Angola, NY- Under that hot summer sun Tuesday evening over two dozen young men donned their football gear for another night of practice. They are preparing, in many cases what could be their final football game in a high school setting. The 46th annual Kensington Lions Club All-Star Classic is slated for Friday night at Coyer Field at Buffalo State College. That’s where this gang of recent graduates, known as the South Team are working their collective butts off for another run at everlasting bragging rights.
Lake Shore High School has been there home for more then a week. The schools head football coach Dan Russell will lead this group along with Eagles staff members and Ty Parker of WNY Maritime/Health Sciences as assistant coaches. All were busy mentoring, evaluating and implementing plays designed especially for this game.
“This is a great opportunity for me to see some of the talent that’s out there in WNY and help coach them one more time,” Russell said Tuesday after practice. One of the players Russell spoke highly about was St. Francis Red Raider Kimal Clark. “This kid is legit. He’s gifted, you see it all over the field. In addition to being so athletic, he’s also very smart and humble.”
Clark will head to Central Connecticut State University in a few weeks to continue playing the sport he loves while pursuing a degree in Exercise Science. “Kimal is a leader, he is a coach on the field. He knows where everyone needs to be on both sides of the ball. We will have him out on the field quite a bit because of everything he brings,” Russell said.
Trey Kleitz of Iroquois is the only quarterback listed on the South’s roster. He’ll have to carry a bulk of the load under center which suits the Roberts-Wesleyan College bound kid just fine. “The group of guys we have running the ball is incredible,” Kleitz said. “Honestly I’m happy to play the whole game, do as much as they need me too.” Kleitz is playing in his final football game. Next year in college he is going to focus on basketball, so the opportunity to put the pads on one last time is humbling. “This is it, I want to go out with a win for sure. I’ve been looking forward to this game, hoping to see some of my friends come out and of course my family.” Kleitz leaves Iroquois with most passing records under his belt. Last season Kleitz tied a single season passing touchdown record with 37 (shared with Cole Snyder/Southwestern).
Kleitz tied the record during the Section VI Class B championship game at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park last Fall. Standing across the sideline that wintery afternoon was WNY Maritime/Health Sciences star running back Damien Littleton. The Falcons put on a show that day, defeating the Chiefs 62-12. Littleton scored four touchdowns in the win, but the two haven’t thrown any jabs during any of the South practices. They seemingly get along very well. That camaraderie could be said all the way down the roster.
“I’m going to play at a prep school,” Littleton said. “I want to play college football but I need to work on some things that’ll help me get to where I want to be.” Littleton is one of a number of high caliber running backs, it’s a whose who frankly. “No trash talking at all, we’re about getting that W,” Littleton said.
Rounding out this explosive backfield are South Park’s Parrell Fulgham, Dylan Mack from Frontier, St. Mary’s of Lancaster’s Christian Lewis, Michael Zeltman from JFK and Carson Alberti from Depew. Alberti and Lewis were Connolly Cup finalists.
According to the gameday program Fulgham is currently undecided on his future. One thing that is clear is that he wishes to continue playing football at the next level. he is entering Friday nights game with something to prove. “I am going to start at Community College in the Fall, I want to be a Police Officer,” Fulgham said. The Sparks feature back last season was one of the more underrated players in the WNY area. Looking at his film, the way he hits holes and with his impressive bursts of speed it was surprising to see that offers weren’t coming his way.
I asked Parrell what he has to prove and he answered simply, “Everything.” He will use this upcoming offseason to continue to train at a high level so when that next opportunity presents itself, he’ll be ready. As far as not having any offers on the table, “there’s no disappointments, no regrets, you deal with it, not everything goes your way so you have to get up and keep fighting.”
Zeltman is heading to Mercyhurst and says it’s an honor to be playing in this game. “There’s a lot of guys that played in this game from my school, I’m lucky I was able to have this opportunity. The top tier talent in our area is here, that’s exciting to compete and go out there and play against that level of competition.”
Another senior looking forward to Friday night is Cleve Hill’s Elijah Williams. The 6′ lineman is heading to St. John Fischer to continue his football career. “Our Head Coach Glen Graham was the head coach in this game last year and I went. It’s something I’m really proud to be a part of. Seeing where I was from a 9th grader up until now is impressive. I owe a lot of that to coach Graham.”
Two players in particular that caught coach Russell’s eye were a pair of lineman from Jamestown Joseph Delgado and Julian McGaughy. Delgado and McGaughy have been dominant, it’s easy to see why Jaylen Butera was the Connolly Cup winner, those guys are just two of the best I’ve seen at the high school level.” Delgado was inducted into the Trench Trophy Hall of Fame last December. Both he and McGaughy are heading to Brockport. “Even out here against the best they are still dominating, I’ve just been in awe. Brockport is getting a couple of studs.”
Back in ’99, Russell was chosen to participate in the Eddie Meath Senior All Star Football game in Rochester, which is a similar concept to the Kensington Lions Club game. However, Russell turned the offer down due to fear of injury. “I’ve been telling guys that were on the fence to play in our game that it’s something I’ve regretted every day since I had that opportunity.” It was an early season injury during his collegiate career that ended Russell’s playing days. Which is why he was so stern in his warning to players on the fence. “It’s an opportunity you’ll never get back.”
Tickets for the game Friday are $15 for adults, $12 for 12 and under. For fans that cannot attend and would like to watch, WNYAthletics is streaming the game across all of their platforms. Stu Boyar and Tom Prince have the call with special appearances from Graham, Tim Delaney (South Park) and Jerry Smith (St. Francis). Kick-Off is 7pm.
Joshua Vacanti, finalist from Lockport on The Voice, will sing the National Anthem while the Erie County Fair Band will perform at halftime. The Kensington Lions will salute recent graduates who played in the premier season of Girls Flag Football in Section VI. This game is presented by Kapanek Wealth Partners.