West Seneca East is in the midst of one of its best seasons in school history.
So how does it balance tonight’s all-important rivalry game with the undefeated season it has put together, plus the high goals and expectations that will come along with the postseason?
The way they handle it in Trojan Territory is to split their season into three: the regular season, rivalry game, playoffs.
“The way we look at our season is six games, and then another season in rivalry week before we get ready for the playoffs,” said West Seneca East coach Jim Maurino. “We let the kids know that it’s bigger than them this week.
“We refer to this team as Team 43 because they’re the 43rd team in school history. We make sure they know they’re playing for those 42 other teams that played before them and they take that to heart.”
Tonight, West Seneca East hosts West Seneca West in the schools’ 42nd meeting. West won last year, 21-19, to end a three-game win streak by East and take a 23-18 lead in the all-time series. Like last year, West (2-4) is out of the AA playoff picture while East is in it as the Class A South champions (6-0).
While West Seneca East’s spot in the playoff picture is secure, there is plenty to clear up this weekend as schools battle for a spot in the postseason – or for better seeding. There are also several other traditional Week Seven rivalry games that will see throngs of neighbors come out to root for bragging rights. Over in the Monsignor Martin Association, there is a major showdown of top 10 large schools as No. 7 Bishop Timon-St. Jude hosts No. 2 St. Joe’s at Fitzpatrick Field.
Here’s a look at the weekend, from start to finish:
North Tonawanda at Tonawanda, 6 p.m. With North Tonawanda having its struggles in Class A North (1-5), signs are pointing to a more competitive game in this, the 103rd edition of the T-NT game.
NT (the series leader at 62-31-9) has won the last 11 meetings, including by 40-14 last year. Tonawanda is also 1-5 in the competitive B West and played top 10 team Burgard tough last week. The Warriors will also be looking to honor Clint Small Stadium in the rivalry’s last appearance there; the district is set to build a new field at the school.
St. Joe’s at Bishop Timon-St. Jude, 7 p.m. The Marauders, ranked second among large schools at 6-0, make the trip to South Buffalo against the No. 7 Tigers (4-2). Timon has been hit with injuries throughout the season, but senior quarterback Ryan Dougherty has returned to play with a heavy brace on a knee in which he tore his ACL, and junior standout running back Adam DiMillo is back with the team after missing their first three games with a lacrosse injury. St. Joe’s is coming off a come-from-behind victory at Lockport in which senior Ilo Noble and junior Rod Payne were tough to stop on the ground.
Frontier at Hamburg, 7 p.m. The Falcons (4-2) have clinched a spot in the AA playoffs while Hamburg (2-4) has been eliminated from the A South race. The Falcons won by shutout for the second straight year, 21-0, to tighten Hamburg’s series lead to 29-26-2.
Newfane at Alden, 7 p.m. This Class B East finale could determine the overall top seed in the Class B playoffs. The Bulldogs (6-0, 5-0), ranked first among small schools, can clinch the top spot with a win by at least 10 points. That would ensure it the point-differential edge over Cheektowaga (6-0, 5-0). Cheektowaga has clinched first place in B West heading into its season finale with neighbor Maryvale (3-3, 3-2), which needs to upset the Warriors and get some help to make the playoffs.
Depew at Lancaster, 7:30 p.m. The atmosphere for this one is as good as it gets in rivalry week, and again a Depew team ranked in the small school poll (No. 3 and 5-1 this year) looks to take down its larger neighbor. The Redskins (1-5 and out of the AA South playoff picture) own a 47-31-6 advantage in the series; the Wildcats have won the last two in close ones (19-16 and 20-13).
Albion at Medina, 7:30 p.m. This is a Class B East game in which the Purple Eagles (1-5, 1-4) are out of the playoffs while the Mustangs (3-3, 3-2), who are assured third place in the division, can keep their hopes alive for a wild-card spot with a win. Albion leads the rivalry, 64-45-5. Last year Albion won, 20-13, to earn a playoff spot.
Dunkirk at Fredonia, 7:30 p.m. The host Hillbillies (4-2) are assured a playoff spot in C North while the Marauders (2-4) are out of the running in B South. Dunkirk leads the series, 63-46-11, but Fredonia has won 13 straight.
Cleveland Hill at JFK, 1:30 p.m. These two Cheektowaga rivals close the season by playing for the C North championship. No. 7 small school Cleveland Hill (5-1, 3-1) and No. 9 JFK (5-1, 3-1) have already clinched spots.
Kenmore West at Kenmore East, 2 p.m. Kenmore West (2-4 and in the playoffs as the No. 3 team in the five-team AA North) aims for its fifth straight victory over East (2-4 and out of the running in A South). West won, 39-8, last year and leads series, 34-17-2.
Jamestown at Clarence, 2 p.m. If the Red Raiders (5-1, 3-1) can follow their huge home victory over Orchard Park with a crucial road win, it will earn a share of the Class AA South championship and the top seeding for the playoffs. Clarence (4-2, 2-2) has rallied well after losing standout senior quarterback Mark Armstrong to a shoulder injury; the Red Devils are assured at least the playoff spot that comes with fourth place, but a win can move them up to third.
South Park at Williamsville East, 2 p.m. The final spot in Class A South is on the line here as the Sparks (3-3, 3-2) visit the Flames (3-3, 2-3). A South Park victory could lead them to the fourth spot if Williamsville South stumbles at home against Lake Shore tonight (South clinches the No. 3 spot in the league with a win).
Sweet Home at Starpoint, 2 p.m. The Panthers, ranked third among large schools and 6-0 overall, can clinch the A North championship with a victory over the Spartans (3-3, 3-2), who are assured the fourth seed.
Grand Island vs. McKinley at Riverside, 4 p.m. The Vikings are ranked eighth among large schools at 6-0, with a 5-0 mark in Class A North play, and they likely will take on the Macks (4-2, 4-1) for the rights to the second seed in the division (that’s as long as Sweet Home wins). The loser will likely be the third seed. The Macks have seen time in the top 10 this season so this should be an excellent game.
Springville at Olean, 6:30 p.m. The Section VI postseason picture won’t be completely set until the end of this one. Springville (2-4, 2-2) can earn second place – and an automatic playoff berth – in B South with a victory while a Huskies’ (3-3, 2-2) victory could put them in, depending on the other B action this weekend. Alden, Cheektowaga and Eden have clinched division championships and a spot in the playoffs; the three second-place teams and then the two next-best third-place teams make it.