Defections and injury are forcing both sides to scramble in final preparations for the 22nd annual Kensington Lions Club-Tops All-Star Football Classic Wednesday night at Williamsville South.
The game matches North and South teams of the top Western New York high school seniors from last season. Kickoff is at 7.
North coach Charlie Jufer of Wilson planned an attack around 240-pound fullback Pete Grinnell of North Tonawanda in practices at Sweet Home. However, Grinnell was lost when he tore his right knee ligament in a non-contact drill Thursday night, setting off a series of lineup changes.
Jason Johnson of Lewiston-Porter moved from tight end back to fullback. Six-foot-7 defensive end Darren Kresge of Kenmore West moved to tight end.
Grinnell's injury came too late for him to be replaced, but Jufer believes his team has enough time to adjust to changes and can overcome the personnel shortage.
"We have around 30 players, which is about as many as you use normally, and most of these kids are used to playing both ways," said Jufer.
Jufer said the emerging leadership of linebacker A.J. Wright of Nichols and defensive lineman Marcus Holloway of Sweet Home is helping overcome the obstacles that have arisen.
Meanwhile, South coach Gary Gresock (Eden) added four new players -- linebacker E.J. Snyder and tackle Jeremy Ling of East Aurora and defensive back Kevin Siska and tight end Jason Dobe of Alden -- because of player losses for various reasons.
The South won last year, 37-7, to take a 13-8 lead in the series which started in 1976. Gresock doesn't expect the offensive fireworks of last year's rout.
"We have talent, but not the size or speed at tailback we had last year. Our strength is our defense this time," Gresock said.
Gresock does believe, however, that South receiver Nathyia Jackson of Riverside will bring excitement to the game. Jackson, who is the New York State Class B 400 hurdles champion and the Section VI champion in the 100-meter dash, the 110-meter hurdles and the 400 hurdles, will head for the Empire State Games in Albany after Wednesday's game.
"We can cover him for about 10 (or) 15 yards in practice, then he blows by everybody. I think he's a legitimate 4.2 in the 40," Gresock said. "He wants to concentrate in track in college, but I think he could make it as a receiver at a high level in football."
Gresock also has been impressed by 6-5, 280-pound defensive tackle Jerome Robertson of Grover Cleveland.
"I can see why UB recruited him," Gresock said. "He's a high-caliber kid with the survival instincts to carry the load in college."
Oddly enough, neither Jeff Piscitelli (Springville), last year's All-WNY quarterback, nor Gregg Barton (Nichols), the all-time WNY career leader in passing yards, will be featured at QB.
Piscitelli will play free safety, punt and kick off for the South.
"He would rather play full time on defense than do one-third of the quarterbacking," Gresock said. Brian Ayrault (Orchard Park) and Jamie Jayes (St. Francis) will be the South signal callers.
Barton will alternate with starter Wes Phillips (Williamsville North) for three quarters, then play defensive back in the fourth. Receiving targets will be Dan Tryon (Amherst) and Dan Hamister (Williamsville East).
Carlos Spencer (South Park) and Mark Rendell (Springville) will be tailbacks and Lake Shore's Chris Del Prince, who also will play nose tackle, and Dennis Martin will be at fullback for the South. Martin and Rendell will split time at a cornerback as well.
Reggie Whatley (Kenmore East) and Montrell Marks (Kensington) will alternate as the North tailbacks.
LIONS CLUB-TOPS ALL-STARS
1Marcus HallowayDTSweet Home
2Reggie WhatleyRBKenmore East
9Corey MalnikofRBWilliamsville East
10Wes PhillipsQBWilliamsville North
14Pete GrinnellFBNorth Tonawanda
19Frank PizzaCBNorth Tonawanda
20Pete FantiFBSt. Joseph's
35John EnglerLBWilliamsville North
50Tim CoxGWilliamsville East
54R.J. FilipiakLBSweet Home
63Andy YoderGWilliamsville South
68Keith MurphyTSt. Joseph's
69Jason SmithGKenmore East
74Brian SalayTNorth Tonawanda
75Charles TripiDTWilliamsville East
78Tim HedgesTKenmore East
80Dan HamisterWRWilliamsville East
86Mark PiwkoSKenmore W.
89Darren KresgeTE-DEKenmore W.
5Dennis MartinFB-DBLake Shore
7Carlos SpencerTBSouth Park
12Brian AyraultQBOrchard Park
15Jamie JayesQBSt. Francis
19Chris Del PrinceFBLake Shore
22Josh HaasRBSt. Francis
24Chris MarinaroRBTimon/St. Jude
30Ben KelseyDBW. Seneca West
44E.J. SnyderLBEast Aurora
54Erik ArdenskiLBW. Seneca West
57Jason BaldwinOLCleveland Hill
67Dan GabrielOLJohn F. Kennedy
71Rickardo LopezCLake Shore
72Joe Van SlyckeDETimon/St. Jude
73Jason ConidiOLOrchard Park
74Jeremy LingOLEast Aurora
75Jerome RobertsonDLGr. Cleveland
85Kyle DomogalaDLOrchard Park