No distance is too great for Jake Sisson to travel when it comes to playing football.
The reigning Buffalo News Player of the Year drove from Jamestown to Cheektowaga 11 times for practices the last two weeks with the hope of leading the South all-stars to victory in Wednesday’s 39th annual Kensington Lions All-Star Football Classic at 7 p.m. at Depew.
“Jake drives 1½ hours to get here and 1½ hours to get back,” said South coach Mike Fatta of Cheektowaga. “He comes from work and gets dressed in a van. The fact he does that is a testament to who he is. He really wants to play. He’s driving longer than he is practicing. Nine out of 10 kids don’t do that.”
Sisson, also the winner of the Connolly Cup, threw for a Western New York record 3,184 yards last season as the Red Raiders finished 10-1 and won their first sectional title since 2000. He’s taking his talents to Division II Edinboro.
The South arguably has the two best quarterbackss in WNY as they also boast Brian Stoldt of Alden, who will play at St. Lawrence. In the interest of showcasing both, Fatta said he’s going to alternate his signal-callers every quarter starting with Stoldt.
“Both bring their own little twist,” said Fatta. “Brian is what you see during the year. He’s very much on top of the X’s and O’s and very much a leader. Jake might run the ball a little better, but Brian with his intangibles makes them pretty equal.”
Providing targets will be wide receivers Dylan Dussault of Alden, Brandon Jefferson of South Park, Dione Strong from St. Mary’s and tight end Nick Yelich from Depew.
Fatta said defensive back Adrian Cannon of Frontier is one of the team’s better athletes and has been named a captain. Running back Nick Vallone of St. Mary’s, who was injured for most of last season, has also impressed the staff. He’ll share the carries with Mitch Fuller of Lancaster and De’Sean Walker of Orchard Park.
South’s also has Trench Trophy/Lineman of the Year Jeremiah Bill of Hamburg, who will play at the University of Rochester.
Three Depew players will get to play one last game on their home field. Mike Lamb, Derrick Sekuterski and Yelich will represent last year’s Section VI Class B champions. The 6-foot-7, 325-pound Lamb was a Trench Trophy finalist.
The North squad includes quarterback Ryan Majewski and wide receiver/cornerback Kolbe Hughes of Class A state runner-up Williamsville North. Majewski will share the snaps with Dan Bronson of Lockport and Adam Fron of Kenmore West.
Rotating at running back will be Nigel Davis of St. Joe’s, Evan Majewski of Starpoint and Roman West of Hutch-Tech. Look for Davis to catch his share of balls out of the backfield.
Wide receiver Austen Lauricella of Akron as well as lineman Kevin Gault of Sweet Home and Tommy Doctor of Grand Island have had an impressive practices, according to North coach Dean Santorio of Grand Island.
“It’s competitive and we want to win, but the kids are trying to get to know each other and after a short time they get to be pretty good friends,” said Santorio.
“This game is always neat to be a part of. As far as teaching technique, we’re not doing a ton of that. The kids are learning their responsibilities and getting to know each other.”
• Players were presented their game jerseys at a pregame banquet held Tuesday at Ilio DiPaolo’s Restaurant in Blasdell.
• Of the 18 seniors on last fall’s All-Western New York team, five are playing in the game: Sisson (Jamestown), Stoldt (Alden), Lauricella (Akron), Davis (St. Joe’s) and Doctor (Grand Island).
• For the 14th consecutive year proceeds from the game will benefit Kids Escaping Drugs. The donations have topped $115,000. In addition, the Lions Club donates in excess of $15,000 to various local charities.
• This year’s game is being dedicated to the memory of football officials Bob Marafino and Andy Podlucky. Both were retired educators and coaches.
• Both head coaches played in this game as high school seniors, Fatta for Cheektowaga in 1995 and Santorio for Grand Island in 1986.