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Every season has its share of coaching changes.

This year, what's notable is not so much the quantity of new hires but the quality of the programs that are going into a transition year.

A major story line for 2011 is how new leaders will do at several programs that have either been hallmarks of Western New York football, or have had major recent success -- or both.

*Clarence won the Class AA title last year and won the large school poll championship in the 18th and final season of the retiring Tom Goddard (85-79). Former assistant Mark Layer takes over.

*North Tonawanda won the 2009 AA state championship under Eric Jantzi (86-23 in 11 years), who stepped down and is now a JV coach at Orchard Park. Former assistant Rick Tomm has moved up to head coach.

*Iroquois was a regular in the large school poll and the Class A playoff race under 11-year coach Frank Payne (73-32, two sectional titles); former JV coach and 11-year staff member Keith Marshall is now the chief Chief.

*Lackawanna has won seven sectional championships, including three since 2002 under Bruce Lakso (57-27). Lakso stepped down over the summer and alum and former assistant Adam Tardif has taken over.

*Canisius won the 2009 Monsignor Martin title under Brandon Harris, who went 26-16 in four seasons after arriving from Arizona; he returned there to coach Phoenix Christian. Former assistant Rich Robbins, who was on the Crusaders' staff before Harris' arrival, takes over.

*Bishop Timon-St. Jude has struggled for most of the past decade but the program sought a boost by hiring two-time All-WNY standout and 2001 alum Charlie Comerford. He takes over for Al Monaco (14-35), who had the unenviable task of following legendary 28-year coach Paul Fitzpatrick.

Other coaching changes: Jim Hagerty for Dave Hack at Niagara-Wheatfield; Steve McDuffie for John Kisiel of Bennett; Bob Krenzer for Tom Calzone at Sherman/Ripley. Russ Nixon takes over for 18-year coach Don Marinucci at Niagara Catholic, which is JV-only this season.

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>Alignment shifts

There have been some significant changes in nearly every league lineup.

*Msgr. Martin: The League AA and A system has been consolidated into one division as Cardinal O'Hara goes up against the traditional "big four"; St. Mary's won't play a complete schedule and will be the No. 6 seed in the playoffs. Nichols is an independent.

*AA: So long, North Tonawanda and Williamsville North from AA North to A North. Niagara-Wheatfield moves up to AA North. Bennett moves down to A South.

*A: Both A North and A South grow by one to eight-team divisions, which translates into imbalanced league schedules (league games against six of the seven teams).

*B: With South Park moving up to A South and Akron and JFK dropping from B to C, the classification is now streamlined from seven-team groupings into six-team divisions. There are new names (South, East and West) and alignments, with Lackawanna notably moving from the otherwise intact South to the West.

*C: C North has gone from five to seven teams and welcomes in last year's sectional champion in Fredonia. Lafayette filled a late void left by Roy-Hart (which merged with Barker and will compete in Section V), although the city school will not be eligible for the playoffs. Cattaraugus/Little Valley moves up from Class D to C South, also the destination for the newly combined program of Westfield/Brocton.

*D: Big things are going on with the smallest schools. Last year's C North winner, International Prep at Grover Cleveland, moves down to D, where it joins five other prominent programs, including recent state champions Randolph and Maple Grove and defending sectional champion Silver Creek. A newly formed Class DD includes eight teams that will compete among themselves all season, hold their own postseason and will not send a representative to the state playoffs.

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>College commits

Led by an unprecedented two players verbally committing to major college programs this past summer -- St. Joe's Chad Kelly to Clemson and St. Francis' Akeel Lynch to Boston College -- this season boasts a deep crop of early commitments to Division I programs. The other three are with the University at Buffalo: Sweet Home's Jordan Johnson, Depew's Jaden Cotton and Cleveland Hill's Corey Madlock.

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>Returning All-WNYers

*First team: RB Okoya Anderson (Orchard Park), RB Michael Gelz (Clarence), OL Michael Arcuri (Clarence), DB Chad Kelly (St. Joe's).

*Second team: RB Akeel Lynch (St. Francis), RB Mercer Timmis (Canisius), OL Corey Madlock (Canisius; he has transfered to Cleveland Hill), U Jordan Johnson (Sweet Home).

*Third team: RB Martin Bailey (Kenmore West), WR Ben Johnson (Orchard Park), Kyle Few-11 (Lockport), DL Larry Middlebrooks (O'Hara).

*Honorable mention: QB Daryl Spencer (Cleveland Hill), RB Justin Burke (St. Mary's; he has transfered to Amherst), WR Stephen Johnson-11 (McKinley), OL Joe Smith (St. Francis), OL Chris Driver (Cardinal O'Hara), OL Devon Leach (Orchard Park), OL T.J. Scamurra (Williamsville South), DL Jaden Cotton (Depew), LB Tony Lock (Pioneer), LB Jon Alston (East Aurora), LB RauDric Parks (St. Francis), DB John Jimerson (Silver Creek), DB Mitch Wagner-11 (Williamsville East), DB Marquis Artis (Amherst), P Dominic Webster-11 (Clarence), K Sean Seefeldt (Newfane), K Stephen Hughes (Clarence).

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>On the air

*Time Warner Cable SportsNet (games on delay unless noted; check listings for air dates and times): Friday -- Cheektowaga-Depew; Saturday -- Aquinas-St. Joes (live); Sept. 9 -- Wmsv. North--NT; Sept. 16 -- Wmsv. East-Amherst; Sept. 17 -- St. Joe's-Canisius; Sept. 23 -- Lancaster-Clarence; Sept. 30 -- Alden-Depew; Oct. 7 -- OP-Lancaster; Oct. 14 -- Tonawanda-North Tonawanda; Oct. 15 -- Ken. East-Ken. West. TWCS will air many playoff games as well.

*WGR 550 AM: Friday -- Cheektowaga-Depew; Sept. 9 -- Wmsv. North-NT; Sept. 17 -- St. Joe's-Canisius; Sept. 24 -- Starpoint-Sweet Home; Oct. 1 -- Clarence-OP; Oct. 7 -- OP-Lancaster; Oct. 15 -- McKinley-GI.

*WJJL 1440 AM: Saturday -- Burgard-Pioneer; Sept. 10 -- Burgard-Lackawanna; Sept. 17 Riverside-Ken. West; Sept. 23 -- South Park-Amherst; Oct. 1 -- Burgard-Maryvale; Oct. 8 -- Lafayette-Cleve. Hill; Oct. 14 Bennett-South Park; Oct. 21 & 28 -- playoffs.

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>Final 2010 polls

*Large schools: 1. Clarence [5 first-place votes] 86; 2. Sweet Home [3] 83; 3. Orchard Park 69; 4. St. Joe's [1] 63; 5. Williamsville South 59; 6. McKinley 40; 7. Kenmore West 30; 8. St. Francis 21; 9. Canisius 30; 10. Jamestown 12.

*Small schools: 1. Alden [5] 76; 2. Fredonia [3] 75; 3. Southwestern 64; 4. Lackawanna 53; 5. Silver Creek 49; 6. Depew 39; 7. Randolph 23; 8. Pioneer 21; 9. Grover Cleveland 15; 10. Cardinal O'Hara 13.

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>Preseason picks

The News' polls will begin Tuesday. Here's a preseason list from The News, which has one vote on each poll:

*Large schools: 1. St. Joe's; 2. St. Francis; 3. Clarence; 4. Orchard Park; 5. Sweet Home; 6. Canisius; 7. Kenmore West; 8. Williamsville South; 9. Amherst; 10. McKinley.

*Small schools: 1. Alden; 2. Lackawanna; 3. Depew; 4. Southwestern; 5. Fredonia; 6. Pioneer; 7. Silver Creek; 8. Randolph; 9. Burgard; 10. Cleveland Hill.

email: kmcshea@buffnews.com