Who: Orchard Park Quakers (9-1) vs. V-Aquinas Little Irish (7-3)
What: Class AA football Far West Regional.
When: Today, 6 p.m.
Where: Robert Rich Sr. All High Stadium.
Tickets: $10 for three-game session.
Radio: WXRL (1300 AM), wxrl.com and nhsbn.com.
Television (recorded): Time Warner Cable SportsChannel, 9 p.m. Sunday.
Buffalo News large school poll: Orchard Park No. 3.
New York State Sportswriters Association Class AA poll: Orchard Park No. 8; Aquinas No. 12. Note: Canisius is No. 1.
Orchard Park in the regionals: 3-7. After losing first seven regionals over an 11-year span (1996 to 2006), OP has won its last three, breaking through in 2007 (49-27 over Canandaigua), then going on to state titles after wins in 2008 (34-12 over Gates-Chili) and last year (42-35 over Rush-Henrietta, thanks to a 21-0 fourth quarter).
Aquinas in the regionals: 7-2. This is its 10th regional appearance in the last 15 years, which have included five state championships; all of those came in Class A before this year’s elevation to Class AA. This is Aquinas’ seventh straight regional, after beating Iroquois in 2006 (7-0), the next five came against Sweet Home. Aquinas won on its way to state titles in 2007 and 2010 (Sweet Home won on its way to state titles in 2008 and 2009); it also won last year before losing in the state semifinals.
Coaches: Orchard Park, Gene Tundo, 19th season (168-27); Aquinas, Chris Battaglia, 11th season at Aquinas (107-52-2).
Orchard Park key players (and statistics): Sr. QB Ben Holmes, 5-11, 175 (68-114, 1,228, 15 TDs, 3 INTs; 96-677, 7 TDs rush); Sr. RB Mitch Wilson, 5-9, 180 (148-1,512, 20 TDs); Sr. RB/DB Jett Modkins, 5-11, 190 (60-416, 7 TDs; 61 tackles, 2 INTs); Sr. WR/DB Austin Goltz, 5-10, 170 (33-617, 13 TDs; 6 INTs); Sr. WR Raphael Paglei, 6-0, 185 (24-339, 3 TDs); Sr. LB/TE Connor Eddy, 6-1, 220 (87 tackles, 3 sacks); Jr. LB Tucker Gamble, 6-0, 220 (50 tackles); Sr. LB Bobby Akinyele, 5-11, 200 (52 tackles, 1 INT); Sr. DL/OL Christopher Sanfilippo, 5-11, 220 (54 tackles, 2.5 sacks); Sr. OL/DL Michael Senn, 6-3, 300 (15 tackles, 1 sack); So. DB Jacob Dogal, 6-1, 180 (30 tackles, 2 INTs); Jr. LB Jason Dolce, 5-11, 215 (20 tackles, 2 INTs).
Aquinas key players (and statistics): Fr. QB Jake Zembiec, 6-2, 180 (75-132, 998, 6 TDs, 14 INTs; 26 for minus-43 rush.); Sr. TB/LB Billy Lombardi, 5-7, 192 (191-961, 16 TDs); Jr. FB/S Donato Clemente, 5-10, 160 (14-129, 1 TD; 11-183 rec.; 47 tackles); Jr. FB/LB Luch Pietropalo, 5-9, 202 (25-127, 1 TD); Sr. TB/S Ismael Cox, 5-9, 170 (28-92, 2 TDs; 3 INTs); Jr. WR/S/P Alex Bianchi, 6-2, 190 (28-346, 3 TDs); Jr. WR/CB Alonzo Turney, 5-9, 170 (16-265, 2 TDs; 3 INTs); Jr. WR/LB Al-tron Webb, 6-1, 180 (41 tackles, 2.5 sacks); Jr. TE/LB Charlie Rist, 5-11, 210 (77 tackles); Jr. G/DT Mike Holley, 5-10, 260 (58 tackles, 5.5 sacks); Sr. G/DE Alec Clanton, 6-3, 240 (9.5 sacks).
How they got here: Orchard Park avenged its only regular season loss, which came in Week Six at Jamestown, by closing the game with a 28-6 run against the Red Raiders in a 35-20 victory in the Section VI final. One week after edging season-long AA favorite and defending champion Rush-Henrietta (20-13) in the semifinals, the Little Irish scored the last 15 points — including a 12-0 fourth quarter — to beat Fairport, 15-14.
Pre-snap read: In this outstanding matchup of two of the state’s best programs, Orchard Park is the favorite according to the state polls. However, this Aquinas team has won two straight that it wasn’t supposed to win, riding its bull of a RB in Lombardi and strong defensive performances game planned by an outstanding coaching staff. Aquinas lost three regular season games in a row, to St. Joe’s at home, at Canisius and at Cathedral Prep of Erie, Pa., while Lombardi nursed a leg injury that limited his ability to cut. Aquinas’ passing has been inconsistent, but freshman Zembiec has hit big third- and fourth-down throws in the postseason. OP has put together two straight tremendous second halves to win at Lockport and to stiff-arm a challenge from Jamestown. OP put forth the best rushing performance in championship game history at The Ralph (476 yards), with Wilson leading the way with 276 on 24 carries. Quakers had three interceptions against Jamestown.
What’s next: The winner advances to the state semifinals next Saturday at 6 p.m. at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester. The opponent will be the winner of the Central Regional between state AA poll No. 3 Christian Brothers Academy (10-0) of Section III (Syracuse area) and honorable mention (outside top 30) Binghamton (8-2) of Section IV; that game is today at 6 at East Syracuse-Minoa.
At buffalonews.com: Live blog with play-by-play coverage; comment in the blog or via Twitter using the hashtag #preptalkscores. A PrepTalkTV video recap will follow.
In Sunday’s News: Coverage of today’s three championship games.
— Keith McShea