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Observations from Lancaster’s Annual 7-on-7 Tournament: Part 1

Twenty football teams came to Lancaster high school this past Wednesday for the annual 7-on-7 tournament, hosted by the Legends. There were a few newcomers including the 2018 NYSPHSAA state champion CSP Wolfpack. It rained for a majority of the morning and then a few scattered sprinkles in the afternoon but that didn’t stop the players from putting on a pretty good show.

Prior to the start of Wednesday’s games the teams were split into two groups, a large and a small school division. The hosts, Lancaster, beat out Orchard Park in overtime to claim the large division trophy while CSP took home the small school championship with a thrilling win over Fredonia.

Small School Observations

The Wolfpack defeated Akron and Pioneer before losing to Southwestern in round robin play. Despite a slow start in each of their three playoff games they were able to  topple Maryvale, Southwestern and then Fredonia. It was a pretty impressive day for the Wolfpack overall, a Class D team that proved they had enough skill players to compete with teams in Class B and C. Offensively CSP picked up where they left off last season. Quarterback Gerrit Hinsdale found his favorite target Cameron Barmore early and often.

Perhaps Barmore’s biggest contributions Wednesday came on the defensive side of the ball. He intercepted at least one pass in every game and was tasked with covering Fredonia’s Jake Skinner in the final game. Barmore intercepted a pass intended for Skinner in the last minute of the championship to help clinch the outcome. The ball was underthrown but it was Barmore’s instincts and sure hands that ended the series for the Hillbillies.

Speaking of Fredonia, they were perfect all day until the last game. Skinner is the real deal. He was a man among boys all day. A quarterback competition could be brewing between junior Jake Helmer and sophomore Nick Whitfield. Another bright spot was the play of senior Dalton Gardner. He is very quick and will be a nice option in the passing game. On defense, Gardner along with junior Grayson Krzyzanowich, are ball hawks. All signs point to a successful season for Fredonia.

Lake Shore had a nice day as well. Dan Russell is in his second year as head coach and left Lancaster satisfied with the work his team put in Wednesday. Junior quarterback Mike Neary along with seniors Nate Styles and Gavin Mendell helped guide the Eagles to a 3-2 record. They defeated Maryvale, Depew and Pioneer before falling to Fredonia twice. The round robin battle with the Hillbillies was a very close game with time running out on Lake Shore just a few yards from a potential game winning score. In their playoff match Fredonia was two scores better but it was still a competitive game.

Maryvale is going to have a tough time replacing Rashad Law. He was a threat each time he had the ball in his hands and was a pretty good cover guy on defense. Very hard to make up for that loss. Connor Desiderio is still one of the better quarterbacks in WNY and will need another good month to learn his new receivers. There is some promise there. They do need a running game; we will have to wait and see how that shakes out in September. One thing I did notice was the communication. The players were constantly talking to each other. You can tell that the team has already bonded and that will serve them well. They didn’t finish as they had hoped Wednesday.

Southwestern turned the quarterback reigns over to Aidan Kennedy. The sophomore looked right at home, very comfortable in the Trojans offense. Tywon Wright transferred in from Dunkirk. He was injured during the first week of the 2018 season and is poised to have a bounce back year at Southwestern. They had a really good 7-on-7 day losing out in the semi-finals to eventual winner CSP.

I was impressed with the quarterback play of Nathan Kulesz of Depew. The third year varsity player has been backing up Joe Pagano the past two years and will finally have his chance to lead the Wildcats offense. If they can put some playmakers around him Depew could be a fun team to watch. Should Kulesz continue in his development he has a shot to play at the next level.

Pioneer, Akron, Cheektowaga and Niagara Wheatfield had better days. Each struggled to find consistency on offense. The weather didn’t help.

Don’t get too carried away with the results from Wednesday. For some teams like South Park, it was their first time ever participating in one of these tournaments. Success in mid-July guarantees nothing. It’s going to be a long season.

Large School Observations

Coming Monday

Feature Image Courtesy of Brynne Hinsdale

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