News Sports Reporter
There is probably no other position in sports as alluring as quarterback. So there is probably no other position so tough to give up.
That's what happened this past week at St. Joe's. An undefeated top 10 team made a quarterback change for its all-important first league game, and almost astonishingly, it couldn't have gone better. No drama. No dropoff. No problems. One big victory.
Senior Tyler Hill started the first two victories for St. Joe's. Junior Nigel Davis stepped in for Saturday's 28-21 home victory over St. Francis.
Davis' speed and ability to run gave St. Joe's a much different dynamic. What did Hill do? He went from throwing touchdowns (four) to catching one, grabbing an 11-yard catch from Davis on a rollout. He was also a presence on defense.
"Coach said at the beginning of the year, we're going to do whatever it takes to win," said Hill, who backed up Chad Kelly last year. "If I have to go out and play tight end to get the job done, we're going to get the job done by any means necessary.
"It wasn't very difficult because I knew all the plays coming in. I just helped Nigel with his reads, what he's got to do with his footwork and stuff. He did a great job and we got a good victory."
How about diving into the end zone after making a catch? "That felt great," said a smiling Hill.
It really was a great thing to see. Hill and Davis deserve a huge amount of credit for the way they handled it. Coach Dennis Gilbert deserves credit for one of the things about coaching that seldom gets mentioned when people want to talk about who are the best at it: You need to make sure the players are buying what you're selling. You have to be a junior psychologist. You need to foster the kind of environment where you're able to make that kind of lineup change and get the kind of results that it yielded.
"A kid like Tyler, who goes from the limelight to putting his hand on the ground - how's he going to handle it, how's he going to react?" said Gilbert. "He had a fantastic game. He had five or six catches, he caught a touchdown, he did a great job blocking and he had a heck of a day as a defensive end. He answered the bell. We challenged him with it, and he was great."
St. Joe's now has two very different looks that it can present opponents with, and one would think either one will be as effective as possible because the players - notably the quarterbacks - are invested no matter what.
"At first, I was shocked, he was shocked," Davis said of the switch with Hill. "But after that we both agreed that whatever it takes for the team to win, we're going to do that."
Said Gilbert: "It gives us another option, moving forward, and the more things that people have to prepare for, the better. We've got all kinds of options.
"We had a tight end down with an injury in Tremaine Shelton. And here goes Tyler Hill, he's the starting quarterback the first two weeks and all of a sudden he's lining up as a tight end. To his credit, he didn't have a puss on his face all week. He was like, 'Coach, whatever I have to do.' He played as a defensive end, which really helped in containing Misterman. He's a thick kid who is strong and tough and he didn't give up the edge, and gave us an option to rotate three there because Tremaine is a defensive end also. So it kind of worked and fit all the way through."
Gilbert couldn't resist a big smile and a final comment about all the moves paying off - and he deserved it.
"The kids gave us a great effort," said Gilbert. "And contrary to popular belief, once in a while we know what we're doing as coaches."
HOF at South Park
The class includes major league Hall of Famer Warren Spahn as well as the late Tom "Tucker" Reddington (1949), who was a longtime coach at St. Joe's. The 1993 football team, which is the only Buffalo Public School to finish a season atop The News large school poll, will be inducted, as will Jerry Obstein, the man who coached that squad. Obstein coached the football team from 1987 to 1999.
"It's been a long time coming and it's great for the community," said Sparks football coach Tim Delaney, a 1998 South Park graduate who helped organize the hall. "We still have a lot people who have graduated from South Park living in South Buffalo and they're proud to be South Park alumni. Sometimes they get overshadowed by Timon and Mercy. This is a positive thing for our community and we're all very excited."
The inaugural class, which accounts for a school which is in its 97th year, includes 22 individuals and four teams. Delaney said the aim of the first class was to honor the school's history; future classes will be much smaller and will include more recent graduates.
Other inductees include: Dick English (1946), Paul Kearns (1947), Herbert Coyne (1948), Frank Ventura (1950), Frank Sorrentino (1950), Bill Wilson (1952), Al D'Orazio (1957), Frank Kania (1953), Albert Huetter (coach 1946-1962), John "Moon" Williams (1965), Stephen W. Nelson (1966), Micheal "Mickey" Cantanzaro (1965), Prentis Henley (1966), Alan Forcucci (1967), Savala Swanson (1967), Mike Barren (1981), Mike Zawistowski (1981), Anthony Verel (1988), Brandon Williams (1994).
Other teams to be inducted are 1985 girls softball, 1979 hockey and 1967-70 swimming.
The induction ceremony is open to the public and will take place at 6 p.m. in the school's auditorium. A reception and party - for which tickets cost $20 - will follow in the gymnasium at 7 p.m.
The day's events will begin with a 5K run at 9 a.m. which starts at the front steps of the school. The race costs $25 and includes a ticket to the Hall of Fame reception. South Park's football team will play Lew-Port at 2 p.m.
For more information, call the school at 816-4828.
The only good news out of the situation is that Armstrong, an All-Western New York baseball player who has committed to Pittsburgh to play that sport, will be fine for baseball season. Armstrong said he suffered a separated shoulder with sprained ligaments, but that doctors told him he will heal stronger. Armstrong was at Pitt this weekend for his official visit (where he saw the Panthers' football upset of Virginia Tech).
Around the halls
. It was great to have Buffalo State players Casey Kacz and Ryan Carney visit with us on PrepTalkTV Sunday (see the replay at buffalonews.com). Kacz hit Carney on the winning touchdown in the Bengals' tremendous 7-6 victory over defending Division III national champion Wisconsin-Whitewater last weekend. and a Kacz pass to Carney became the beginning of a double lateral play on fourth-and-19 that enabled Buffalo State to come back. High school fans aren't surprised they were part of those kind of plays, the both made their share in winning state titles - Kacz quarterbacked on Sweet Home's 2008 Class A state champion football team while Carney was a key part of Olean's 2009 Class B state championship in basketball.
. Our weekly live chat is Thursday night at 9 at buffalonews.com, where we discuss anything high school sports.