Tonight marks one of the biggest football games to be played at West Seneca East in the last decade - especially if you don't count the Trojans' rivalry games with West Seneca West.
West Seneca East has a chance to improve to 4-0 for the first time in 13 years when it hosts Class A South rival Williamsville South at 7 p.m. It's a pivotal game between top 10 schools that each boast standout multiple-threat senior quarterbacks.
West Seneca East (3-0), ranked sixth among large schools in The News poll, has several stalwart seniors who have been a part of the program since their sophomore year, including quarterback Andy Smigiera.
Williamsville South (2-1), which is ranked seventh, is led by Trent Ferguson, who has a major weapon in senior wideout Chaquiel Nettles. The Billies have won the A South title for two straight seasons and have beaten the Trojans three straight times.
"Past history is just what it is - in the past," South coach Kraig Kurzanski said. "They deserve to be ahead of us at 3-0. They're good. They have five or six kids who have been playing varsity football since their sophomore year, and now they're coming to fruition.
"We know they're No. 15 in the state , we know they are ranked ahead of us, but we know we've won the league championship the last two years and we're not going to relinquish that without a fight."
West Seneca East has not started the season with four wins since the 1999 team went 5-0.
"We talked with the kids about it , about being able to play in a meaningful game at this point of the season," said 10th-year West Seneca East coach Jim Maurino. "It's been one of our goals, and one of the players' goals. . The attitude around the whole program and just around the school has been tremendous. I think our kids have handled it really well. We don't have to get them motivated for this game. They know what's at stake. They've had it circled on the calendar all the way through."
West Seneca East owns wins over Bennett, Williamsville East and South Park. Smigiera, who is also a playmaker at defensive back, has thrown for three touchdowns and run for two thanks to speed that had him finish second in the 100 meters and third in the 200 in last spring's Section VI Division I track championships.
Fellow senior Scott Ackerman, a two-way standout who plays linebacker, has eight touchdowns, including five on rushes, and he's caught all three of Smigiera's scoring throws. Senior Ryan Johnson has run for two scores as well.
"They are the first three kids to practice every single time," Maurino said of tri-captains Smigiera, Ackerman and Johnson. "I just can't say enough about them, their preparation and their willingness to prepare. It's a group that can't wait to get to practice every day and see what we have in store for them."
Kurzanski says every time he watches the Trojans on film, "they get better. ... They're explosive, athletic, well-coached and they've got good, big kids up front. Smigiera is a top five, six player in Western New York. I'm really impressed."
South can certainly answer explosiveness with some of its own in Ferguson - a second-team All-Western New York selection last year who has passed for nine touchdowns and run for two - and senior wideout Nettles. The pair has hooked up for six touchdowns in the last two games.
"Nettles puts pressure on defenses to double-team him," said Kurzanski. "Timon did , but other teams didn't. If they do we've got to win the battles on the other side."
Among other top matchups tonight is West Seneca West - off to a good start at 2-1, which includes a loss last week at No. 1 large school Orchard Park - heading to No. 4 Jamestown.
A showcase game will take place at Riverside, where No. 2 large school Sweet Home (3-0) takes on McKinley, which is 2-1 after a loss to Canisius last week. Last year, Sweet Home won the teams' hard-hitting matchup at Riverside, 14-6.