Who’s who: The six-team division consists of the Clarence Red Devils, Frontier Falcons, Jamestown Red Raiders, Lancaster Redskins, Orchard Park Quakers and West Seneca West Indians.
This year’s alignment shift: This division is a rarity in that it has the same makeup as last year. Only two Section VI divisions had no changes, AA South and B South.
Last year’s champion: Orchard Park dominated the league before going on to win the school’s second Class AA state championship. It beat Jamestown in the Section VI final, 30-10, after the Red Raiders had played OP the toughest in the regular season (31-14 in Week Two). OP memorably used its “Big Cat” formation (with LB Jimmy Fitzgerald coming in to run a powerful wildcat formation) to come from a two-touchdown deficit in the fourth quarter to beat Rush-Henrietta of Section V (Rochester area) in the Far West Regionals, 42-35, at Rochester’s Sahlen’s Stadium. Then OP cruised to a 35-6 state semifinal victory over Section IV champion Binghamton at East Syracuse-Minoa. The Quakers won the state title by holding on for a 21-13 victory over Newburgh of downstate’s Orange County (Section IX) in the Carrier Dome.
2011 rewind: Orchard Park let Western New York know it meant serious business by beginning the season with a 45-19 blowout win at Kenmore West, which was projected to win the AA North (it did). In Week Five, OP exacted revenge on 2010 Section VI champion Clarence, which had beaten the Quakers twice that season, with a 44-13 homecoming victory. The league showed its depth as fourth-place Lancaster took Kenmore West to overtime in the sectional quarterfinals and with Jamestown reaching the final.
Last year’s records: Orchard Park 13-0, 5-0; Jamestown 8-2, 4-1; Clarence 5-3, 3-2; Lancaster 4-5, 2-3; Frontier 4-5, 1-4; West Seneca West 3-6, 0-5.
2011 All-Western New York underclassmen: Orchard Park junior OL Michael Senn and Jamestown junior DL Cortland Haines were first-team selections. Orchard Park junior WR Ben Holmes and Clarence junior LB Alec Dietsch were second-teamers. Jamestown junior DL John Czech was on the third team. Lancaster junior LB Hayden Schonert was an honorable mention.
2011 all-league first-team underclassmen: Clarence juniors LB Dietsch and DB Vince Taverna, Orchard Park junior OL Senn, Jamestown junior DL Haines, Lancaster junior LB Schonert, Frontier junior LB Nick King and West Seneca West junior DL Matt Wheelock.
Pre-snap read: This league has the same lineup as last year, keeping its status as the best division in Section VI. Orchard Park lost a special group of seniors who drove the team to that state championship, but returns outstanding players like Senn and Holmes, a speedster who will take over at quarterback. With its own key returning players, Jamestown is again poised to be the main challenger, so circle Oct. 5 on your calendar as OP visits Jamestown’s Strider Field on a Friday night. The Red Raiders are eager to continue the success of last year (it was the Raiders’ first sectional final since 2000), and they seem to have the personnel to do so. Clarence, Lancaster (with new coach Chris Dickson) and Frontier should continue to be the toughest of outs. West Seneca West earned three nonleague wins last year, including beating rival WSE.
Week One must-see games: An event each day — Jamestown hosts Kenmore West at 7 p.m. Friday in a rematch of last year’s AA semifinal won by the Red Raiders (33-7), Orchard Park starts its season at Lockport at 2 p.m. Saturday, and Clarence faces defending Section III (Syracuse area) AA champion West Genesee in the Carrier Dome at 3 p.m. Sunday.
Scrimmage Saturday: The first day teams could scrimmage was Saturday. Check out notes, quotes and video from the action at the Prep Talk blog at buffalonews.com.
Live chats kick off Wednesday: The first of this season’s weekly live chats will be Wednesday at 9 p.m. at buffalonews.com.
Review the complete week-by-week schedule at the high school home page; at the Prep Talk blog, read training-camp reports from nine schools and watch video from players and coaches from Orchard Park, St. Francis, St. Joe’s and Williamsville South.
The countdown continues: AA North (Tuesday), Monsignor Martin (Wednesday). You can review each division within Class A, B, C and D at buffalonews.com.
Season preview coming Thursday: The annual preview issue will have capsules and schedules for all 81 teams in Western New York along with feature stories, a must-see cover and everything else one needs to know about the 2012 season.
Attention coaches and ADs — send rosters to Section VI: If coaches have not done so already, they need to email a roster — in spreadsheet form — to Section VI via email@example.com.
— Keith McShea