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Merged teams

There are 74 schools playing football in Western New York, down from 78 last year.

Falconer and Cassadaga Valley have combined forces.

Sherman and Clymer also merged.

Franklinville has joined the already merged team of Ellicottville/West Valley.

North Collins students can play football as part of Eden’s program.

Pine Valley canceled its season after the first two days of practice.

The Pine Valley football candidates who were left without a team have found new life at Gowanda. Pine Valley was unable to meet the state minimum of 16 to field a team and announced on the third day of practice it was dropping the program. Two days later, Gowanda welcomed six varsity and four JV players onto its rosters. The daily bus ride from Pine Valley to Gowanda is approximately 20-25 minutes.

Gowanda coach Sean Gabel said he has found the new players to be very respectful and appreciative. “They look you in the eye and thank you for the opportunity to play football again,” he said. “When I first found out from our superintendent, I couldn’t imagine how it must have felt if someone told me I couldn’t play the sport I love. Their program has struggled like ours and they’re hungry. These young men want to be here. You can work with that.”

Alignment shifts

Class AA: After one year playing as a nine-team division, Class AA goes back to North and South. The North adds last year’s Class A champion, Williamsville North, and Niagara-Wheatfield.

Class A: Last year, Class A fielded three six-team divisions: North, South and Central. This year, with two teams up in Class AA, it will have two eight-team divisions: North and South.

Class B: Conversely, Class B goes from two divisions to three. Fredonia moves up from Class C South and joins Class B South.

Class C: Two combined teams leave Class D for C: Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake and Franklinville/Ellicottville/West Valley.

Class D: This class is down to eight schools with only four – Frewsburg, Panama, Portville and Randolph – not combining players with another school. They will play in one division and play a seven-game regular season. The top two teams will play at Ralph Wilson Stadium for the Class D title.

Returning All-WNYers

First team: Stephen Carlson, Jamestown, WR; George Attea, Williamsville North, OL; Joe Mistretta, Jamestown, OL; TJ Wheatley, Canisius, DL; Brad Zaffram, Canisius, LB; Zack Panebianco, Jamestown, DB; Brandon Smiley, Sweet Home, DB.

Second team: Nick Ames, Williamsville North, LB; Antonio Leonard, South Park, WR; Matt McCarthy, Fredonia, RB; Josh Huffman, Canisius, DB.

Third team: Duke Hwang, Williamsville North, DL; Zac Kelly, Williamsville North, DB; Chad Steinwachs, Williamsville North, P; Jordan Evert, Sweet Home, RB; Roderick Morrow, Burgard, DL; Darlell Sanders, Burgard, LB; Lyle Grant, Alden, DB; Mike Bowers, Randolph, OL.

Honorable mention: Jake Ames, Williamsville North, DL; Trent White, Kenmore West, DB; Terrell Ford, Kenmore West, DB; Kevin Torrillo, Sweet Home, QB; Chris Woodard, North Tonawanda, QB; Sam Castronova, Williamsville South, QB; Kevin Mason, Williamsville South, WR; Jake Fuzak, Williamsville South, LB; William Burgess, South Park, DL, Wilquan Burgess, South Park, DL; Mike Benton, McKinley, DB; Jason Hellwig, Medina, QB; Rodney Turner, Depew, RB; Michael Tarbutt, Canisius, K; Justin Jones, St. Joe’s, WR; Derick Simpson, Timon-St. Jude, DB.

Coaching changes

Albion: Gary Parisi replaces Tony Osburn.

Brocton/Westfield: Frank Quagliana replaces Bob North.

Dunkirk: Mike Sarratori replaces Tim Majka.

East: Brad Keitz replaces Starling Bryant.

Falconer/Cassadaga Valley: Mark Petersen takes over combined team.

Frontier: Mark Privateer replaces Tim Mylinski.

Sherman/Clymer: Ty Harper takes over combined team.

St. Mary’s: Chris Glenn replaces Dave Hersey.

Springville: Rob Valenti replaces John Sopko.

Final 2013 state polls

CLASS AA: 4, Jamestown (10-1); 5, Canisius (9-2); 29, St. Joe’s 7-4.

CLASS A: 6, Williamsville North (9-4); 7, Sweet Home (9-1); 24, Grand Island (7-2).

CLASS B: 7, Depew (9-3); 8, Alden (9-1); 14, Burgard (7-2).

CLASS C: 5, Cleveland Hill (11-1); 10, Fredonia (9-1).

CLASS D: 1, Randolph (13-0); 2, Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake (7-2).

Returning All-State

CLASS AA: Stephen Carlson, Jamestown, WR; T.J. Wheatley, Canisius, DL; Zack Panebianco, Jamestown, DB; Joe Magistrate, Jamestown, OL; Brad Zaffram, Canisius, LB; George Attea, Wmsv. North, OL; Nick Ames, Wmsv. North, LB; Duke Hwang, Wmsv. North, DL; Josh Huffman, Canisius, DB.

CLASS A: Brandon Smiley, Sweet Home, DB; Jordan Evert, Sweet Home, RB; Kevin Torrillo, Sweet Home, QB; Antonio Leonard, South Park, WR.

CLASS B: Matt McCarthy, Fredonia, RB; Roderick Morrow. Burgard, DL.

CLASS C: None.

CLASS D: A.J. Hulton, Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake, LB; Jonah Tanner, Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake, DB; Chandler Baker, Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake, LB; Mike Bowers, Randolph, OL; Ryan Miller, Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake, RB; Jeff Andrews, Randolph, OL; Wesley Senn, Randolph, OL; Bryce Morrison, Randolph, WR.

Poll position Mondays

The News’ football polls are on the move, as the large and small school rankings will now be published on Mondays instead of Tuesdays.

Also making the move to Mondays is the weekly football honor roll, which includes the Connolly Cup and Trench Trophy top performers of the week, the Jim Kelly Football Camp Underclassmen of the Week and the NFL/Buffalo Bills Coach of the Week honors.

You’ll still be able to see a breakdown of How The News voted at the Prep Talk blog.

At BuffaloNews.com

• Watch exclusive coverage of South Park coach Tim Delaney’s speech from the Sparks’ opening day of practice.

• Check out video interviews with Orchard Park coach Gene Tundo and members of the Quakers.

• Springville assistant coach Eric Jantz returns home. How does it feel for the former North Tonawanda High School coach? Watch his interview with News videographer Harry Scull Jr.

• Check out a photo gallery from Scrimmage Saturday.

• Also, stay in the loop for breaking news by checking the Prep Talk blog at buffalonews.com.

#PrepTalkLive

Be part of the News’ coverage team on Friday nights and Saturdays during the season. Tweet game updates with the #preptalklive hashtag and those will appear in our live blog at buffalonews.com on Friday.

Must-read Saturdays

Want to know what you missed Friday night? The News has you covered in Saturday’s print and online editions with previews of Saturday’s games, photos, game stories, recaps and all of the scores from across Western New York.

Breaking down Week One:

• Westfield/Brocton opens at home on Friday against Cattaraugus/Little Valley. The hosts canceled their 2013 season after two games following the death of Damon Janes, a junior running back. Janes will be memorialized in a pregame ceremony.

“We’re going to try and be as respectful as we possibly can and deliver some sort of message that we’re all together in this,” said Cattaraugus/Little Valley coach Tim Miller. “Let’s just go out and rekindle the spirit of football. I think every football program from the biggest to the smallest felt a shock wave from that, and if we can be part of the healing for that program and those people, then we’re happy to do it.”

• Alden kicks off the season hosting Class B rival Depew at 7 p.m. Friday. The game will be a rematch of last year’s Class B final won in the final seconds by Depew, 28-26. “It will be a great test for a young team,” said Alden coach Rob Currin. “There’s no chance to ease into that one.”

• The McDuffie brothers will coach against each other on Friday night when Williamsville East, led by Chris McDuffie, travels to All High Stadium to meet Bennett, coached by Steve McDuffie. Bennett won their only other meeting. “I guarantee our boys will be fired up to play,” Chris said. “It adds a little spice to the story that it’s my brother, but whoever we line up against, we’re playing to get a victory.”

When asked about coaching against his brother last Saturday, Steve replied: “He hasn’t spoken to me in two weeks, but that’s OK. He told me the next time he’ll speak to me is after the game.”

• The two-time defending Class D state champions from Randolph open with a nonleaguer against Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake, the newest member of Class C South.

• St. Joe’s opens at downstate power St. Anthony’s as part of a home-and-home series. Last year St. Joe’s beat the visitors, 20-14. “You know it’s a great experience for our kids to play against top-level talent,” said St. Joe’s coach Dennis Gilbert. “Give me as many of those games as we can get. I’d love to play those every week. It’s fantastic.”

• Bishop Timon-St. Jude has perhaps WNY’s toughest opener as it travels to Aquinas, the defending New York State Class AA champions at 13-0. “Yeah, we’re going to get them out of the way early,” joked Tigers coach Charlie Comerford. “If we give them a good game, play them close and control their QB, it could give us some confidence and we would know we could play with anyone. Of course, we’re looking to win, but it’s going to be a tough game.” The Little Irish are led by the returning AA Player of the Year, Division I prospect QB Jake Zembiec (just a junior).