Sweet Home took some heavy losses to graduation and the departure of All-Western New York linebacker Brad Zaffram to Canisius cut into the Panthers’ talent base even more. But Sweet Home never seems to rebuild. They reload.
The Panthers, winners of 60 consecutive games against Western New York teams, are one of the highlights on what should be an exciting opening to the local high school football season tonight.
Sweet Home, 12-1 last season and winners of the last six Section VI Class A championships, hits the road to play Iroquois (7-2 in 2012), which also had a senior-laden team a year ago.
Meanwhile, much of the buzz locally surrounds No. 1-ranked Canisius (11-0 in ’12) and Buffalo News Player of the Year Qadree Ollison, who rushed for a program record 1,876 yards and 26 TDs last season as a junior.
Canisius will get tested early starting tonight at Section V’s McQuaid and next week at defending Section V Class AA champ Aquinas.
Ollison, who will choose between Penn State, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse and Wisconsin on Monday, is the leader of a star-studded lineup. Zaffram was also a first-team All-WNY selection at Sweet Home as a sophomore and the Crusaders added brothers Terius and TJ Wheatley, who transferred in from Syracuse. TJ, a 6-foot-6, 245-pound junior, has already received a scholarship offer from defending national champion Alabama.
Speaking of Aquinas, it has a date with Bishop Timon-St. Jude tonight.
Elsewhere, defending Class C champion Cleveland Hill, with 11 starters back, plays a nonleague matchup at Maryvale, which is solid at the line of scrimmage.
Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake makes its debut at Maple Grove against visiting Portville.
The Red Dragons (9-1) didn’t lose a game last season until the Class D final at The Ralph and added nine players from Chautauqua Lake to strengthen their depth.
Other Week One matchups of note tonight include Clarence at Frontier (AA), Williamsville North vs. McKinley at Riverside (A Central).