South Park Sparks (9-0) vs McKinley Macks (9-0)
Saturday November 9, 2019
New Era Field | Orchard Park, NY
TV: Spectrum | Radio: www.mixlr.com/wnyathletics
South Park has been here before, they’ve won here before and they fully expect to win here on Saturday when they line up against the McKinley Macks. “Here,” of course, being New Era Field, home of the NFL’s Buffalo Bills. The Sparks last took the famed carpet back in 2017, dropping a close 27-18 sectional final game to West Seneca West, in what many believed to be the defacto state title, which the Indians won.
That was just two seasons after South Park became the first Buffalo Public School to win the NYSPHSAA championship, defeating Our Lady of Lourdes (Section I) 49-46.
Tim Delaney was the coach then, as he is now, and knows a thing or two about preparing a team for big games. On the other side of the field will be his friend Brian Davis, a Williamsville North graduate who assumed the Macks head coaching role this past summer. Davis knows the layout here too as he spent two seasons as an assistant on the Bennett Tigers coaching staff.
This will be the first time two teams from the Buffalo Public School system will face each other at New Era Field, something not lost on the minds of Athletic Director Ryan Sheppard. “This is a big deal for the city schools,” Sheppard said this past Tuesday during Media Day.
Indeed, it is.
Both squads enter Saturday’s final with identical, undefeated records (9-0). They do have one common opponent, Williamsville North. The Macks gave Davis a 20-12 win in his coaching debut at his former school no less. South Park battled the Spartans just two weeks ago in the opening round of the playoffs, winning 14-7.
“We’re a family first team,” Davis told us back at the seeding meeting on October 20th. “From day one we have been stressing teamwork and just working harder at getting faster and stronger and our athletic ability will take care of everything else.”
That philosophy has worked all season.
Last weekend the Macks survived a close one with West Seneca West, winning 7-0. The only scoring play came courtesy of a Patrick Mootry’s pick-6. A week earlier they won another tight game against Sweet Home 19-18. The Panthers had McKinley on the ropes and were a 2-pt conversion away from pulling off an upset.
Survival. Nobody cares how much you win by in the post season. Win and you survive to play another week.
Adversity. McKinley has seen it firsthand this season, and then some, and continue their quest for a Sectional title.
The Macks do not have one particular player that you would consider elite but they have a bunch of very good players that play extremely well as a unit. Leading the way offensively will be Takeo Funderburk, Javon Whitfield and Henry Hunter. The trio have combined for almost 4,000 total yards and 30 touchdowns.
Defensively, Junior Sven, Devon Cottom and Sam Moss have recorded 50 sacks combined. The Macks have six touchdowns on defense and the team has outscored opponents 286-76.
South Park has a number of very good, dare I say “elite” players on the roster. Between Marqwan Fluitt, Keith Jackson, Mykell Hepburn and Andre Augustiniak this might be the best offense the Sparks have ever had. South Park put up 356 points, putting up 72 alone against West Seneca East, the 2018 NYSPHSAA Class A runner up. They pulled starters at half and still dominated in all phases.
Hepburn was on JV last year so he could develop into the quarterback he is today. He could have come up last season and played another role but he accepted the challenge and he is more well-rounded and the team is that much better because of his personal sacrifice. Hepburn threw 20 touchdowns and only five picks while accumulating almost 1,700 yards passing. He also had 31 carries and rushed for three scores. Hepburn has the weapons too; Brandon Brown, Augustiniak, Jackson, Anthony Mack and Herbert Parker all caught TD passes this past season.
Perhaps the most dominating player for the Sparks is Fluitt. He will disrupt any play the opposing offense calls. He has the athleticism but also the football sense to make personal adjustments; he can make life a living hell for quarterbacks, running backs and whoever else stands in his way. Fluitt could be the best football player in the area.
McKinley will need to know where he is at all times, there is no other way to say it.
McKinley and South Park are pretty evenly matched in the speed department. This game, like most other championships will come down to turnovers and discipline.
This game comes down to who wants it most.
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