Grand Island Vikings (4-5)
Coach: Dean Santorio, 15th season
Home field: Gene Masters Field
Program founded: 1962
Outlook: The Vikings had issues protecting the ball, which ultimately played a role in them failing to qualify for the playoffs. They look to bounce back with senior captains and third-year starters Jake Niland and Jarod Brandon (running backs) and tackle Chris Aronica (tackle) leading the charge. Niland is 5-8, 175 pounds and can bench 225. Also lining up in the backfield will be 5-10 Brandon, also strong and physical. Niland averaged 7.7 yards per carry in 2014, Brandon 5.0 on a team-high 148 rushes. The graduation loss of quarterback Giuseppe Campanella opens the door for junior Connor Buzby. Other top prospects include tight end/linebacker Joe Wagner, tackle Jimmy Martin (6-foot, 240) and 250-pound senior guard/defensive end Jake Cavanaugh. Jeremiah Wilkes, a first-team all-league corner as a junior, should have a great year, according to Santorio.
Sept. 4 vs. Kenmore East, 7 p.m.
Sept. 12 at Williamsville East, 2 p.m.
Sept. 18 Starpoint, 7 p.m.
Sept. 25 at Williamsville South, 7 p.m.
Oct. 2 vs. Williamsville North, 2 p.m.
Oct. 10 at Sweet Home, 2 p.m.
Oct. 16 vs. Burgard, 7 p.m.
Kenmore East Bulldogs (3-6)
Coach: Pat Veltri, first season
Home field: Sparky Adams Field
Program founded: 1959
Outlook: Veltri takes over for longtime coach Matt Chimera, who stepped down after 14 seasons. Veltri has been a member of coaching staffs at Iroquois, Lake Shore and Canisius and also has some college coaching experience. Win over rival Kenmore West was highlight of 2014 for Bulldogs, who have eight returnees but only 20 players. Lack of healthy players prompted Kenmore East officials to forfeit its opener at Grand Island. Senior two-way tackle Matt Cook enters his third season as a starter. Senior Evan Reardon will play defensive and offensive tackle after missing all last season with an ankle injury. Senior running back Dion Woods is a key two-way player. Senior linebacker Jake Elgie, a strong wrestler, will likely play guard. Sophomore Ca’Lil O’Neil, a three-sport athlete, will start at quarterback.
Sept. 4 at Grand Island, 7 p.m.
Sept. 12 vs. North Tonawanda, 2 p.m.
Sept. 19 vs. Williamsville East, 2 p.m.
Sept. 26 vs. Niagara-Wheatfield, 2 p.m.
Oct. 3 at Starpoint, 2 p.m.
Oct. 10 vs. Williamsville South, 2 p.m.
Oct. 17 at Kenmore West, 2 p.m.
Niagara-Wheatfield Falcons (1-6)
Coach: Brent Tylec, third season
Home field: Terry Harvey Field
Program founded: 1958
Outlook: This back-in-the-day power looks to take a step forward toward better days with a 41-man roster. Perhaps the Falcons’ best player is senior captain Brian Leising, who starts at tight end and defensive end. Tylec expects good things from third-year running back Kordaryll Welch, who will run behind an offensive line consisting of four juniors. Two of them, though, can be considered veterans as left guard Josh Shumate and center Kevin Lumadre both started as sophomores. Senior Storm Hutcheson returns to start at right tackle. Colin Goodrich will get in his licks at linebacker and fullback.
Sept. 5 at Starpoint, 2 p.m.
Sept. 11 at Williamsville South, 7 p.m.
Sept. 19 vs. Williamsville North, 2 p.m.
Sept. 26 at Kenmore East, 2 p.m.
Oct. 3 vs. North Tonawanda, 2 p.m.
Oct. 10 vs. Lew-Port, 2 p.m.
Oct. 17 at Sweet Home, 2 p.m.
North Tonawanda Lumberjacks (5-3)
Coach: Henry Fumerelle, first season
Home field: George Vetter Stadium
Program founded: 1893
Outlook: Ex-Williamsville East coach Henry Fumerelle returns to the sideline, inheriting a playoff team from former coach Tony Truilizio, who is now an assistant at Erie Community College. However, Fumerelle takes over a team that lost do-everything-playmaking QB and All-WNY first-teamer Chris Woodard and 14 others to graduation. Taking over at QB will be Woodard’s brother, 6-4, 190-pound junior Zack, who will also play safety and is one of three captains. Senior RB/CB Connor Groff is another captain. There are some other seniors for Fumerelle to lean on, including G/DT and captain Bailey Franusiak, T/DE Hayden Holmes, TE/DE Jevon Nolley and RB/DB Cody Sikora. Sikora is NT’s fastest player (4.5-40). Junior guards/DTs Tyler Beasock and Bryce Schmigel both can bench press over 320. Junior newcomer Alex Johnson has opened some eyes and will play DT.
Sept. 5 at Williamsville East, 2 p.m.
Sept. 12 at Kenmore East, 2 p.m.
Sept. 18 vs. Williamsville South, 7 p.m.
Sept. 25 vs. Williamsville North, 7 p.m.
Oct. 3 at Niagara-Wheatfield, 2 p.m.
Oct. 9 vs. Starpoint, 7 p.m.
Oct. 16 vs. Tonawanda, 6 p.m.
Starpoint Spartans (5-4)
Coach: Al Cavagnaro, 16th season
Home field: Tudor Stadium
Program founded: 1958
Outlook: The Spartans have made the playoffs three of the last four seasons in highly competitive Class A. It is the reason Starpoint enters this season confident it can extend that run, even though it’ll be difficult to navigate the waters in a nine-team division in which some teams don’t play each other. The Spartans have a bona fide Division I talent in senior tackle/defensive end Sam Wray. The state champion and All-American in discus has offers from several big-time schools in track. He also has football suitors, including Connecticut. Junior RB/LB Tajay Ahmen is a third-year starter. Senior Austin Bowden is another all-league returnee who will see time at tight end and safety. Junior Adam Lasal started the Spartans’ playoff game last season in place of injured QB Eric Yeager.
Sept. 5 vs. Niagara-Wheatfield, 2 p.m.
Sept. 12 at Sweet Home, 2 p.m.
Sept. 18 at Grand Island, 7 p.m.
Sept. 26 at Lockport, 2 p.m.
Oct. 3 vs. Kenmore East, 2 p.m.
Oct. 9 at North Tonawanda, 7 p.m.
Oct. 17 vs. Williamsville East, 2 p.m.
Sweet Home Panthers (9-2)
Coach: John Faller, 30th season
Home field: Bob Barczak Stadium
Program founded: 1958
Outlook: The Panthers graduated a Division I player (Brandon Smiley), and lost several other key offensive cogs to commencement. Still, Sweet Home is Sweet Home. The Panthers have made eight straight sectional finals because they know how to develop and reload. With that in mind, keep an eye on sophomore running back Dylan McDuffie. The 195-pounder is physical and fast, no surprise since he comes from a football family. Junior 200-pounder Brandon Roe is another running back with the ability to bruise the defense. Seniors Jon Phillips, Austin Wilson and Joe Armenia are captains. Phillips showed he not only can hit hard at linebacker but hit the hole even harder when injuries forced him to fill-in at running back late last season (he had a 58-yard TD run in key win at Starpoint). Faller expects good things from senior linemen Matt Ortiz (6-foot, 270 pounds) and D.J. Richeal (6-3, 280).
Sept. 5 at Williamsville North, 2 p.m.
Sept. 12 vs. Starpoint, 2 p.m.
Sept. 19 at Kenmore West, 2 p.m.
Sept. 26 at Williamsville East, 2 p.m.
Oct. 2 at Williamsville South, 7 p.m.
Oct. 10 vs. Grand Island, 2 p.m.
Oct. 17 vs. Niagara-Wheatfield, 2 p.m.
Williamsville East Flames (0-9)
Coach: Chris Glenn, first season
Home field: Williamsville East Field
Program founded: 1975
Outlook: After spending a season at St. Mary’s/Lancaster and posting a 7-3 record, Glenn takes over at East which is looking to work its way back into the win column. Glenn believes there is talent on hand to begin a turnaround, starting with 6-4, 288-pound two-way lineman Alan Morreale. He is one of three captains, along with RB/CB Matt Evanaski and Brian Morreale, Alan’s twin. Brian is a slot receiver and LB. Senior Pat Orsini also looks to make plays at LB and receiver. Jake Evans is a senior lineman with size (6-0, 230 pounds), while senior Ryan Foster returns to start at QB. Others to keep tabs on include junior receiver Nick Falkides and RB/DB TJ Allen.
Sept. 5 vs. North Tonawanda, 2 p.m.
Sept. 12 vs. Grand Island, 2 p.m.
Sept. 19 at Kenmore East, 2 p.m.
Sept. 26 vs. Sweet Home, 2 p.m.
Oct. 3 vs. Amherst, 2 p.m.
Oct. 10 at Williamsville North, 2 p.m.
Oct. 17 at Starpoint, 2 p.m.
Williamsville North Spartans (7-2)
Coach: Mike Mammoliti, 15th season
Home field: Williamsville North Field
Program founded: 1968
Outlook: They’re back, after spending last season in AA North, but don’t expect anyone in this division to welcome back the Spartans with open arms. While North graduated several talents that were part of the 2013 Class A state runner-up team, it does return battle-tested juniors in running back/linebacker Andrew Hwang and quarterback/linebacker Jason Hwang. They’re identical twins. Junior Connor Kelly is a mean 220-pound fullback/linebacker, while classmate Tyler Hochulski is another big athlete (6-2, 237) who can play guard and defensive tackle. Senior linebacker/tackle Nick Pilon can bench 275, while classmate Tory Rogers, a tight end/defensive end, has a 280 bench in the books. Two juniors at wideout to keep an eye on include Anthony Maniscalco and Jairus Huggins.
Sept. 5 vs Sweet Home, 2 p.m.
Sept. 12 vs. Jamestown, 2 p.m.
Sept. 19 at Niagara-Wheatfield, 2 p.m.
Sept. 25 at North Tonawanda, 7 p.m.
Oct. 2 at Grand Island, 7 p.m.
Oct. 10 vs. Williamsville East, 2 p.m.
Oct. 17. vs. Williamsville South, 2 p.m.
Williamsville South Billies (5-4)
Coach: Kraig Kurzanski, eighth season
Home field: District Field
Program founded: 1897
Outlook: They lost a very good quarterback in Sam Castronova to graduation but the Billies do return seven starters on defense and four on offense and look to build on a postseason appearance. Senior offensive lineman/defensive end Jake Fuzak has size (6-5, 275), strength (325 bench) and is nimble (4.96 time in the 40). He has verbally committed to UB. Matt Foster (6-4, 220) looks to have another outstanding season after finishing with 18 touchdowns and nearly 1,100 yards receiving as a junior. Other big receiving targets for new signal-caller Jack Holyoke, a senior who will play baseball at St. Bonaventure, include classmates Ryan Philipps (6-2, 170) and Jordan Buell (6-3, 170).
Sept. 4 vs. St. Francis, 7 p.m.
Sept. 11 vs. Niagara-Wheatfield, 7 p.m.
Sept. 18 at North Tonawanda, 7 p.m.
Sept. 25 vs. Grand Island, 7 p.m.
Oct. 2 vs. Sweet Home, 7 p.m.
Oct. 10 at Kenmore East, 2 p.m.
Oct. 17 at Williamsville North, 2 p.m.
– Miguel Rodriguez