Some thoughts collected while wondering what ever happened to the football season (only five teams left) ...
* My apologies about posting so late after a long weekend away, but it almost took a whole day to read all the comments on here 🙂 Great stuff all around -- from the reaction to the regional weekend to the debate about scheduling. There are some great points and exchanges, and all civil. It's much appreciated and we looking forward to reading more. Thanks and keep up the good work.
* As for the regionals, 1-4 is obviously not very good for Section VI. On the bright side, if there was one game to win, it would be the AA game, and what a victory it was. Orchard Park not only gets the proverbial monkey off the back (did any Prep Talk bloggers actually bring bananas to Rochester? 🙂 ), but it does it with a major, state-wide statement: 49-27 against a section which plays some pretty great football. In one game the OP talk went from an "oh-fer" (0 for 7) to "maybe-this-is-the-year" (two wins away from a state championship).
* OP also helped carry the Section VI flag in all sports, as it was the only of the four top-ranked Section VI large schools to move on. In our vote last week, 30.3 percent of voters thought OP would move on, behind Lancaster girls volleyball (33.3) and ahead of Williamsville North boys soccer (24.2) and East Aurora girls soccer (12.1).
* I don't know a whole lot about West Genesee's football team right now; I'll be researching it tomorrow. But I'm sure I'll be writing something about how the matchup isn't unfamiliar for OP and coach Gene Tundo -- it's just a different sport. Tundo's Orchard Park lacrosse teams have battled national superpower West Genny several times in the postseason. The biggest win in OP lacrosse history was in 2000, when OP beat West Genny at Syracuse to advance to its first state championship game.
* Congrats to Lafayette alum Al "Icky" Satcher and his Mighty Violets on earning that last spot in the Harvard Cup final four with an overtime win over Burgard Saturday. It's the first playoff bid for Lafayette in its three years under Satcher, who like many city coaches, has done the best he can do under less-than-ideal circumstances. Last year, when I worked on a story about the Lewis twins each quarterbacking the teams at Hutch-Tech and Lafayette, I visited a Lafayette practice at the former Turner-Carroll High School. Violets players traveled crosstown to use a small field and a locker room in a school that's been closed for a while (and it sure looked it) -- just to practice.
The bad news is that Lafayette has top-seeded McKinley Saturday in the semifinals. As for the Monsignor Martin finals, things went as expected: the All-Catholic games were all-St. Francis and all-O'Hara.
* There is absolutely no argument when it comes to the benefit of teams playing tough schedules. It makes teams -- and programs -- better. And that's any sport, any team and any level from the pros to college to high schools.
Obviously a struggling team or middle-of-the-pack team may not benefit from playing nothing but superpowers (Canisius football, especially last year, perhaps might be a good example of that). And obviously it doesn't necessarily mean that every great team would be even better if it had played a tougher nonleague schedule (for instance, this year's OP football team would be a great team no matter who they played).
But it's generally accepted, and obvious by schedules of most of the top Western New York high school programs: the best programs play at least some tough nonleague games in anticipation for the tough competition they will face in the postseason. It's a huge part of the basketball season, which is just around the corner.
* And speaking of scheduling ... I'll save my take on what matchups should be on the 2008 football schedule for when we're done with 2007. Still plenty of football going on and we're going to concentrate on the action on the field for now. Also, the next "How The News Voted" you'll see will be in December when the final polls are released.
* But here's one question I'd be interested to hear everyone chime in on: Why is scheduling nonleague games such an issue in football?
In every other sport in Western New York, there are great nonleague public-private battles every season. A lot of arguments for Section VI teams not playing private schools are big-picture issues that would apply to other sports as well, but obviously they don't because those nonleague games are commonplace. Is it football's more condensed schedule? Is it because football tends to be the glamor sport with the homecoming game and the big bleachers and a lot of tradition and people just get worked up over it more?
-- Keith McShea