Orchard Park vs. Aquinas.
You don’t have to say much more than that.
When it comes to high school football in the Western end of the state, or the entire state for that matter, these two programs represent excellence. They have combined for four state championships over the last five seasons.
And we finally get to see them play each other in Saturday’s 6 p.m. Far West Regional game at All High Stadium.
The matchup is long overdue. It hasn’t happened until this year because private school power Aquinas had played at Class A, the second-largest class in the state, rather than Class AA.
This year, in a move I had argued for many times over the last decade, Aquinas and Section V (Rochester area) finally elevated the Little Irish to AA. A program as successful as Aquinas should have been playing at the state’s highest level for years.
With this year’s championship, they’ve proven my point. Aquinas supporters who were hesitant about the move to AA talked about how the team would be “down” this year after losing several key players.
But here they are as Section V’s AA champions. Sure, it wasn’t by much (a one-point victory in the final after a one-touchdown win in the semifinals). And sure, even though they are champions, this year’s 7-3 record (which includes a home loss to St. Joe’s and a loss at Canisius), is not on par with other recent seasons. Prior to this year, the Little Irish lost just four games over their last five seasons.
What some people don’t get about Aquinas is that this shouldn’t be a year-to-year thing. Its track record makes it one of the best programs in the state. Aquinas is the most elite football program among just a handful of private schools in Section V. The Little Irish have the ability to draw from all of Monroe County, which makes their enrollment number irrelevant. They are clearly among the best. That means playing in AA.
Can you imagine, if someone waved a magic wand and allowed the Monsignor Martin schools into Section VI (which will never happen, and should never happen, because here we separate our apples and oranges), having schools like St. Joe’s or Canisius classified as in A rather than AA? It’s unthinkable. And yet, that’s what had happened in Section V, where the list of classification inconsistencies is longer than the line for a table at Rochester’s Dinosaur Bar-B-Que. Want to read a real rant? Google “Prep Talk Private schools in Class D.” I wrote it in 2008.
But that’s enough about the past.
Orchard Park and Aquinas is an absolute treat, a matchup of outstanding coaching staffs and excellent football programs, and it is the marquee matchup not only of Saturday’s regional tripleheader but of a fabulous three-day run of football.
On Thursday, we have two very appetizing Monsignor Martin semifinals as St. Joe’s tries to avenge its regular-season loss at Bishop Timon-St. Jude at 5 with top-seeded and No. 1 large school Canisius playing a St. Francis team that pulled an about-face on its season last week. The Red Raiders, who were handed a 33-7 regular season loss at small school St. Mary’s to fall to 0-6, roared back with a 52-7 win at St. Mary’s in last week’s quarterfinal to win their third straight game.
On Friday, the regionals begin at All High with Randolph meeting Avon in Class D at 5 p.m., followed by Sweet Home (which met Aquinas for five straight years in the Class A regionals) meeting Eastridge at 8. Saturday’s first two games are Cleveland Hill against Hornell in Class C (1 p.m.) and Alden against East Rochester/Gananda in Class B (4).
Cleve Hill has to be considered a decided underdog against a Hornell team which has won 49 straight, but considering the other four teams’ impressive Section VI championship wins, there is a very good chance there will be more than a few Section VI teams heading to the state semifinals.
Around the halls
• There will be gameday capsules printed the next three days for the Monsignor Martin semifinals and the regionals.
• We will have live blogs from all three days of football games. With the Monsignor Martin games being held Thursday, there will not be a midweek live chat this week.
• PrepTalkTV Sunday will summarize all of these matchups in our live video wrapup show at 8:30 p.m. Sunday.