Who: Williamsville North Spartans (8-3) vs. Section IV (Binghamton area) champion Union-Endicott Tigers (8-3).
What: New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class A semifinal.
When: Tonight, 8.
Where: Sahlen’s Stadium, 460 Oak St., Rochester.
Tickets: $10 for two-game session (Class D game is at 5 p.m.).
Television: Time Warner Cable SportsChannel (live).
Buffalo News large school poll (last poll Nov. 12): Williamsville North co-No. 3 (with St. Joe’s).
New York State Sportswriters Association Class A poll: Williamsville North No. 7 (up from No. 12); Union-Endicott No. 11 (up from No. 18).
Where’s Union-Endicott? Located in Endicott, on Route 17 and the Susquehanna River, about 8 miles west of Binghamton.
Williamsville North in the state semis: First appearance; the Spartans are first-time Section VI champions.
Union-Endicott in the state semis: 0-2. This is the Tigers’ second straight appearance in the semifinals at Sahlen’s; last year they lost to Sweet Home, 40-22. U-E also lost in 1995 to Jamestown, 37-0, when Class A was the largest in the four-classification system.
Coaches: Williamsville North, Mike Mammoliti, 13th season (49-65); Union-Endicott, Tom Baleno, first season (8-3).
How they got here: Williamsville North, which dropped its first two games of the season to McKinley and Williamsville South before losing its regular season finale to Grand Island, qualified as the seventh seed for the Section VI playoffs, then reeled off upset wins over South Park (No. 2 seed), Grand Island (No. 6 in overtime) and then dethroned six-time defending champion and the state’s No. 1 team in Sweet Home in the Section VI final, 21-12. Last week it beat two-time Section V (Rochester) champion Eastridge, 20-16, in the Far West Regional thanks to a game-winning, 81-yard drive in the final minutes that culminated with an 18-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Majewski to Zac Kelly with 43 seconds to play. Union-Endicott routed Section III (Syracuse area) champion Carthage, 43-7.
Williamsville North key players (and statistics): Sr. QB/DB Ryan Majewski, 6-0, 195 (96-222, 1,265 yards, 14 TDs, 4 INTs; 58-130 rushing, 5 TDs); Sr. RB/LB Derick Isler, 5-10, 165 (191-1,094, 9 TDs; 10-100 receiving, 2 TDs); Sr. WR/DB Kolbe Hughes, 6-4, 190 (40-674, 4 TDs); Jr. WR/DB Dean Thompson, 5-10, 160 (9-178, 3 TDs); Jr. LB/WR Nick Ames, 6-0, 190 (80 tackles, 3 sacks); Jr. RB/LB Duke Hwang, 6-2, 255 (46 tackles, 8.5 sacks), Jr. OL/LB John Becht, 6-0, 185 (61 tackles, 1 sack, 2 INTs); Jr. OL/DL George Attea, 6-3.5, 251 (66 tackles, 3.5 sacks); Jr. WR/DB Zac Kelly, 5-10, 145 (43 tackles, 4 INTs); Soph. TE/LB Nick Pilon, 6-0, 185 (51 tackles, 3 forced fumbles).
Williamsville North pre-snap read: After shocking the Western New York football world by beating Sweet Home, the Spartans will attempt to beat the same teams the Panthers did last year to reach their third Class A state championship game in five years. Sweet Home beat Eastridge and then Union-Endicott. Isler has been a two-way terror, Majewski has come up with sensational throws at clutch times, while the Spartans’ size up front has been a force – including in the singular form of short-yardage pounding, lead-blocking, pass-rushing Hwang.
Union-Endicott pre-snap read: Hey, there’s a team that is 8-3 after it started 0-2 in the regular season in the state semifinals! But this time we’re not talking about North. U-E got off to the same two-game hole and finished its regular season 5-3 before its postseason run, part of a six-game win streak. Those first two blemishes were notable: a 56-32 loss to Syracuse’s Christian Brothers Academy and a 38-33 loss to Elmira – those two teams went into last week’s Class AA Central Regional playoff undefeated, with Elmira winning to advance against Aquinas at 6 p.m. Saturday at Sahlen’s. These are flying Tigers, with senior Joey Orlando throwing five touchdowns against Carthage during an 11-for-18, 228-yard passing performance; his 2,255 passing yards this season rank third in Section 4 history. C.J. Krowiak (1,051) and Nick Yesensky (534) are top targets. Sammy Davis has rushed for 1,575 yards.
What’s next: The winner heads to Syracuse’s Carrier Dome for the NYSPHSAA championship at 3 p.m. next Friday. In the East semifinal, the state’s top-ranked team in the NYSSWA poll, Section II (Albany area) champion Queensbury (11-0) plays Section IX (Dutchess, Orange, Sullivan, Ulster counties) winner Cornwall (10-1, No. 3) at 8 tonight at Kingston’s Dietz Stadium.
— Keith McShea