Jason Kolb squeezed into his old Maryvale jersey each day during practice this week, which drew chuckles from his Burgard football team. The jersey, however, is symbolic: It was the same one he wore when the Flyers played for a sectional championship in Rich Stadium back in 1993.
A lot has changed since then – Kolb is a few pounds heavier and Rich Stadium has long been renamed Ralph Wilson Stadium – but the memories hold true, a message Kolb tried to convey to his team.
“These are things that you remember for a lifetime,” Kolb said. “Playing at The Ralph is something really big. We played in the Harvard Cup on Thanksgiving Day, which is a big game, and I told them it is very similar to playing on that day so getting there is very important.”
To reach The Ralph, Burgard (7-1) will have to win on the road tonight against a talented offensive group from Alden (8-0). The Burgard-Alden Class B matchup is one of seven games in the Section VI semifinals with the winners advancing to the finals. Kickoff for Burgard-Alden is at 7 p.m.
“The expectation is to win the sectional title and make a run at the state championship,” Alden coach Rob Currin said. “One of the things we’ve been able to do over the last four seasons is step up” to a higher level, “and I think that’s helped us.”
In Class A, No. 1 Jamestown (8-0) hosts No. 4 Kenmore West (6-2) at 7 p.m., while No. 3 Orchard Park (6-2) travels to No. 2 Frontier (6-2) for a 7:30 kickoff. No. 7 Williamsville North (5-3) takes on No. 6 Grand Island (7-1) at 5 p.m. at Tonawanda High School.
In Class B, No. 4 South Eden (5-3) is at No. 2 South Depew at 7:30 p.m. In Class D No. 3 Portville (4-3) is at No. 2 Maple Grove (5-1) at 7 p.m., while No. 1 Randolph (7-0) hosts No. 4 Ellicottville/West Valley (4-3) at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday’s Class A matchups include No. 5 West Seneca East (7-1) at No. 1 Sweet Home (8-0) at 2 p.m. and in Class C No. 3 North Lackawanna (5-3) plays No. 1 North Cleveland Hill (8-0) at 2 p.m. at Depew, while No. 2 North Akron (6-2) faces No. 1 South Fredonia (8-0) at 5 p.m. at Dunkirk.
Burgard is the last team standing from Buffalo, which saw three teams bow out last weekend. The biggest shocker was No. 2 South Park falling to Williamsville North, 21-0, in the Class A quarterfinals. Grand Island blanked McKinley, 23-0, while Depew downed Bennett, 41-26.
“The teams in the city are getting better each and every year and I think they’ll be able to compete,” Kolb said. “Coaching is getting more experienced in the sport so reaching the stadium would be an honor for these kids.”
It could happen tonight as the Bulldogs feature a punishing defense that was on display last weekend in their 20-0 shutout over Pioneer.
In a 51-12 romp over Medina earlier this season, Kolb said a Mustangs player tweeted that he woke up with nightmares while being chase by the Burgard defense and the unit has been known as “The Nightmare Defense” ever since.
Alden, meanwhile, seeking its fourth Class B crown, has been known to provide a few bad dreams with its offense and defense. Take last week’s 25-0 triumph over Medina, for example, in which the defense held the Mustangs to just 96 yards while tailback Lyle Grant ran for 184 yards – leaving him 36 yards shy of 1,000 for the season – while scoring three touchdowns. Alden also worked its short passing game effectively with quarterback Brian Stoldt going 12 of 20 for 154 yards.
“There’s no question our leader is Brian Stoldt,” Currin said. “He’s our field general out there and he’s got a nice complement of receivers to throw to. Our offensive line has been getting better every week and has been playing well and we have a pretty good tailback back there as well.”
Meanwhile, the Monsignor Martin Association can’t be overlooked with St. Joe’s and Canisius highlighting the bill. The rivals meet again at 1 p.m. on Saturday at Canisius’ Stransky Complex on Clinton Street in West Seneca. Last year Canisius won, 28-21. Other key MMA games this weekend are tonight’s St. Francis at Bishop Timon-St. Jude matchup (7 p.m.) and Saturday’s St. Mary’s at Cardinal O’Hara small-school battle (2 p.m.).