Tim Delaney prematurely left the golf tournament he was at on Sunday to go paint the lines on his field for Monday’s first day of football practice. “You paint your own field?” the South Park High School coach was asked.
Well, yes, and he wouldn’t have it any other way. Delaney describes himself as, “a city kid,” and with that comes an understanding that many things don’t get done unless you do them. Conversely, no one is going to do the work it will take South Park to defend its Class A South title, other than the South Park players.
That’s one of the many points Delaney will reinforce during the next two weeks of practice before the kickoff of the 2014 season.
Delaney’s work ethic goes back to his days as a player for the Sparks under coach Jerry Obstein. His resume includes two trips to the Harvard Cup championship before graduating in 1998.
Now in his seventh season at South Park, Delaney, 34, enjoys a reputation as an old school coach who enforces his rules and has high expectations. He is sometimes asked by people not in the high school football loop if he’d rather be coaching somewhere else - the college ranks, or maybe a school in the suburbs?
It’s not even tempting.
“Kids in other places like Depew or Williamsville - they’re in a good spot with people taking care of business,” said Delaney, “and if I went there, I don’t know how much things would change. I know I’m making a difference here.”
Delaney said his team has adopted the motto “Make a Statement” for the season with the emphasis on the word “state,” every team’s postseason goal. They will go as far as players like Antonio Leonard and Burgess twins, William and Willquan, will take them.
“I’ve been playing for Coach for four years and it’s been a great four years,” said Leonard. “He keeps me going and says if I keep working hard, things will fall into place. He just wants the best for us.”
Leonard and the twins are among the starters back at 14 of 22 positions.
William and Willquan Burgess return at linebacker and are tough runners on offense. Leonard has 966 career yards receiving.
Leonard was second team All-WNY a year ago at wide receiver. He needs 10 catches to break the school record for career receptions of 85 set by Demetrius Duncan in 1994. He’ll be working with first-year QB Tyree Brown, who led the JV to a 6-1-1 record last year.
South Park won the Federation’s Class A South title last year with 5-0 record. The Sparks finished 7-2 overall with the only losses coming to section champions Jamestown and Williamsville North. It was the Sparks’ first winning season since the 2003 edition won the Harvard Cup, finishing 8-2.
Last year’s 21-0 loss to North in the first round of the playoffs brought a promising season to an abrupt end and left the Sparks feeling they had left something on the field. The Sparks played poorly, not matching their quality showings from the regular season.
It’s something they are sure to learn from. Delaney said last season’s regular season success got people on the south side of Buffalo excited again about South Park football. The Sparks would love to become the first team from the city to play for a sectional title at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
“We’re looking to gel our talent together and pound on the positives from last year,” said Delaney. “The momentum needs to continue. The biggest thing we talk about as a staff is wanting kids to want to play here.
“In the city of Buffalo the kids get to choose where they want to go to high school,” Delaney added. “Kids want to go play basketball at McKinley because they’ve been a successful program. … They’ve won a state championship, they go deep in the state playoffs all the time. We want that same reputation for South Park football.”