provides the Le Roy offense with solid athleticism along the outside of an offense which features a sophomore quarterback.
“We expect to be competitive in every game we play this season,” said LR head coach Brian Herdlein. “Our team speed should be a strength for us this season. Our newcomers with the help of the returning players are filling the positions open from graduation last season nicely. We hope to be more of a factor in the postseason this year.”
Last season, the Irish suffered their first losing campaign in 11 years, and return in 2017 hoping for more out of their new leadership class.
It’s no secret that ND Football took a major step back last season, and it would be incredibly disappointing for fans of the Fighting Irish to be forced to watch their team go through yet another dismal campaign. For, the ND Faithful is not used to watching its football team struggle through Divisional, and even non-Divisional matchups.
In 2017, however, the Irish are hoping to ‘Wake Up the Echoes’ and restore the winning tradition of ND Football.
They feature a returning starting quarterback, but welcome a load of talent coming up from the JV squad, which leaves this new-look squad with the expectation of making progress and climbing the ladder – beginning with the first step on Opening Night vs Canisteo-Greenwood.
Aside from C-G, all of ND’s 2017 opponents are from the newly-merged LCAA/GRAA League, with Le Roy serving as the only other non-Divisional matchup on their schedule. This merger has been a win for all involved, including the Irish who I believe will benefit from a more-familiar slate.
Week 2 – Oakfield/Elba
Notre Dame is ranked above OA/E in my Preseason Power Rankings. If they hope to gain any traction within their Division, they must win this game.
Week 4 – Holley
The Irish will be out for revenge in this game.
Week 5 – Le Roy
This old-school rivalry comes back in 2017 with each side matching up well with one another.
Brendin Klotzbach (QB/LB)
Brendin returns to lead the Irish offense during his senior season. He has the athleticism and arm strength to get the job done.
Eddy Skalny (OL/DL)
Eddy will provide leadership for a young ND offensive line.
“This group of young men have been working very hard,” remarked ND head coach Rick Mancuso. ” And with the leadership of the senior class we have progressed a little quicker than we anticipated. We have a good mix of seasoned players, plus talented newcomers. After enduring the programs first losing season last year in the last 11 years, this team has shown the work ethic it will take to get back on the competitive path.”
OA/E is in their second season as a merged program and has a load of senior leadership which they hope will carry them to a resurgent season in 2017.
Although I have placed Oakfield/Elba at the bottom of my Preseason Power Rankings, the potential of this team to rise in the ranks, and finish the season in contention – is strong. They finished 1-7 a year ago and anticipate a better finish this year.
OA/E not only returns their starting quarterback, but also have numerous names coming back along the line of scrimmage, and a strong stable of backs – who served as back-ups last season. This year, it will be the OA/E skill players’ time to shine and lead their team out of the depths of despair.
It can take a few years for a newly merged program to come together and reach their full potential. This year, in my mind, will serve as a stepping stone toward that end.
Week 2 – Notre Dame
The Irish are an old-time rival of both Oakfield and Elba. Both sides will get up for this game.
Week 5 – Cal-Mum/Byron-Bergen
Byron-Bergen was previously merged with Elba before the Lancers began their relationship with Oakfield. Does any bad blood remain between the two sides?
Week 6 – Holley
Another winnable game for OA/E.
Colton Dillon (QB)
Colton is going into his second year under center for OA/E, but has been learning a new system as he prepares for Week 1. He will be important for this team if they hope to achieve success.
Gage Dieterle (RB/LB)
Gage has been given a more important role this season as the team’s starting RB.
John Igoe (OL/DL)
John will help anchor a senior laden line.
Cam Smith (OL/DL)
Cam will also help anchor the defensive and offensive trenches for OA/E.
“The OAE Football Team looks to make vast improvements in their second year of the new merger,” commented head coach Mike Cintorino. “With new systems being installed on both sides of the ball and significant buy in from the athletes, the program looks to once again compete for a league title and find their way back to sectionals. Although this is a very young team, many of the players have varsity experience and will look to utilize that throughout the season. Now being part of the Livingston-Genesee Region Conference will provide a good test for the OAE Football team while holding on to the many rivarlies of the old Genesee Region.”
Stay tuned for Week 1 coverage – beginning tomorrow morning.
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