Every week of the football season, 10 voters rate Western New York's best teams from 1 to 10 in the large and small school polls. The News has one vote in each poll, and all season we've let you know how and why we've voted.
The official final polls will be printed in Saturday's paper, along with the All-Western New York team, The News Player of the Year, the WNY Coach of the Year and the all-league teams.
But here's an idea of what might be coming -- here's how we filled out our ballot for the final polls of the season. The previous poll was taken after Week 10; at that point of the season, the Section VI finals at The Ralph and the Monsignor Martin semifinals were just played, and the Harvard Cup was heading into the final week of the regular season.
1. Orchard Park (11-1) [last poll: 1] -- Not much suspense with this vote. OP couldn't have broken its seven-game winless streak in the regionals any better (49-27 over Canandaigua in Rochester). Good news/bad news for Quakers: the team they came up just short to in the state semis, West Genesee, went on to romp its way to the state championship (42-21 over downstate power Monroe-Woodbury). Oh, what might have been? Well, there are plenty of Quakers coming back to think about that question.
2. St. Francis (8-3)  - This is the only team to move up in our final ballot. As we've said all season, Frannies' 13-7 loss at Aquinas would likely be used as a barometer if the Section VI Class A champ played the Rochester private school power in the regionals. Sweet Home lost, 28-7, to Aquinas, which went on to win the state championship. The closest that state playoff opponents on neutral sites would get to the Little Irish was 17 points. Frannies took care of business by blanking Canisius at The Ralph, and in our minds they are a lock at No. 2. Another team with a lot coming back -- notably Delano Fabor and Lucas Tasker. Hey, wouldn't it be great if the No. 1 team and the No. 2 team -- both with standout juniors returning next year -- played a nonleague game next season?
3. Sweet Home (10-1)  - See above. Well stocked at quarterback in '08 as both are back. Also see above: wouldn't it be great if the No. 2 team and the No. 3 team played a nonleague game next season? The Panthers opened with a nonleague game at Lancaster last year, so it's possible...
4. Cheektowaga (9-1)  - It should be noted that the Warriors have one of the smallest schools - and rosters - in Class A. An outstanding season.
5. Iroquois (7-2)  - Somewhere, Brandon Murie is still running and running and running.
6. McKinley (11-0)  - The Macks have put together an outstanding run through the city. We would have liked to move them up but just couldn't -- Iroquois' losses to Sweet Home and Cheektowaga were just too close. While the OT win on Thanksgiving was thrilling for fans, the Macks needed to roll through the playoffs to even have a chance of moving up just one spot. And that awesome start to the season (beating St. Joe's) lost more and more luster with each Marauder loss.
7. Lancaster (6-4)  - We'll say it again -- the best losses in WNY: OP twice, Sweet Home, Depew.
8. Frontier (7-3)  - Speaking of quality losses, the AA bowl champion Falcons fell to OP, Lancaster and Clarence by a combined 17 points. Those might become wins next year?
9. North Tonawanda (6-3)  - The more games they played, AA North teams appeared much weaker than the South. The Jacks had an outstanding season, especially considering they started 0-2. And as the talk turns to scheduling for '08, let's again thank NT coach Eric Jantzi for scheduling St. Francis in their season opener. We need more of those kind of games in Western New York.
10. Grand Island (5-4)  - Some pollsters might put too much stock in the consolation bowl games. Kenmore East had a great finish to the season, but they're not a top 10 team, especially not ahead of GI, which beat East when it really mattered and, oh by the way, made the playoffs. Actually, the next worthy vote might be for Riverside, which had an outstanding second half of the year and almost gave Mack fans one huge upset stomach on Turkey Day.
1. Cardinal O'Hara (10-1)  - Even less drama at this No. 1 spot than the large schools'. But what about next year? Hmmmm.
2. Depew (9-2)  - I thought the Wildcats might have a run to the Dome in them, but as everyone knows, the Rochester regionals are one tough hurdle (Section VI is now 5-20 over the last five years). But you can't ask much more than a romp over Lancaster in the rivalry game and a last-second goal-line stand for your school's first win at The Ralph.
3. East Aurora (7-3)  - QB Scott Drosendahl and his strong arm should have the Blue Devils back in this poll next year.
4. Fredonia (7-2)  - It was a while ago, but you can't forget the Hillbillies, whose only losses were to Depew and East Aurora.
5. Southwestern (8-2)  - Definitely deserve this spot as the next-best in Class B. We hear they might be headed to Class C next year. Baaaaad news for Class C.
6. Randolph (8-3)  - If Blake Morrison didn't get hurt, the Cardinals looked like they might have had enough to get back to the Dome.
7. Maple Grove (8-1)  - We're tucking the Red Dragons right behind Randolph. They were here all year before Randolph caught them, 14-11, in the semifinals. Class D has been considered stronger than C all year, which is why these two are ahead of Cleve. Hill.
8. Cleveland Hill (8-3)  - Great season for the Golden Eagles (and all of Cheektowaga, actually).
9. Medina (6-3)  - Another hey, remember us? Only lost to Depew, Albion and East Aurora. Class B is probably the deepest class in the section.
10. Falconer (7-3)  - Late loss to Cleveland Hill in the C final makes them worthy of a vote, but nothing higher than here. St. Mary's is our unofficial No. 11; yes, the Lancers had a close win over Cleve Hill in midseason, but we just didn't see enough on their entire resume that would want us to bump one of these other teams.
That's it for voting on football for 2007, but we'll be back soon detailing "How The News voted" in the boys basketball polls.
-- Keith McShea