Have the Tonawanda Warriors learned from the past? They'll find out at 7:30 p.m. Friday when they host the Medina Mustangs in a Section VI Football Federation Division IV showdown at Clinton H. Small Stadium.
Tonawanda (3-0), ranked second among small schools in The Buffalo News polls, is coming off a 27-18 win at Albion in a battle of unbeatens last Friday night. The Purple Eagles went into the game ranked third.
Here comes Medina, another undefeated small school and division foe, which is fresh off a 37-6 rout of Depew. The Mustangs are ranked fifth this week.
Two years ago Tonawanda notched a big win at Albion, always a tough venue for visiting teams. The Warriors returned home the next week and lost to a Newfane squad that had been winless to that point.
"Some of these kids were on that team and, hopefully, they haven't forgotten," Warriors coach Joe Shifflet said. "I don't think there will be any kind of letdown this time because the situation is different in that Medina is fighting us for the division title."
Tonawanda will be counting heavily on senior running back Joe Kusmierski, who has emerged as one of the best ball carriers in Western New York. He ran for 366 yards and four touchdowns against Albion.
The 5-foot-9, 175-pounder has great balance and acceleration. Shifflet, who is in his 28th season on the bench, spending the last four at Tonawanda after a long and successful stint at Sweet Home, calls Kusmierski one of the best he's ever coached.
Medina has a two-pronged running attack as Will King (106 yards, two TDs last week) and Anderson Darrell (100 yards) are both dangerous. Starting quarterback Joe Sanders broke his foot against Depew, so Jeff Balschmitter and Joe Lake will battle for the starting assignment in practice this week.
Panthers pining for Gibson
Sweet Home football fans got a bit of a scare during last Saturday's 25-6 win over LaSalle as outstanding junior running back J.J. Gibson played only about eight minutes before leaving the game.
Gibson, on the bench with the rest of the Sweet Home offense, approached coach John Faller complaining of symptoms indicating a possible concussion. Gibson could not remember receiving an especially hard hit on a particular play but said he wasn't feeling well.
He was examined at an area hospital Saturday night and doctors determined he had suffered only a mild concussion. A slight separation of his left shoulder also showed up on X-rays and Faller said that Gibson's availability for next Saturday's game against Kenmore East will be determined later in the week.
Gibson, who gained 303 and 123 yards in his first two varsity starts this season, had 45 yards in his brief duty against LaSalle.
"I felt bad for him, but that's part of the game," Faller said. "Running for 100 yards in a game isn't a big thing for him. He's a very gifted runner and we certainly need him in the lineup, but our main concern is how he feels later in the week."
Faller said he knew Gibson was something special when the youngster was called up from the junior varsity as a sophomore late last season.
"The first time he touched the ball, in a game against Lewiston-Porter, he ran 46 yards for a touchdown," Faller said.
OP coach reaches milestone
Saturday's 15-8, 15-6 win over Frontier in the championship match of the annual Clarence Tournament was especially sweet for Orchard Park boys volleyball coach Walt Stefani. It was his 300th career victory in a career spanning 20 seasons.
"It doesn't feel like it's been that long, but the calendar doesn't lie," Stefani said. "I'd like to think our success has been the coaching, but seriously, I've been blessed with a lot of talented kids in our program."
The Quakers are 5-0 this season and 2-0 in ECIC Division I. Stefani credits the team's torrid start to the work of players like 6-foot-4 senior Peter Fabbro, who had 96 kills and 18 blocks in the tournament while being named its most valuable player.
Other key contributors were setter Mike Rumschik, Brad Rossi and Beau Tice, all juniors.
Stefani led the Quakers to state championships in 1986 and 1991. In 1991, they posted a perfect 25-0 record. In 1994, Stefani was named New York state coach of the year.
Stokes hitting the road
Turner/Carroll basketball standout Leonard Stokes, who is one of the most highly recruited players in Western New York, will be paying visits to a couple of suitors in the next few weeks when he makes NCAA-approved visits to Cincinnati and Providence.
The NCAA's early signing period for basketball is in early November and both the Bearcats, who compete in Conference USA, and the Friars of the Big East are pursuing Stokes, a 6-foot-5 senior guard who was a second-team All-Western New York selection last season.
"Leonard is a fine player and a great person," said Turner/Carroll coach Fajri Ansari. "He is the kind of kid who works hard on his game all year 'round and, while he's very good now, I think he'll still get a lot better. When you look at the schools he's considering, both have a lot to offer."