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Countdown to Friday Night Lights: Class A

Who’s who: The 17-team class consists of two divisions. Class A South includes the Bennett Tigers, Hamburg Bulldogs, Iroquois Chiefs, Lake Shore Eagles, McKinley Macks, Riverside Frontiers, South Park Sparks, West Seneca East Trojans, West Seneca West Indians. Class A North features the Amherst Tigers, Grand Island Vikings, Kenmore East Bulldogs, North Tonawanda Lumberjacks, Starpoint Spartans, Sweet Home Panthers, Williamsville East Flames and Williamsville South Billies.

Alignment shift: Bennett moves up from Class C North into A South. Amherst moves from A South to Class A North. Riverside moves up from Class AA North into Class A South. Niagara-Wheatfield and Williamsville North move from A North to Class AA North.

Last year’s champion: South Park made history by not only becoming the first Buffalo Public Schools program to win a Section VI title but by also winning the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association championship at the Carrier Dome with a 49-46 triumph over Section I’s Our Lady of Lourdes. Along the way, the Sparks defeated V-Brockport, 20-7, in Far West Regionals and then they ended four-time defending state champion Maine-Endwell’s record 62-game winning streak by defeating the Section IV champions, 43-26, in the semifinals. South Park ended the season ranked first in the Buffalo News Large School and state sportswriters’ polls.

Last year’s records: Class A South – South Park 12-1, 6-0; West Seneca East 8-2, 5-1; Iroquois 5-4, 3-3; Hamburg 4-5, 3-3; Lake Shore 3-5, 3-3; McKinley 3-6, 2-4; West Seneca West 4-5, 2-4; Amherst 0-8, 0-6.

Class A North – Williamsville North 7-2, 6-0; Starpoint 7-2, 6-0; North Tonawanda 5-3, 4-2; Williamsville South 5-4, 4-2; Grand Island 4-5, 2-4; Niagara-Wheatfield 5-4, 2-4; Sweet Home 2-6, 2-4; Williamsville East 3-6, 1-5; Kenmore East 0-9, 0-6.

Newcomers: Bennett and Riverside.

2015 All-Western New York underclassmen: Two-time first-team pick, linebacker and Boston College-commit Isaiah McDuffie returns for Bennett, while first team offensive lineman and junior Jeremiah Sanders is back for South Park. Second team linebacker Jamel Lofton, a senior, transfers from Lackawanna to Bennett. Iroquois senior running back Brandon Yax is coming off a third-team selection. Honorable mentions in the fold include Starpoint senior running back Tajay Ahmed, offensive lineman Joe Ramunno, a senior at West Seneca East, Iroquois senior defensive lineman Nate Emer and Bennett senior linebackers Nigel Robinson and Marcelus Toliver.

2015 all-league first-team underclassmen: Class A South – Nate Emer-11 (Iroquois, Defensive Player of the Year), RB Brandon Yax-11 (Iroquois), OL Jeremiah Sanders-10 (South Park), DB Lawrence Jenkins-11 (Lake Shore).

Class A North – RB Terry Rutland-11 (Starpoint), RB Anthony Robinson-10 (Starpoint), RB Joe Dotterweich-11 (North Tonawanda), OL Tyler Beasock-11 (North Tonawanda), DT Antwanne Jones-11 (Williamsville South), LB Tajay Ahmed-11 (Starpoint), DB Sam Mazzara-10 (Starpoint).

Week One (Sept. 2-3): Opening night features defending champion South Park hosting St. Joe’s in a nonleaguer at 7 p.m. at All High Stadium. Other games include Bennett visiting West Seneca East in a clash between Section VI runners-up. North Tonawanda hosts Williamsville East, and Lake Shore travels to Iroquois. On Saturday, Starpoint heads to Dimp Wagner Field to face Amherst at 1 p.m., while Sweet Home and Kenmore East meet in a 2 p.m. clash at Clint H. Small Stadium in Tonawanda.

Prep Talk.BuffaloNews.com: Review the entire 2016 week-by-week schedule and see photos and videos from our various training-camp stops.

The countdown continues: Class AA (Tuesday) and the Monsignor Martin Association (Wednesday). Classes b-D are available online at the Prep Talk blog.

Season preview coming Thursday: Our annual preview issue will have capsules and schedules for all 72 teams in Western New York, along with feature stories, photos, a must-see cover and everything else one needs to know about the 2016 season.

Attention coaches & ADs: As soon as they are determined, Section VI coaches need to send a roster -- in spreadsheet form -- to rcurrin@aldenschools.org. Monsignor Martin coaches should email rosters to mrodriguez@buffnews.com.

#PrepTalkLive at buffalonews.com: Every weekend, the place to monitor all of the Friday night and Saturday afternoon action is PrepTalk.BuffaloNews.com. We will have video reports, photos, live updates from several top games and you will again be a part of the team via Twitter. Tweet game updates with the #PrepTalkLive hashtag and those will appear in our live post.

#PrepTalkSpirit: High school students, tweet your fan photos from the crowd and include the hashtag #PrepTalkSpirit. We’ll retweet some of the best at @bufnewspreptalk and we'll pick a #PrepTalkSpirit winning photo every weekend of high school football.

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