Photo by Andrew Miller
I know what you are all thinking. ‘The Spring season hasn’t even really started yet and you’re already talking about football’.
True, but we all know it’s going to take a week or two for the snow to melt enough that our spring athletes can hit the field.
And with the winter season coming to a close and the release of the 2023 High School Football schedule, I can’t help but fire up Kenny Chesney’s “The Boys of Fall” and think a little bit about football.
Here are my Top 5 Early Takeaways from the 2023 High School Football Schedule:
CHARTER-ing New Paths:
Section VI Football is growing in 2023. Depending on how you slice it there will be one or two new teams this year. After five seasons – and three sectional titles – WNY Maritime and Health Sciences Charter School are separating. Maritime is now joining forces with Tapestry Charter – and Health Sciences will combine with Global Concepts and Buffalo Academy of Science Charter Schools. The WNY Maritime-Tapestry program will be coached by Maritime AD Glynn Molinich and play at a new turf field at Tapestry’s North Buffalo campus – under the Seahawks mascot. The new Health Sciences outfit is expected to be led by Ty Parker – will reportedly play their home games at SUNY Buffalo State’s Coyer Field.
Class B is getting the biggest makeover with this year’s alignments. Four teams that were in the Class A3 division last season are moving down to Class B this year. Thus, Class A will only have two divisions and while Class B will have three. With the everchanging BEDS numbers and NYSPHSAA classification cutoff numbers, this isn’t all that uncommon. However, the programs on the move (Williamsville South, Kenmore East, Amherst, South Park) are ones we are unfamiliar with seeing in Class B. The move makes Class B1 perhaps one of the most interesting in Section VI this season.
Would be Storybook:
It’s unlikely but there’s a chance that some history could be made when South Park hosts Williamsville South in Week 4. Sparks QB Noah Willoughby sits 1,724 yards away from the Section VI Career Passing Yards record held by Billies coach Joe Licata (6,671 yards). In order to make the fitting passing of the torch to happen, Willoughby needs to average at least 431 yards in each of the Sparks’ first four games. Possible, yes – probable, no. It’s more likely, Willoughby will pass the mark in Week 6 or 7.
A Three-sweep Opportunity:
In my opinion, the move of South Park to Class B really increases the likelihood BPS could win sectional titles in Class AA, A and B. That would be as good as it could get as none of BPS’ 5 teams play in Class C or D.
I think most prognosticators agree that Bennett brings back enough pieces, even after losing Rashard Perry and Jayden Lewis, to be the favorite in Class AA. Looking at the smaller Class A, the McKinley Macks are bringing back star tailback Tyrone Hughes and a host of other key pieces from last year’s Class A2 division championship team. Not many of the counterparts who finished similarly can say the same.
And then there’s South Park – in what forecasts to be one of the toughest divisions – with the aforementioned Willoughby. Class B1 will be no cakewalk for the Sparks. There’s fellow former A3 program Williamsville South expected to take the next step this year. Then you have sectional championship winning coaches Ty Parker (Health Sciences/Global/Buffalo Academy of Science) and Jim Maurino (West Seneca East) who always produce strong teams. Plus, a Pioneer team that reached the stadium and beat the Sparks in a non-league game last year.
We can’t forget about Class B2 and B3 either.
Defending champion Iroquois brings back Connolly Cup winner Trevor Barry, quarterback Justus Kleitz and a number of key players from last year. Maryvale will look to keep up its success as Nick Todaro enters his fourth year with the program. And who knows what the Maritime/Tapestry team will look like?
But who’s going to bet against a State Champion coach and a QB on a mission – not me.
-The “Game of Games” Part II will take place in Week 7. It was a matchup that saw Foyle-Kling Field reach (and probably go over) maximum capacity. Lancaster ended up beating Canisius 24-20 in a game that exceeded its high billing. Both teams have some question marks but are expected to be among the top teams in their respective divisions.
-That being said… I was a little disappointed to not see any other marquee Private-Public battles on the schedule. I’m sure what the holdup is but who wouldn’t love to see Bennett/St. Francis or St. Francis/OP or St. Joe’s/McKinley or Timon/Lackawanna or even a South Park/Canisius rematch. To be fair to some of the public schools, Class AA and A1 have seven teams leaving room for only two non-league games. And often one of those slots are taken by a crosstown rivalry that must be played. Still, I wish more could be done behind the scenes to make these games possible.
-The place to be on the first Saturday of the season will be SUNY Brockport. South Park and West Seneca West are starting off the year there with some big tests from Section III. The Sparks have a date with CBA-Syracuse and the Indians will take on Cicero-North Syracuse, who played Bennett in the state semis last year. The night before Jamestown is hosting Baldwinsville, another Section III team.
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