2023 Class A2 Football Preview
Sweet Home Panthers
Sweet Home is hoping to take the next step after going to 2-7 in 2022. The Panthers started off the year with back-to-back wins but struggled to close out games – with five of their losses coming down to one score or less. Sweet Home will have experience under center with Rocco Panepinto returning. Senior lineman Aidan Janda is expected to be a force on both sides of the ball. Zion Lee, Nakir Kirkland, Andrew Haug have also been named captains. Coach Jeremy Zimmer is looking for big things from Jordan Payne, Marquise Mack, Daquan Stone, Khalik Mellerson, Quinten Wilhelm and Quinton Hood.
North Tonawanda, who went 1-9 last season, will be young team again this year - but return five juniors that had significant playing time in 2022. Junior Christian Earnst is back after leading the team in rushing last season and is very explosive with the ball in his hands. Coach Ben Bunker, who is entering his third year as head coach, is focusing on the ground game in 2023. NT is also returning Matt Grinnell (FB/DE), Demaree Baker (WR/RB/DB) and Aidin Harrigan (IOL/LB).
Hamburg went 5-4 in 2022, winning four of their final five games. The Bulldogs return five starters on offense and four defense including captains Dylan Hart, Josh Moore, Andrew Parker and Bryce Terry. Other key returning players are Zack Jerome, Kayden Bailey, Kyle Jaskolka, Adam Perez, Damanie Robinson and Derek Crowley. The Bulldogs will have to replace dual-threat QB Jeffrey Leavell and LB Aiden Matyas.
Williamsville East Flames
Williamsville East started off 2022 strong going 4-0 before a handful of close losses and key injuries cost them a playoff spot last year. Luckily, the Flames bring back five offensive and six defensive starters. Will East loses Connolly Cup finalist WR/DE Dorian Facen Jr. along with QB Sean Sansone. However, there has been a lot of noise surrounding new QB Ryan McKinnon. Calvin Kulik along with leading rusher Thomas Orsini are among several key pieces returning.
Starpoint was one of only teams to finish its season out on a high note winning the Class A Chuck Funke Bowl. The Spartans are returning four starters on both sides of the football after going 6-4 last year. Key returning players include Derek Kneeppel, Kyler Lee, Lucas Lombardo, Jake Stickney, AJ Anselm, Joe Richardson, Billy Bichler and Zack Genkinger. Coach Tim Racey is expecting big things from new players Mike Grady, Jaemo Clark, Lucas Clark, Brodie Saunders, Frank Buttita, Mike Mikulski and Trent Ostrowski.
Grand Island Vikings
Grand Island is hoping to get off to a better start in 2023 after losing their first five games before finishing the season with a 3-7 record. Dean Santorio, who is entering his 23rd season as Vikings head coach, is bringing back five starters on each side of the ball. Elijah Linenfelser and Jacob Joseph are back after leading the team in tackles last year. Other key returnees are Doug Crowley, Brayden Willats, and Dominic Nucci. The Vikings have high expectations for Nik Korte, Matthew Martin, Jon Neville, Michael Sole and Anthony Vaccaro.