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WNY High School Football: Class AA Preview

Last season both Lancaster and Williamsville North went unbeaten during the regular season so it was only fitting that the two teams would meet up at New Era Field for the Section VI championship. When it was all said and done the Legends prevailed. Graduation day came soon after and Lancaster waved good-bye to some of the best football players the school has ever known. Joel Andreesen, Ben Damiani, Andrew Hersey, Max Giordano and Ryan Mansell were just some of the big contributors on the roster that have moved on.

The Williamsville North Spartans lost a few seniors as well but for the most part, the roster is almost intact. Except for a transfer and an injury, the North squad is ready to take back what they lost a year ago. Coach Mike Mammoliti is eager to show off his new rushing attack in David Bass and Dylan Mann, while his veterans Joe Nusall, Dylan Kelly and Scott Becht are focusing on ending their high school football careers on a winning note.

The Lancaster Legends still have some bright spots and until proven otherwise are the king of the mountain in AA. Coach Eric Rupp begins year three and has yet to lose a regular season game. They’ll have a new quarterback under center in junior Gianluca Fulciniti, who has been waiting patiently for his chance to lead. He’ll have senior tight-end Brian Martin back along with Shawn Davis (’20) who is expected to make a big impact.

Senior Jack Putney of Clarence has a nice arsenal to work with as quarterback of the Red Devils. Jon Stevens, also a senior is one of the most reliable receivers in the area. The two have been teammates since the sixth grade and are ready to make a serious run. Sophomore Zach Norton and senior Brendan Toole will add much needed depth at the receiver position. The twin towers Jacob and Anthony Sweeney (‘19) are key returners on the line for Coach Paul Burgio. They host Will North in week two.

Craig Dana is now the head coach of Orchard Park. The Quakers went 4-5 last year; they don’t finish up with a losing record often and the players reminded themselves of that all through the offseason. Junior QB Jack Sharpe has taken on the leadership role. There are no easy games in Class AA but the Quakers have a chance to put a couple of nice wins together early before they face Williamsville North, Bennett, Clarence and Lancaster to finish the season. Orchard Park looks poised to make a return to the playoffs. Watch out for linebacker Mike Pataky.

The team you need to pay attention too is Bennett. This is year two up in Class AA for coach Steve McDuffie and his Tigers. With senior Semaj Clemens who rushed for over 1,000 yards in 2017 and junior Justin Campbell in the backfield, Bennett has the potential to make some noise. They’ve also added D’Jae Perry into the mix, a transfer from St. Mary’s of Lancaster. Campbell is one of the better tacklers in the section with a nose for the ball. This is a dangerous team and could be the most physical.

Niagara Falls is going to be a young team this season but they have speed and skill. Additionally, they have a proven coach in Don Bass. The Wolverines have to get off to a quick start, the last three games are against Clarence, Lancaster and Williamsville North.

Hutch-Tech has turned the program over to former Riverside head coach Tony Trulizio. The Engineers have retained Nick Todaro on as defensive coordinator. With a senior heavy team and big line, Hutch-Tech could surprise some people in Class AA. They’ll see Lancaster and Orchard Park in week two and three. That’s a pretty good gauge to see where the Engineers stand. Trulizio has had success winning multiple Harvard Cups. He is not a new coach in western New York. If he can connect with his players we could see something special begin as Hutch Tech moves forward.

Lockport also has a new coach in Trait Smith. The Lions also have a brand new turf-field. Having just one win the past two seasons Lockport is hopeful they can turn things around in 2018. Senior Malik Brooks is one of the top receivers. Junior quarterback Nick Cascia came in last season after starter Javon Ford was injured. The Lions are hopeful that that experience will pay off. This offense should be able to improve on their 2017 numbers. They have capable players at all the skilled positions, they just need to put it all together.

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