Who’s who: The seven-team division consists of the Cassadaga Valley Cougars, Cattaraugus/Little Valley Timberwolves, Ellicottville/West Valley Eagles, Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake Red Dragons, Portville Panthers, Randolph Cardinals and Westfield/Brocton Wolverines.
This year’s alignment shift: One of the state’s best Class D divisions lost one team in a shuffle that saw Silver Creek elevating to Class C South after its merger with Forestville; Cassadaga Valley dropped down from Class C South; Ellicottville/West Valley came up from Class DD; Frewsburg dropped to Class D; and International Prep at Grover Cleveland was absorbed into Riverside’s program.
Maple Grove, one of the strongest Class D teams in the state for two decades, remains in Class D despite merging with Chautauqua Lake, thanks to a new statewide rule that makes it easier for programs to merge (while not moving up in classification).
Last year’s champion: Randolph was not only the Section VI champion, but it went on to win its third state championship and its second in the last four seasons under 33-year coach Pat Slater (213-99-4), who retired following the state final. The Cardinals avenged an early-season loss at Maple Grove with a 21-0 shutout victory at Ralph Wilson Stadium, then followed it with wins over Section V champion Avon (34-14) in the Far West Regionals, Section IV (Binghamton area) champion Tioga (7-6) in the state semifinals and Section I (Westchester County) champion Tuckahoe (28-7) in the state championship game at the Carrier Dome.
2012 rewind: Randolph started the season 1-2, with losses at Frewsburg in Week One and at Maple Grove in Week Three sandwiching just a one-point win over Silver Creek. The move of Cody Oldro from fullback to the offensive line helped spark an 11-game win streak marked by lopsided scores and culminating with a title that the Cardinals added to those won in 2005 and 2009.
Last year’s records: Maple Grove 9-1, 7-0; Randolph 11-2, 5-2; Chautauqua Lake 4-4, 4-3; Portville 5-4, 4-3; Silver Creek 5-4, 4-3; Frewsburg 3-5, 3-4; Cattaraugus/Little Valley 1-7, 1-6; I-Prep/Grover 0-8, 0-7. Cassadaga Valley 3-5, 2-3 in C South. Ellicottville/West Valley 7-2, 5-1 in DD.
2012 All-Western New York underclassmen: Randolph junior LB Cody Oldro was a second-team selection. Randolph sophomore lineman Michael Bowers and junior DB Chris Doubek earned honorable mention, as did Ellicottville/West Valley sophomore RB Phalla Musall.
2012 all-league first-team underclassmen: Randolph junior LBs Lucas Brown and Oldro and junior DB Doubek, Chautauqua Lake sophomore LBs AJ Hulton and Chandler Baker, Portville junior LB Ben Waugh. In Class DD, Ellicottville/West Valley junior OL Dylan Paprocki and sophomore RB Musall (co-Offensive Player of the Year).
Pre-snap read: Some significant changes in a league that has won half of the last eight state championships (Maple Grove won in 2008 in addition to Randolph’s three). Former longtime assistant Brent Brown looks to continue Randolph’s winning tradition, and he has plenty of key pieces back. Maple Grove has been a power for years and welcomes back some very good young Chautauqua Lake talent. Musall was a serious playmaker for Ellicottville, which has a new coach in Chad Bartoszek (the former Salamanca and University at Buffalo standout).
Week One (Sept. 6-7) must-see game: On Friday night, two traditional powers go at it as Portville plays Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake at Maple Grove. Also, the league’s two newcomers play as Cassadaga Valley is at Ellicottville/West Valley.
Scrimmage Saturday: The first day teams can scrimmage other schools is Saturday. Randolph (at Class C Southwestern, 10 a.m.) and Maple Grove (with Niagara Falls and Williamsville East at Depew, 10 a.m.) perennially line up against larger schools. The schedule of Western New York scrimmages is available at the Prep Talk blog 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 26 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: C South (Tuesday), C North (Wednesday), B South (Thursday), B North (Friday), A South (Saturday), A Central (Sept. 1), A North (Sept. 2), Class AA (Sept. 3) and the Monsignor Martin Association (Sept. 4). Class DD was Sunday. 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 2012 season.
Attention coaches & ADs: As soon as they are determined, Section VI coaches need to send a roster – 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 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