Countdown to Friday Night Lights / Class C North - The Buffalo News

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Countdown to Friday Night Lights / Class C North

Who’s who: The seven-team division consists of the Akron Tigers, Cleveland Hill Golden Eagles, JFK Bears, Lackawanna Steelers, Newfane Panthers, Tonawanda Warriors and Wilson Lakemen.

This year’s alignment shift: With the move of Fredonia and Gowanda to C South and the addition of Tonawanda and Lackawanna (both down from B West) and Newfane (from B East), the division gains a team and truly becomes a division of all “northern” teams. Newfane is a B-sized school playing in Class C.

Last year’s champion: Cleveland Hill lost the league title on the final day of the regular season, dropped to fourth place, then had a postseason to remember. The Golden Eagles went down to C South champion Salamanca and won a 28-21 quarterfinal before adding a rout at Wilson (42-7) to earn a spot at The Ralph, where they beat Fredonia, 22-20, for the Section VI Class C championship. The Golden Eagles fell in the Far West Regionals to Section V (Rochester area) champion Hornell, 27-6; Hornell lost in the state final.

2012 rewind: JFK had a storybook regular-season finish with a Week Seven home win over rival Cleve Hill in which the Bears used a last-minute two-point conversion to earn a 29-28 victory and their first title since 1975. Five of the division’s six teams won postseason games last year, as the top four swept their Class C South opponents in the Section VI quarterfinals while Akron, which just missed the playoffs, went on to win the Chuck Funke Classic Bowl in Class C consolation play. Fredonia knocked off JFK in the semifinals.

Last year’s records: JFK 7-2, 4-1; Cleveland Hill 8-3, 3-2; Fredonia 7-3, 3-2; Wilson 6-3, 3-2; Akron 6-3, 2-3; Gowanda 0-8, 0-5. In Class B West, Lackawanna 3-6, 1-5; Tonawanda 2-7, 1-5. In Class B East, Newfane 1-8, 0-6.

2012 All-Western New York underclassmen: Lackawanna junior DB Cameren Smith was a second-team selection. Cleveland Hill juniors RB Brandon Thomas and DB Jared Watkins were both honorable mentions.

2012 all-league first-team underclassmen: Cleveland Hill juniors Watkins, Thomas and LB Josh White; Akron juniors WR Austin Lauricella and OL Tommy James. In Class B West, Lackawanna junior RB Smith.

Pre-snap read: Cleveland Hill deserves to be the favorite as it defends its title with some top returning talent. It’s an intriguing year to see how Lackawanna will fare in a lower classification after struggling in 2012. Tonawanda is excited to open its new Clint Small Stadium with a Week Two contest against Lackawanna.

Week One (Sept. 6-7) must-see game: Three league games will kick off the season, but the matchup with probably the most buzz is in Cheektowaga as Cleveland Hill heads to rival Maryvale of Class B North in a nonleague contest.

Scrimmage Saturday: The first day teams can scrimmage other schools is Saturday. Cleveland Hill again welcomes Cardinal O’Hara and Burgard at 9:30 a.m. Lackawanna joins Iroquois at Frontier at 10 a.m. The schedule of Western New York scrimmages is available at the Prep Talk blog.

Prep Talk blog at Watch exclusive [BN]TheLockerRoom video of Canisius coach Rich Robbins’ initial address to his team, look over the entire 2013 week-by-week schedule and watch #preptalkpreseason video interviews with 29 head coaches (with more to come). Interviews from Sweet Home, Jamestown, Randolph, Fredonia and Springville were posted Tuesday.

Live chats & PrepTalkTV: The first of the weekly Wednesday night live chats will be Sept. 4 at 9 p.m. at The PrepTalkTV schedule will be released soon.

The countdown continues: B South (Thursday), B North (Friday), A South (Saturday), A Central (Sept. 1), A North (Sept. 2), Class AA (Sept. 3) and the Monsignor Martin Association (Sept. 4). Already published: Class C South (Tuesday), Class D (Monday) and DD (Sunday). You will be able to review them all at the Prep Talk blog.

Season preview coming Sept. 5: The annual preview issue will have capsules and schedules for all 78 teams in Western New York, along with feature stories, a must-see cover and everything else one needs to know about the 2013 season.

- Keith McShea

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