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2019 Class AA Football Preview

Head Coach: Steve McDuffie

2018 record and finish: 7-3, fell in Class AA championship game

Number of returning starters: 7 Offense/7 Defense

Key Returnees: D’Jae Perry, Justin Campbell, Nashon Oliver, Devotie Pompey, Jeremiah Williams, Ja’Vair Walker

Key Losses: Jihad Loynes, Jakari Nettles

Head Coach: Paul Burgio

2018 record and finish: 5-4, won Class AA Chuck Funke Bowl

Number of returning starters: 8 Defense/7 Offense

Key Returnees: Zach Norton, Mason Davis, Ryan Culhane, Jason Berchou, Jailen Lardill, Jacob Joerger, Slade Murphy, Aubrey Thomas

Key Losses: Jon Stevens, Jack Putney, Quinten Burke, Casey Esch, Jon White

After losing their first three league games of the season, the Red Devils bounced back with four straight wins to capture the Chuck Funke Bowl. Clarence returns most of their starting lineup but lose a couple of key players in QB Jack Putney and WR/DB Jon Stevens. Junior Zach Norton led the team in rushing last season with 562 yards and five touchdowns. The Red Devils welcome in Julius Perry from St. Mary’s of Lancaster and Antwan Walker from Canisius. Senior Jason Berchou stepped in at QB after Putney went down with an injury late in the season and will take over full-time in 2019. Clarence has enough talent to make the playoffs, but it will be up to Berchou to get his team to New Era Field.

Paul Burgio:

“I feel really good because our focus is going to be running the football when you have a kid like Zach (Norton). Norton has great vision and instincts. He sees tight windows and reads things. I think defensively we’re going to be a stronger team this year because of the experience we bring back. With the combination of being a run heavy team and being better on defense, we like our chances. I took away with a kid like Jack (Putney) that you shouldn’t take things for granted, enjoy every play because you never know what play could be your last play. We tell the kids that’s why you have to play your best every play. It was a really big loss seeing him go down. Our young guys showed resilience winning the last two games after he went down. We want to take that into the offseason.” 

Zach Norton:

“We learned that we’re a team, we came together (after Putney went down) and decided that this year we’re going to do our best to make the playoffs. It was good to learn from Putney and (Jon) Stevens, they’re good leaders and it was a pleasure to play with them. I want to make the sectional championship game and hopefully win it.”

Head Coach: Chuck Tilley

2018 record and finish: 0-8, missed Class A playoffs

Number of returning starters: 5

Key Returnees: Hayden Carter, Alex Lippert, Adam Hodge, Austin Georgi, Riely Lepsch 

Key Losses: Max Flemming, Tyler Bailey

Frontier is hoping that a strong offseason along with some success on the JV in 2018 can lead them to make a jump this year. The Falcons only return five starters but bring back Hayden Carter, who led the team in rushing last season as a sophomore. The JV squad went 7-1 last year and that was with five sophomores playing up. Frontier will miss Tyler Bailey. Making the playoffs might be too out of reach for the Falcons, but winning the Chucke Funke Bowl would be a big milestone for this program. 

Head Coach: Tony Truilizio

2018 record and finish: 2-6, fell in Class AA Chuck Funke Bowl

Number of returning starters: 1

Key Returnees: Jayden Robinson, Solomon Tarver, Ivory Parker, Elijah Marshall

Key Losses: 18 total senior graduates, 90% starters both ways

Tony Truilizio goes into the 2019 campaign with a full offseason under his belt. It will be a tough year for the Engineers as they only return one starter in Jayden Robinson. Hutch Tech is looking for FB Solomon Tarver and TE Elijah Marshall to step up. Ivory Parker will anchor the offensive line. This could be a rebuilding year for Hutch Tech. 

Head Coach: Tom Langworthy

2018 record and finish: 5-4, missed Class A playoffs

Number of returning starters: 5 Offense/4 Defense

Key Returnees: Savon Vansickle, Takye Branch, Chase Jones, Ben Schrader, Elijah Rojas, Avante Hicks

Key Losses: Peyton Olson, Josh Zielinski, Jayden Schultz, Drew Boggs, Cameron Pangborn, Jeff Seager, Taige White, Dylan Neid

Jamestown moves back up to Class AA after just missing the cut last year. After putting up promising numbers as a freshman, RB/LB Savon VanSickle’s sophomore campaign was cut short with an injury early in the season. The Red Raiders graduate a lot of key pieces including QB Drew Boggs. Junior Takye Branch will likely take over under center. The season could come down to VanSickle’s health.

Head Coach: Eric Rupp 

2018 record and finish: 9-2, Section VI Class AA champions

Number of returning starters: 11

Key Returnees: Conor Mahony, Matt Marschner, Ethan Jurkowski, Jason Mansell, Alex Hejna, Shawn Davis 

Key Losses: David Gaca, Brian Martin, Brandon Wingard, Dominic Chiarmonte

The Lancaster Legends were supposed to take a step back last season after graduating 16 starters from their 2017 state finalist team, instead they won their third-straight sectional title. This year Lancaster returns 11 starters including QB Jason Mansell (1,418 passing yards and 16 touchdowns), leading tackler OL/LB Conor Mahony (93 tackles) and receiver Shawn Davis (27 catches, 430 yards). The Legends plan on having QB Gianluca Fulciniti run the wildcat/power running scheme again. They’ll have to replace leading rusher Brandon Wingard (929 yards and seven touchdowns). OL/LB David Gaca will also be missed. Lancaster is the favorite to win at New Era Field, but don’t be surprised if they make an appearance at the Carrier Dome as well.

Eric Rupp:

“Every year is unique in its own sense. This year we have half of our starters back. We know it’s going to be tough, everybody is talented in AA. We just have to work hard and prepare the best we can. I think our line is going to be improved. Some guys have really done a great job in the weight room. I think our defense is going to be solid, anytime you return two All-State linebackers you’re going to be good. The expectations are to compete for another Section VI championship.”  

Jason Mansell:

“We have a lot of pieces coming back. I think we can be really, really good this year. We can’t be too high, can’t be too low, we have to be right in the middle. We can’t be ‘oh, we’ve won Section VI championships the last three years’, who cares, it’s in the past. We have to keep looking forward.. looking for a fourth one. We know everyone is shooting for us, we can’t take anyone lightly. I feel like we (he and Gianluca Fulciniti) complement each other really well. I feel like I’ve developed my confidence this offseason. Our wide receiving core will be very good this year.”

Head Coach: Trait Smith

2018 record and finish: 1-7, missed Class AA playoffs

Number of returning starters: 10

Key Returnees: Nicolas Cascia, Joshua Cooper, Chase Valery, Ian Rickard, Andrew Pressley, Mathew Knutila, Santino Drake

Key Losses: Malik Brooks, Cullen Synder, Nico Haney, Jalyn Jones

The Lockport Lions earned a win over rival Niagara Falls in Trait Smith’s inaugural season as head coach. Lockport returns 10 starters from last year’s team. QB Nicolas Cascia and WR Joshua Cooper return for their senior seasons. The Lions will dearly miss Malik Brooks, who broke the Western New York single-season record for receiving yards (1,244) and set several school records as well. Lockport will need their line, which will be led by Chase Valery, Ian Rickard, Andrew Pressley, and Mathew Knutila, to step up if they want to battle for a playoff spot.

Head Coach: Don Bass

2018 record and finish: 1-7, missed Class AA playoffs

Number of returning starters: 5 Offense/5 Defense

Key Returnees: Zion Paige, Colin Stone, Willie McDouglad, Marcus Wilkins, Kalem Chappel, Kishaun Miller, Mike Jones

Key Losses: P.J. Young, Jamel Oliver, Moran Montgomery

Head Coach: Craig Dana

2018 record and finish: 6-3, fell in Class AA semifinals

Number of returning starters: 12

Key Returnees: Matt Baksa, Brad Fowler, Chad Gloss, Tom Hollander, Steve Kulikowsky, Tristan Lancaster, Jon Lander, Mike Pataky, Jack Sharp, Jacob Shul, Jacob Strycharz, Matt Wagner

Key Losses: Alex Wescott, Archie Bartolotti, Colton Brown, Cayden Collins, Blake Harlock, Louis Irizarry, Brendan Kearns, Jordan Prince, Andrew Relosky, Pierson Savarino, Alex Westcott, Kobe York

The Quakers were right in the thick of things in 2018 but ultimately were overmatched by Bennett in the Class AA semifinals. Orchard Park returns 12 starters from last season, including key players QB Jack Sharp and LB Mike Pataky. Sharp has thrown for over 1,500 yards in each of the past two seasons. Pataky led the defense with 84 tackles. Steve Kulikowsky will take over at tailback for last year’s leading rusher, Louis Irizarry. OP should compete for a sectional title in 2019. 

Craig Dana:

“Last season was a big learning curve for all our guys and our staff. Our league is difficult. We were happy to make the playoffs but our goal is to make the sectional final. At this time last year, we were still solidifying our staff and figuring everything out. I feel a lot more comfortable having one year under my belt. The game will play a little slower for our guys who have varsity football experience. We have a group of guys on our team that are really hard working. They come to every workout, they do extra stuff. Jack is one of those guys. He’s a good leader, never gets too emotional and he’s pretty talented. We always have high expectations at Orchard Park.”

Jack Sharp:

“Last season we learned a lot about ourselves. We learned that if we work a little bit harder we’re right there. This offseason the whole team took pride in lifting and becoming more of a team. This year is a little different because we’re not worried about who’s going to be coaching and who’s going where. We can just focus on getting bigger, stronger and better for the season. We have about eight receivers that can play for us and know the plays. The skill players will be a strength of ours this season. Expectations are to win a sectional championship and hopefully go as far as winning a state championship.”

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