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Lions/ADPRO All-Star Preview

Kensington Lions Club’s 44th Annual All-Star High School Football Classic | Williamsville South High School | August 31, 2019 @ 7pm | Livestream: WNYAthletics.com

Photo courtesy of Mark Adair | WNY Football Weekly

The game must go on. Milt Dickerson would have wanted it that way. For 45 years Mr. Dickerson worked tirelessly on behalf of the Kensington Lions Club in various roles from past President to club Secretary, the position in which he held at the time of his passing last spring. “Uncle Milty” was one of the founders of the All-Star Football Classic and the game meant as much to him as it did to the thousands that have played in it.

Through Dickerson’s hard work, foresight and the members of the Lions Club they have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from this game which went to support such organizations as Kids Escaping Drugs, American Diabetes Association, WNY Independent Living, student scholarships and many other worthwhile groups. Thankfully, Mr. Dickerson left the blueprints for his predecessors so that they can carry on this annual tradition. Len Thornton, this year’s Game Chairman took over scheduling and planning on behalf of Milt and has done a tremendous job of carrying on this legacy.

Wednesday’s football game marks the 44th in its history. For the second year in a row Williamsville South is the host.

Al Cavagnaro from Starpoint and his staff are coaching the North all-stars while Jeff Tripp of Hamburg is coaching the South all-stars. Eric Rupp (Lancaster) and Joe Licata (Bishop-Timon) also joined Tripp’s Hamburg staff.  Seventy-six players representing 50 schools will take the field. More than half will play collegiately while the others welcomed the opportunity to play high school football one last time.

There is a lot of preparation that goes into the All-Star Classic. Invitations are sent to a select group of seniors nominated by their coach. It includes the commitment each player must make just to play in the game. There is a five practice minimum in order to be eligible. Not all those invited are able to play due to personal obligations. For others, their college teams frown upon the extra activity. Malik Brooks of Lockport, one of the most accomplished wide receivers in Section VI history was on the original roster for the North all-stars but had to regretfully decline because he is already practicing with Monmouth University. Speaking with some of the coaches of the North squad, Brooks is one of the athletes that they were really hoping to have the opportunity to coach.

Last week, Joe Powers from Lew-Port was injured during a North team practice, breaking his leg. The 6’1, 245 right guard arrived at the banquet Tuesday night in crutches but still in high spirits. He was named a team captain. Powers will be out of commission for at least six months and will have to miss his first collegiate football season at Hobart & William Smith.

Robert Giancarlo (North), Sweet Home’s tough as nails defensive end and fullback is beyond excited to be playing in this game. “I’ve been waiting a long time to play in this game and I’m proud to represent the Panthers,” Giancarlo said. He is one of 10 players in this game heading to Alfred University in the fall to play football for the Saxons.

Grand Island’s Cam Sionko will split time at quarterback with Steven Frerichs (Wilson) on Wednesday. Sionko is joined by his Vikings teammate Jeremiah Wilkes for one last hurrah before they head to college. Sionko will attend Buff State while Wilkes is heading to NCCC.

On Wednesday night the Kensington Lions Club awards one player from each team with the “Win Award” (formerly the Spirit Award). It is an honor given to the player that demonstrates the most spirit during the course of the Lions/ADPRO Sports All-Star Game. The award is named in honor of Marine Lance Cpl Tim Serwinowski. The 2007 North Tonawanda Lumberjack was killed in Afghanistan on June 21, 2010. Serwinowski was given the nickname “Win” by his NT coaches due to his extreme hard work on the football field.

On Tuesday evening it was a packed house at Ilio DiPaolo’s Restaurant and Banquet Facility in Blasdell where they graciously hosted the coaches, players and their families the night before the big game. Some of the athletes were unable to attend due to prior commitments but all are expected to play Wednesday, including Tonawanda’s Zach Braddell (North) and Fischer (South).

Shaun Dolac (South) the Buffalo News Player of the Year was one of the more popular players in attendance Tuesday and will be one of the focal points of the South all-star’s defense. According to head coach Jeff Tripp, Dolac is one of the best he has ever coached. “I’ve had a lot of really good football players, really great kids over the years,” Tripp said. “Shawn is just a special player in every way. He has all the talent but he also has the IQ. He just knows where to be at all times and everyone around him feeds off his energy.”

Dolac was humbled by Tripp’s words and very excited to cap off his high school career on Wednesday. “It’s an honor to be playing and just getting to play with all of these great players is special. I’m looking forward to it,” Dolac said.

Tyler Bailey was one of the lone bright spots at Frontier last year and is ecstatic about playing in this game as a member of the South team. “This is a great way to go out, we had a great week of practice,” Bailey said. Bailey is heading to ECC this fall. He will primarily be used at Safety on Wednesday but he could return punts as well.

The South team brings in another crop of excellent running backs, similar to the 2018 team. John Speyer (WSW), Javon Thomas and Aaron Wahler of Cleve-Hill might be the best yet. Cavagnaro said as much last week that in order for the North to have a chance they will need to stop the run. I would also worry about the South’s passing game. Representing the Cheektowaga Warriors are quarterback Keshone Beal and wide receiver Tamell Bass. They were limited last year due to injuries that Bass had to work through but when they were on, opponents paid the price. It’ll be a nice moment if the two of them could connect one more time. Taivaughn Roach is the third Warrior on the roster and is an intimidating linebacker.

The North has a number of speedsters and hard hitters on defense such as Rashad Law (Maryvale), Millard Young (Akron), Scott Becht (Williamsville North) and PJ Young of Niagara Falls.

The South all-stars have won the past two games by a combined score of 49-6. The North won the three previous contests (2014-16). The South leads the series 24 to 19. There have been 9 shutouts in the 43-year history.

For the second year in a row the game will feature cheerleading squads for both teams. Jessica Haskill (Tonawanda) and Lauren Jackson (Will North) coach the North while Justina Grudzinski (Hamburg) and Valerie Lattin (Lake Shore) will coach the South.

Next year Williamsville South’s coaching staff will coach the North while Eric Rupp and his Lancaster staff will coach the South.

The game tonight will be live-streamed on WNY Athletics. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to get the broadcast link when we go live.

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