While the 2001 Kenmore East and Kenmore West football teams will be writing a page in the history books this weekend, the 1969 team of Kenmore West will be reading from its page.
Memories of Kenmore West's national championship team of 1969 will be rekindled when the entire squad is recognized as members of the school's Hall of Fame during a halftime ceremony Saturday.
At least 35 of the 51 players are expected to attend the Homecoming game at 2 p.m. at Crosby Field. The induction ceremony will be Friday at Warren's Restaurant in the City of Tonawanda.
In the past the hall has recognized only individual athletes or coaches. This is the first time an entire team is being enshrined. The Blue Devils were awarded the national championship by the Junior Super Bowl Association after their season's accomplishments were fed into a computer and compared with other teams around the country.
"I don't know whether the rating system is justified or what," coach Jules Yakapovich told The Buffalo Evening News in 1969. "The point is a national ranking is something that gives us pride. It's just beautiful."
Heisman Trophy winner O.J. Simpson, who was playing in his first season with the Buffalo Bills, made an appearance at the school and presented trophies to the players during a ceremony in the auditorium.
"He got a standing ovation back then. I don't know if he'd get one now," said Tom Haug, one of the team's tri-captains.
The cannon that would fire after each Kenmore West touchdown got a workout in 1969. The team finished with an 8-0 record while averaging a point a minute. The offense, led by quarterback Rob Sutton, averaged 49 points per game, while its radar defense held opponents to just 6.6. Sutton, along with Gary Striecher and Haug, were the only players to play three years on the varsity.
Haug will never forget the game at Tonawanda.
"We went to the bus at halftime for our talk," he said, noting that Tonawanda did not have locker rooms for visitors. "When we got out of the bus after halftime, the guard would not let us re-enter the stadium through the gate. We were close to tearing it down, climbing over it, most anything. Coach Yakapovich told us to walk around to the front entrance, and afterward we scored 45 points and finished the game, 52-14."
Here's a look at this year's Kenmore East vs. Kenmore West game, along with the other rivalry games this weekend.
Kenmore East at Kenmore West
Who could blame Kenmore East fans if they're still savoring last year's 34-18 win?
"Last year I heard parents who were giving us 20 points, and it turned out the opposite," said East coach Matt Chimera. "It's always an emotional game, and a couple breaks here and there, the game can go either way."
Kenmore West had won 16 in a row in the series before Kenmore East broke through. East will have added incentive this year as a win earns it a spot in the Class AA playoffs.
KICKOFF: Saturday, 2 p.m., Crosby Field
RECORDS: East 5-2, West 3-4.
LAST YEAR: Kenmore East, 34-18
SERIES RECORD: Kenmore West, 26-15
SERIES STARTED: 1959
PLAYERS TO WATCH: West: QB Justin Cicatello, QB Kenny Campbell, RB Mike Dunn, TE Jason Rogers. East: RB/LB Aaron Robinson, QB/CB Mark Bly, RB Paul DeSantis, WR/LB Jeff Bly.
Tonawanda at North Tonawanda
The T-NT game has been a fixture in the Twin Cities since the days when a football team was called a "scholastic 11" and fans arrived two to three hours early just to get a seat.
A 1938 article in the Niagara Press captured the emotion of the event when it reported that "newcomers in the Twin Cities are at a loss to account for the tremendous and vital interest in football. They stand aghast as old-timers argue as to who carried the ball that made the winning touchdown back in 1911 or what the weather was for the Turkey Day contest in 1916."
In one of the most memorable games, played in 1911, Tonawanda coach Legrand Simson filed a formal protest claiming NT greased its pants at halftime, "thus making it difficult to tackle them." The charges led to a five-year lapse in games.
Rivalry week at North Tonawanda includes the annual "Burning of the Jinx," in which a stuffed dummy of a Tonawanda Warrior is charred in the middle of a bonfire. Early in the week, the football players, cheerleaders and some seniors go in full rivalry garb to the district's elementary schools to promote the rivalry.
The Warriors' Ryan Smith, playing in his third T-NT game, scored three touchdowns in last year's contest. Both teams are out of their respective playoff races at 4-3.
KICKOFF: Friday, 6 p.m., George Vetter Stadium
RECORDS: N. Tonawanda 4-3, Tonawanda 4-3.
LAST YEAR: Tonawanda, 24-21
SERIES RECORD: North Tonawanda leads, 51-31-9
SERIES STARTED: 1904
PLAYERS TO WATCH: NTHS: RB Brandon Decheine, OG/DT Joe Scalice, OG/DT Brian Weich, MLB Mike Tucker. THS: RB Ryan Smith, QB Adam Bacon, T Carl Lamm, T D.J. Bako.
Lancaster at Depew
Could anyone have possibly known what the future held back in 1919 when Depew's Guy Wheeler returned a punt 95 yards for the game's only score in the first game of the rivalry?
It doesn't matter that Lancaster and Depew haven't played in the same division since 1960, or that the Redskins have won the last eight, or that Lancaster has more than twice as many students (1,328-592) -- Depew's Constantino Complex will be rocking Friday night.
While modern distractions compete for attention, the Lancaster-Depew game is still the biggest social event in the Twin Villages.
Perhaps the fever pitch created when businesses would close and put up a sign that read, "Gone to the game," is gone, but this rivalry endures.
"It's built on a community rivalry. Depew is two blocks away from Lancaster," said Depew coach Dan McGrath. "If there were one game played in the season, it would be this one."
While both teams have qualified for the Section VI playoffs, Lancaster enters the game ranked No. 8 in the Northeast by USA Today and No. 1 in the state in Class AA. The Wildcats will hit the road for a Class B playoff game next week.
The student governments at both schools are working to organize a balloon release. The groups will sell balloons at the door. They will be released simultaneously after the singing of the national anthem. Proceeds from the sale benefit the Red Cross relief effort.
KICKOFF: Friday, 7:30 p.m., Constantino Complex
RECORDS: Lancaster 7-0, Depew 6-1.
LAST YEAR: Lancaster, 20-14
SERIES RECORD: Lancaster leads, 42-25-6
SERIES STARTED: 1919
PLAYERS TO WATCH: LHS: QB Jason Myszka, RB Kirk Durkin, FB Eric Rupp, K Derek Ziders, OL/DL Justin Laurienzo, OL/DL Rick Eicheldinger. DHS: RB/LB Mike Carrubba, SE/DB Kevin Szczublewski, OT/DT Tom Kazmierczak, FB/LB Matt Domino, TE/DE/P Chase Graver.
West Seneca East at West Seneca West
With West holding a slim, 16-15, lead in the series, this one's personal. With everyone living in West Seneca, most of the students from both schools know each other and often work at the same businesses. That makes it even more important to win.
The McDonald's on Union Road in West Seneca has a payroll with students who attend both schools. Lisa DiMartino, a senior at East, has worked there for the past 15 months.
"We always have this controversy. They say West is better I'm like -- whatever," she said. "There a lot of people from East and West, and we argue on what school is better."
Dennis VanDover, a senior at East, has worked there since the beginning of the school year.
"It (the rivalry) comes up occasionally; usually I say our school is going to destroy your school," he said.
Junior Jolene McKibbin comes to the rescue for West.
"We just say, 'No, West is best,' and they say whatever comes to mind," she said. "There are a lot of things said. Sometimes fights start, they just argue and stuff."
The coaches from East and West won't have to introduce themselves before the game. Not only did both graduate from East, they've known each other since elementary school. West's Jim Kuhn is a 1979 graduate, while East's Pat Braunschidel got out in 1981.
"We kind of kid each other and we get along real well, except for Friday night," said Kuhn.
Said Braunschidel: "We're friends for 364 days and 22 hours a year."
The teams will be playing for the traditional green and gold helmet, presented each year to the winning team. This year's game will be the third under the lights.
KICKOFF: Friday, 7 p.m., W.S. West Field
RECORDS: West Seneca East: 1-6, WSW: 3-4
LAST YEAR: West Seneca West, 44-18
SERIES RECORD: West Seneca West, 16-15
SERIES STARTED: 1969
PLAYERS TO WATCH: WSW: RB/DB Josh Jablonski, FB/CB Eric Delecki, TE/LB Matt Simon, DT/OT Jake Anderson. WSE: RB/DE Chris Dusza, QB/LB Joe Korcynski, FB/LB Josh Weiss.
Medina at Albion
The Mustangs aren't in an enviable position having to travel to Albion, the second-ranked small school in Western New York and the No. 3 team in the state. The Mustangs are down to 19 players. Sophomore quarterback Kevin Eick was lost for the season after suffering a concussion against Tonawanda. One of the bright spots has been running back Greg Hodgins, who needs 50 yards for 2,000.
"Hey, it's a rivalry, and we haven't been doing well, but I give these guys credit, they've got guts and they don't give up, so they're learning something I guess," said coach Nick Benedetti.
Albion has won 10 of its last 12.
"Our kids get excited to play them. These kids are pretty resilient, they'll come ready to play," said Albion coach Dick Diminuco.
It will be an emotional game for the Purple Eagles, who are mourning the death of 30-year assistant and retired math teacher Gary Kingsburg, 56, who died Oct. 12.
KICK OFF: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
RECORDS: Albion 7-0, Medina 1-6
LAST YEAR: Albion, 40-14
SERIES RECORD: Albion, 43-38-4
SERIES STARTED: 1920
PLAYERS TO WATCH: MHS: RB Greg Hodgins, LB Nick Hermann, RB/LB Bill Forder. AHS: LB Brad Watkins, DE/RB LeAaron Newsome, RB/WR Kellen Cooper, DL/OL Marcus Jones.
Dunkirk at Fredonia
With the Marauders and the Hillbillies bringing up the rear in Class B South, a win Friday would be a real season-maker for either team.
"It always is (a big game) no matter what the records are," said Dunkirk coach Mark Benton. "I know we're not big on the wins, but the B division is very solid. We're not one of those teams getting blown out, 34-0. We practice hard every week."
The host Hillbillies have a pep rally planned the afternoon of the game and a pregame parade which finishes by marching into the stadium.
"Our records may not be the greatest the last couple years, but it's for bragging rights for the next year, and when we play, pretty much the whole community is there from both schools," said Fredonia coach Bob Ball.
KICKOFF: Friday, 7:30 p.m., Orange BowlRECORDS: Dunkirk 1-6, Fredonia 1-6
LAST YEAR: Fredonia, 18-7
SERIES RECORD: Dunkirk, 63-34-11
SERIES STARTED: 1901
PLAYERS TO WATCH: DHS: RB Jose Ruiz, DE/Rick Zappie, QB/S Jared Popiglia. FHS: RB/DE Matt Marshall, RB/LB Dan Potter, TE/DB Simone Karalia.