Aug 26, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Get used to it, folks – those TV types are starting to dig Section III high school football a lot more.
There’s 22 games, including a full slate of Thursday-night rivalry specials, on Time Warner between now and the championship games in the Carrier Dome on the first weekend of November.
That includes the opener, Homer against Cortland, two rivals and neighbors getting back together to kick off the season…on Aug. 30.
Wait a minute, aren’t we still in summer? Wasn’t it just a couple of weeks ago that it was 101, and your main goal was to find air conditioning or gulp down as many liquids as possible to make it through the day?
Yes, this is about as early a start as the calendar allows, and for those 26 teams in the Class C ranks, it’s a real sprint – just six regular-season games before the start of a 16-team playoff where C-1 and C-2 champs will be crowned before we get to the Dome.
Why the double-up? Well, last year four teams – Bishop Ludden, Sherburne-Earlville, APW and Frankfort-Schuyler – finished with 5-2 regular-season records and didn’t get into the big show, while in much-smaller Class A both Fowler (1-6) and Carthage (2-5) did.
Figuring that this didn’t make much sense, the Class C powers-that-be voted that, in 2012, no such omission will be possible. Now a 3-3 record may prove enough.
Of course, the larger stories in Class C are about two unbeaten teams that need to regroup for different reasons. Skaneateles, kicked out of the playoffs for eligibility and recruiting allegations that caused a full uproar, is burning to try again, now with Joe Sindoni in charge, but a tough C West division with Ludden and Tully, among others, is ready to pounce. Phoenix plays here, too, 10 months after the loss of Ridge Barden, and it’s tough not to root for them.
The Lakers’ 2011 saga, unfortunately, overshadowed the title that Herkimer did win, and also obscured the efforts of Sean Crandall, one of the best all-around offensive forces in recent memory. Alas, Crandall has graduated, so the likes of Utica-Notre Dame and Holland Patent (just pulled down from Class B) could make C East quite fun.
Down in C South, S-E and Canastota (working under new coach Tom Congden) are favored, while in C North everyone has already circled Sept. 28 on the calendar, when long-time power General Brown faces Thousand Islands – coached by Steve Fisher, who led the Lions for 43 years and won 210 games there. For Fisher, how strange will that be?
And there are more reunions in store. Onondaga snared Solomon Bliss from his alma mater, Tully, to replace Jason Ryan (now the athletic director at OCS), and naturally the Tigers will play the Black Knights Sept. 7, right after a crucial opener with Weedsport that’s likely to determine the D West favorite.
Defending the sectional title in Class D, Westmoreland catches a break, moving into a newly-formed D Central where the Bulldogs ought to romp. Dolgeville, thwarted twice by Westmoreland in 2011, returns to favorite status in D East, without a major challenger to worry about yet.
To rule again in Class B, Chittenango needs to replace a lot of important parts, all while Homer and Cortland (newly placed after a long stint in Class A) provide ample challenges and Marcellus remains someone the Bears need to worry about, too.
All went right for Cazenovia last season until the last five minutes of the semifinal against Oneida. That defeat is prime motivation for the Lakers, who get a shot at revenge against the Indians Sept. 14, the key to a tough B East division where everyone, from VVS and South Jefferson to Mexico and Camden, could threaten.
The fact that defending champ East Syracuse-Minoa and long-time force Whitesboro both have major parts to replace could throw Class A wide-open. Maybe Watertown, with UB-bound Diamond Williams a 2,000-yard threat, becomes the favorite, though much-improved Jamesville-DeWitt and Indian River will argue the point. And Mike Conners is coaching at….Oswego, after all those years at Fulton? Yes, it’s true, and Fulton plays Oswego Oct. 5. Quite juicy, huh?
Finally, there’s Class AA, where West Genesee, even with Naesean Howard back to run wild, will find it tough to repeat because of the vast talent taking dead aim at the Wildcats.
Whether it’s perennial challenger CBA with its speed and skill, or Utica Proctor with the exciting Jordan Treen running the show, or Baldwinsville with the unstoppable Tyler Rouse plowing over defenders, or Fayetteville-Manlius riding the right arm of Wolfgang Schaefer, there’s no shortage of star power. The Brothers, Raiders, Bees and Hornets all have reasonable championship hopes.
So okay, it’s early – real early, perhaps. But after the controversial and even tragic events of 2011, it’s almost a relief to put that aside and start all over again.