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Prep Talk: WNY football teams looking to reach final destinations

Minutes after Eric Rupp walked off the football field at SUNY Brockport after his Lancaster Legends earned perhaps their biggest win in program history, the second-year coach checked out his phone and noticed the wave of text messages waiting to be read.

Nearly 50 of them were from friends and area football coaches (public and Catholic) offering him and his team congratulations for taking down Rochester-based private school, state power and Section V champion Aquinas in the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association quarterfinals. The win capped a historic and legendary weekend not only for his program but also by Section VI's football teams in state competition.

ICYMI, Lancaster (Class AA), West Seneca West (Class A), Cheektowaga (Class B), Cleveland Hill (Class C) and Maple Grove (Class D) each won its respective Far West Regional game – the first time Section VI has ever swept each quarterfinal game against the Rochester-area Section V champions since the start of the state tournament back in 1993.

To put that feat into perspective, while the northern/Eastern part of the state has seen a section sweep regional games on several occasions – including the very first year of the state tournament when it was just four classifications (Section I had each of its champions reach state finals) – last weekend was just the second time it has ever happened at the western end. The first came in 2013 and could be considered more of a center of New York thing since it was the Binghamton-area Section IV champions sweeping Section III Syracuse's teams.

Section VI didn't just beat a bunch of first-time-championship programs. It took down some of the all-time historic postseason heavyweights Section V has to offer. Remember Aquinas (Class AA), Hornell (Class B), the Caledonia-Mumford part of the Cal-Mum/Byron-Bergen team (Class C) and Clyde-Savannah (Class D) have combined to win 15 state championships.

"I think that speaks volumes about the efforts put in by both players and coaches here in Section VI during the offseason," Section VI chairman Ken Stoldt said.

It speaks to the level of football being played in Western New York.

It's being played at a high level and this weekend, which offers a little something for everybody, is further proof of that.

Seven teams, seven, are still alive and playing football very well a week before Black Friday ushers in the Christmas shopping season. In addition to the five Section VI champions, Canisius and St. Joe's are ready to add another chapter to the story of their epic rivalry.

It all begins Friday at Union-Endicott High School's Ty Cobb Stadium near Binghamton with Class D and Class A semifinal clashes. Maple Grove bats lead off at 4 p.m. against Section IV champ Tioga. The 8 p.m. Friday nightcap pits unbeaten West Seneca West (11-0) against Whitesboro of Section III.

Saturday's tripleheader at Union-Endicott starts at 11 a.m. with the Class C state semifinal between Cleveland Hill and III-Skaneatleles. Cheektowaga faces state power IV-Chenango Forks at 3 p.m. Class AA is at 7 p.m. between first-time state semifinalists Lancaster and III-Cicero-North Syracuse at 7 p.m.

While making state semifinals does not guarantee anyone a spot in a championship game next weekend at the Carrier Dome,  the winner of the Monsignor Martin final between Canisius and St. Joe's will play for a state Catholic championship Nov. 25 in familiar Western New York home surroundings.

"This weekend is monumental," said Western New York High School football guru and Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Famer Dick Gallagher. "One of the things we need to remember, winning the five games made a statement to the quality of football in Western New York, and then look at the success Canisius has had winning two state titles (the past three years), we're a force to be wreck-on with."

When teams reach this point, everyone is good. It takes execution and sometimes a break here and there to get to the championship game. Sometimes even that's not enough.

While Section VI won four of five regional games in a year five times prior to this past weekend, it should be noted the first two times it happened – in 2008 and 2009 – were the only times all of the teams captured state championship hardware.

The other three times: While not every team reached the final at least one ended up winning a title.

What does all of that mean for this weekend?


That's the beauty of sports. Anything can happen.

It would be an obvious dud if the section teams followed up a historic weekend in quarterfinals with an 0-fer downstate.

But having so many teams still alive and in contention for championships does come with one guarantee: It'll be a whole lot of fun seeing where their respective journeys take them.

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