WNY Athletics

Steelers Eyeing League, Sectional Titles

In 2017, Lackawanna Steelers football was rolling. With a 5-0 league mark, league title, and carrying an overall record of 7-1, with the lone loss being to Class A and eventual NYS Champion West Seneca West, the Steelers marched into the post season and secured the top seed in a loaded Section VI Class B playoff bracket. It looked like a showdown with perennial power and 2-seed Cheektowaga was on the horizon.

However, the Maryvale Flyers would get in the way of Lackawanna’s sectional title vision, eliminating the Steelers by a score of 27-8 in the playoff semifinals.

Many of 8th year head coach Adam Tardiff’s heavy hitters from a year ago have graduated. He’ll be looking to refill those huge shoes with returning and new players.

The most notable departure was Khalil Horton, (127 carries, 1289 yards, 17 TD’s) an offensive machine who also gathered 40 tackles and intercepted 3 passes and scored 126 points for the Steelers last fall. Punter, kicker, leading tackler (60), and sack master (15) Jakwon Ingram moved on as did quarterback Noble Smith (6 TD’s) and leading receiver London Smith (5 TD’s). Starting center Robert Rice and standout defensive player Carleton Threeths (43 total tackles) are gone as well.

“[Khalil] lead our team’s offense for the past three years” stated Coach Tardiff. “We need to establish a new identity on offense and find a way to fill the holes left in the defense by these six senior players.”

Lackawanna returns five offensive starters from a season ago: Hunter Wittmer (LG), Taye Cummings, Chandell Wiggins (RT), Juan Rodriguez (WR), and Manny Land (RB).

In addition to Cummings (DT), Wiggins (DT), and Land (MLB, 43 tackles), defensive starters Malik Snow (32 tackles), Javon Lopez (LB), and Jeremia’Yah Presley (OLB) return. Starting corner and receiver Nabial Nasr is back after recovering from season ending ACL surgery too.

On offense, look out for the receiver trio of Juan Rodriguez (127 yards, 3 TD’s), Alex Rodriguez (107 yards, 1 TD), and Nasr to start. Expect Land to take the bulk of the workload out of the backfield. Jeremiah Caviness should be the opening weekend starter under center. Some other Steelers to look out for are TE/DE Edrick Steward, LT/DT Mohammed Mardaie, and WR/QB/DB De’Marion Johnson.

If the Steelers are to return to title contention, they’ll need some players to step up in big ways.

“The plan is to establish our identity on offense and continue to play fast, hard hitting Lackawanna defense” stated Tardiff. “[Our goal] is to win the division by focusing on the little things each week.”

Lackawanna finds itself in yet another new division after this off season’s realignment, a division very different than last years. Class B2 is now made up of Albion, Depew, Lackawanna, Medina, Olean, and Springville. The Steelers will play Frontier (Class A), East Aurora/Holland, and defending Class B champion Cheektowaga in non-league games.

Frontier visits Lackawanna on Friday, August 31st for a 3pm kickoff.

Coach Tardiff knows what his Steelers are up against in the season opener against a formidable opponent.

“[The goal is to] Establish the run game and develop some confidence in our young, inexperienced players against a tough Class A opponent in the Frontier Falcons.”

The Steelers say ‘We’re all we got, we’re all we need;’ a phrase that has probably as much literal meaning as it does figurative for the 2018 Lackawanna Steelers.

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