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Sparks Out To Prove State Title Was No Fluke

Greatness is first achieved through high expectations from within.

But some times high expectations have to be tempered with good judgment.

That’s what the South Park Sparks football team is facing this fall.

Everyone knows the story of the Sparks historic run to the NYSPHSAA Class A title last year, making them the first-ever Buffalo Public School team to win a state championship since the Harvard Cup was dissolved and BPS teams joined Section VI.

But Head Coach Tim Delaney explained Day One of camp was really not much different than any other opening day. It was about setting goals and realizing the work that had to be put in to make those dreams a reality. Just like last season.

“That (winning states) has always been the goal, we’ve achieved that goal now,” Delaney said. “Probably half the guys on the team were a part of that so they know what that feels like. Their expectations are to play deep into the playoffs, just like ours (as coaches). Now it’s getting the guys that are coming up from the JV or that are new to the school-getting them on the same page with all of the things that we’re doing. Football is 12 months so they’ve been hearing us talk about making an attempt to get back to that same situation all off season. I didn’t say anything crazy different (first day of practice). It’s just the fact now that there’s a banner in the gym and guys on the team have a championship ring.”

While the Sparks certainly have the drive the reality is they are facing the challenge of replacing four big time players. Namely former starting QB Tyree Brown who was not only one of three All-WNY First Teamers, he was also the Buffalo News Player of the Year. The Sparks were also dealt a tough blow when junior  tackle Jeremiah Sanders (6-foot-3, 270 pounds) unexpectedly pulled up stakes and transferred to Bishop-Timon.

The Sparks will now move forward with junior lineman Andre Walker, senior Elijah Winston (LB/TE) and senior Nick Schaefer (LB) who shifts from fullback to quarterback this season. Schaefer said the returning players know it’s on their shoulders to teach the younger guys what it takes to win.

“We have a state championship,” Schaefer said. “We have the experience and we know what it takes to get there.”

Delaney said he has complete faith that all three have the ability and work ethic to set the right examples that will make the younger kids want to write their own chapter in the South Park football history books.

“No doubt,” Delaney said. “You’ve got to lean on the guys that were here last year.” South Park’s lineup is bolstered by the arrival of Khalil White (RB/LB) who transferred in from St. Mary’s, and the return of senior running back Shakur Harris who missed all of last season.

Going 12-1 last season, South Park will find itself facing some opponents in Section VI Class A South, most notably Bennett, which made it to the sectional finals in each of the last two seasons: Class C last season and Class B the year before. South Park and Bennett will clash at All-High Stadium on Sept.24 at 1pm.

Delaney said that a big part of winning starts from within. Staying hungry. Not becoming complacent or assuming success will come just by walking onto the field. While the demand for success is still there, Delaney and his staff must also be mindful that this year’s squad doesn’t let wanting to repeat become a burden they have to carry. The 2016 team must remember they have their own destiny to write.

“I’ll be honest with you. The kids don’t ever hear me talk about going to ‘the Dome’ or talk about defending the state championship,” he said. “We’re focused on what the season is going to look like. We’re trying to win the division, win the playoffs. Then once you’re in the playoffs you approach it on a week-to-week basis. The kids talk about it, but we always try to ground them down to ‘let’s talk about this week.”

South Parks opens the season tonight against St.Joe’s at All-High Stadium, 7pm kick-off. The Marauders will be looking to get former NFLer Derek Landri the ‘W’ in his debut as their head coach.

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