Dylan McDuffie can’t help but think about the future.
Last week, he said goodbye to his cousin Isaiah, who’s going to Boston College to play Division I football and Tuesday he watched one of his best friends, Paul Woods, make his commitment to play football at Rutgers University.
Now McDuffie is currently contemplating his future as he is a few months away from making his own commitment.
“We’ve worked hard for this,” McDuffie said. “Seeing all of them move forward makes me excited to make my commitment soon.”
Growing up the running back had always dreamed of playing D-I football. It wasn’t until March when he realized that dream was becoming a reality.
“There was kind of a turning point in my recruitment after my fourth offer (from Western Michigan),” McDuffie said. “Once that happened, the offers started pouring in.”
He now has 13 D-I offers from the MAC, Northeast, AAC, Colonial Athletic Association, and the Patriot League.
But before he could focus on where he was going to college, McDuffie had a more urgent decision to make. After spending a year at St. Francis, helping the Red Raiders reach the Monsignor Martin final last season, McDuffie decided the school wasn’t the right fit for him.
It put the 6’0, 205-pound tailback in an unusual spot for a high school senior. He had to decide where he was going to finish high school.
He had considered both Grayson High School and Mountain View High School in Georgia but ultimately, he made the decision to stay home and go back to Sweet Home.
“Sweet Home was a better fit for me, not just for football but for everything,” McDuffie said. “My friends and family being here was the ultimate deciding factor.”
McDuffie played on the Sweet Home varsity team during his sophomore year.
As a Red Raider, McDuffie ran for 1,255 yards and 14 touchdowns averaging 5.9 yards per carry. He was also a threat out of the backfield. He caught 25 passes for 290 yards and three TDs. According to 247Sports.com, McDuffie is a 3-star recruit.
The move by McDuffie shakes up things in both the Monsignor Martin and Class A North.
St. Francis was already dealing with the loss of QB Jerry Hickson who is now the WNY All-time passing leader, throwing for 7,160 yards in his career. Now they lose their leading rusher from last season.
With the uncertainty surrounding the Bishop Timon program, it looks like the MMAA could be a two-horse race between defending catholic state champ Canisius and rival St. Joe’s. Both teams return key pieces from 2016. Smaller schools Cardinal O’Hara and St. Mary’s of Lancaster could seize the opportunity to reach the stadium this year.
The addition of McDuffie certainly changes the Panthers’ fate from a team on the outside looking in to a team right in the thick of things in the Class A North.
The division is also welcoming Kenmore West this year who moved down from Class AA. Starpoint won the division last season, making it to the sectional final for the first time in 27 years. The Spartans lose two pieces from there ‘3-headed monster’ running attack they had last year, but still return most of their starters. North Tonawanda is in a similar situation as they will have big holes to fill in the backfield. Grand Island and Williamsville South both have returning quarterbacks and should contend for playoff spots.
When McDuffie came back to Sweet Home he was quickly welcomed with opened arms.
“They made feel right back at home,” McDuffie said. “There was no animosity about me leaving or coming back.”
The Panthers football program that had dominated from the mid 2000’s to early 2010’s has taken a dip in the past few years missing the playoffs in both 2015 and 2016.
McDuffie wants to help return the program to its glory.
“I want to help bring the reputation back (to Sweet Home),” McDuffie said. “I want us to be feared again.”
Last Wednesday, the McDuffie family had a farewell BBQ to Isaiah. In their final conversation, Dylan and Isaiah wished each other luck in their respective seasons.
“Hopefully we’ll maybe meet up one day in college,” Dylan said.