Who’s who: The six-team division consists of the Grand Island Vikings, Kenmore East Bulldogs, Niagara-Wheatfield Falcons, North Tonawanda Lumberjacks, Starpoint Spartans and Sweet Home Panthers.
This year’s alignment shift: One of the major overhauls in Section VI’s divisions this year is Class A going from two divisions to three. That has created some cozy geographical groupings, including this one of six teams that stay together after being in last year’s eight-team A North (McKinley and Williamsville North have moved to the new A Central). Most of the schools have been league mates for a decade or more.
Last year’s champion: And the year before that, and the year before that … Sweet Home won its ninth straight division title last season, all but one of which have been won outright. In 2006 the Panthers were co-champions with Albion. . The last time Sweet Home did not win its division was 2003, when GI shared the title with Lew-Port. In 2012, the Panthers won their sixth straight Section VI Class A title and made their third state championship game in five years, falling to Burnt Hills at the Carrier Dome.
2012 rewind: Sweet Home was dominant last season right through a rout of West Seneca East in the A final at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Its overtime comeback victory over Section V (Rochester area) champion Eastridge in the Far West Regionals was a classic.
Last year’s records: Sweet Home 12-1, 6-0; Grand Island 7-2, 5-1; Starpoint 3-5, 3-3; Kenmore East 4-5, 2-4; North Tonawanda 3-6, 2-4; Niagara-Wheatfield 0-8, 0-6.
2012 All-Western New York underclassmen: Starpoint junior RB Evan Majewski and Sweet Home sophomore RB Jordan Evert earned honorable mention.
2012 all-league first-team underclassmen: Starpoint juniors Majewski and LB Matt Wetzel, Kenmore East juniors LB Preston Smith and DB Connor McMahon, Grand Island junior QB Quinn Corrao and North Tonawanda sophomore RB Nehemiah Stone.
Pre-snap read: On one hand, Sweet Home’s division is smaller, so its road to another title should be easier, right? On the other hand, the Panthers lost nearly all of their starters — including the transfer of first-team All-Western New York linebacker Brad Zaffram to Canisius for his junior year. The Panthers have reloaded year after year during their 60-game win streak against Western New York opponents, so despite the losses it is the unquestioned favorite. Certainties during that streak are that Grand Island will play Sweet Home as tough as anyone, and that Starpoint has been known to push the Panthers as well. The league’s remaining three teams are in search of turnaround seasons.
Week One (Sept. 6-7) must-see games: The best matchup all weekend might be Sweet Home taking its win streak to Iroquois’ Milt Latimer Field, where the atmosphere is always outstanding and the team (second place in A South last year) should be excellent as well. Sweet Home’s league schedule is bookended with two great nonleaguers as it hosts McKinley in Week Seven.
Scrimmage Saturday: The first day teams could scrimmage other schools was Saturday. Sweet Home and Grand Island participated in the Lockport scrimmage. Review a PrepTalkTV video report at buffalonews.com.
Prep Talk blog at buffalonews.com: Watch exclusive [BN]TheLockerRoom video of Canisius coach Rich Robbins’ initial address to his team, look over the entire 2013 week-by-week schedule and watch #preptalkpreseason video interviews with 30 head coaches (with more to come).
Live chats & PrepTalkTV: The first of the weekly Wednesday night live chats will be Sept. 4 at 9 p.m. at buffalonews.com. The PrepTalkTV schedule will be released soon.
The countdown continues: Class AA (Tuesday) and the Monsignor Martin Association (Wednesday). Already published: A Central (Sunday), A South (Saturday), B North (Friday), B South (Aug. 29), C North (Aug. 28), C South (Aug. 27), Class D (Aug. 26) and DD (Aug. 25). You will be able to review them all at the Prep Talk blog.
Season preview coming Sept. 5: The annual preview issue will have capsules and schedules for all 78 teams in Western New York, along with feature stories, a must-see cover and everything else one needs to know about the 2013 season.
Attention coaches and ADs: As soon as rosters are determined, Section VI coaches need to send one — in spreadsheet form — to firstname.lastname@example.org. Monsignor Martin coaches should email rosters to email@example.com.
Friday Night Live at buffalonews.com: Every week, the place to monitor all of the Friday night action is BuffaloNews.com and the Prep Talk blog. We will have video reports, photos, live updates from several top games (including play-by-play from our premier matchup of the night) and you will again be a part of the team via Twitter: Tweet game updates with the #preptalkscores hashtag and those will appear in our live blog.
— Keith McShea