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IMPROVED ST. JOE'S SURGING INTO REMATCH WITH ST. FRANCIS

The St. Francis football team's 21-0 win over St. Joe's was in Week Three, but it seems an entire season ago.

That was before St. Francis' rise and fall in the national rankings, and it was the last game St. Joe's, winners of four straight behind junior quarterback Naaman Roosevelt, didn't reach the end zone.

St. Francis (7-2) and St. Joe's (7-2) meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Ralph Wilson Stadium for the Monsignor Martin League AA championship, and the Red Raiders know that the Roosevelt they'll be trying to keep an eye on has become a lot more dangerous since they last saw him.

"Roosevelt has come into his own," St. Francis coach Jerry Smith said of the Marauders. "He's definitely a force to be reckoned with. He's become more comfortable about when to throw and when to run, that's the biggest thing: he knows when to leave (on a run) and when not to."

Roosevelt, a 6-foot-2, 180-pound junior, has completed 65 of 128 passes for 11 touchdowns and 1,141 yards while running for 572 yards and seven TDs on 88 carries. St. Joe's will also turn to senior RB Turell Ahmed, who had 213 yards in the semifinals against Timon/St. Jude for a season total of 708 yards and seven TDs on 88 carries.

"We're a much better team now," said St. Joe's coach Bob O'Connor. "We're running the ball better. Turell had his best game all year long against Timon and he's going to play a big part of this game. If he can run, that will take some pressure off Naaman. Last time (against St. Francis) we put all the onus on Naaman to win the game for us."

St. Francis has won both championship games since the Monsignor Martin Association instituted a playoff format in 2002. Last year it beat St. Joe's, 34-14, after winning by 35-0 in the regular season.

St. Francis' win over the Marauders was powered by three touchdowns and 224 rushing yards by senior standout Zak Kedron. The St. Joe's win was one week before St. Francis' momentous win at St. Ignatius in Cleveland, Ohio, which vaulted them into the USA Today national top 25, and their thudding 50-7 loss to McDowell of Erie, Pa., the following week.

"(Our players) know that coming into this game we have to be focused or else all the things we've accomplished will be washed away," said Smith. "It would be a disappointing season if we don't accomplish this first goal, and our first goal is to win our league."

St. Mary's is seeking a fifth straight League A championship in the school's 100th year and coach Mark Warner's first season. The Lancers take on a Walsh team it thumped, 39-14, in Week Five behind a typically strong performance from senior RB Adam Bistoff (three TDs, 138 yards).

Far West Regionals

Class AA: Orchard Park -- and the rest of the state -- knew about Webster Schroeder, which has won two state titles, was the runner-up last year and spent the entire season ranked second in the state AA poll. Saturday, OP will get to know Webster Thomas. The school whose varsity was restarted in 2002 has grown up quickly -- Thomas knocked off Schroeder on its way to the Section V title. Tyler Scaccia is a 5-foot-10, 180-pound senior who is making up for missing last season due to injuries: 133 carries, 1,237 yards, 13 touchdowns.

Class A: Where did these guys come from? Both Iroquois and Eastridge won their first sectional titles by knocking off favored teams along the way. Iroquois smashed its way to a 28-6 win at favored Sweet Home before surviving Lew-Port last week. Eastridge, located in East Irondequoit, racked up 565 yards in beating perennial power Victor, which was 9-0 and ranked second in the state. Iroquois will be watching Mr. Rogers: the Lancers are led by 5-10, 180-pound sophomore quarterback Kenny Rogers and older brother Will Rogers, who combined for six touchdowns vs. Victor.

Class B: Southwestern, which won the most competitive bracket in Section VI for its first championship, takes on a Hornell team which is undefeated, ranked third in the state and won its seventh Section V crown behind Kirk Luvison's 131-yard, 21-carry effort in a 21-20 victory over Geneva.

Class C: Another first-time Section VI winner in Falconer meets another undefeated Section V power in LeRoy. LeRoy's Oatkan Knights, ranked first in the state, won their 11th Section V title by beating Marcus Whitman, 17-6. LeRoy has a dominating defense to complement an well-rounded offense. Coach Dan Krenzer's Falcons have surged behind RB Curt Jones, who is on the verge of a 2,000-yard season (1,991).

Class D: Ellicottville takes on an Oakfield-Alabama team which won its first sectional title behind QB Matt Ware, RB Kyle Hall and its dizzying double-wing offense that racked up 370 rushing yards in a 44-13 win over Bolivar-Richburg in the Section V final.

Harvard Cup

One of the most exciting and balanced league races in recent history presents two great semifinal matchups, including a repeat from last week: Hutch-Tech will play two-time defending Harvard Cup champion South Park after Tech beat the Sparks, 22-14, in overtime last week at All High.

A touchdown pass from Rodney Pierce -- who has led the Engineers to a 6-1 mark since joining the team in Week Three -- to Bryan Burch with 1:43 left in the fourth quarter helped complete the Engineers' comeback from a 14-0 hole, and his 7-yard TD in overtime was the winner. RB Sammy Smith and defensive standouts Greg Cherry and Sebastien Herbert-Andrews have made plenty of big plays for the Engineers this year. Randy Calloway and Ariel Santiago have been explosive for the Sparks, and if things get close, Zack Rojek can convert field goals.

Riverside and McKinley have the same record (6-3) and were separated by a lone touchdown during their Week Six meeting at The Ralph, when Robbie Comer's 26-yard TD run with 31 seconds left gave Riverside the win. Comer and Antwan Ceasar rushed for over 100 yards against the Macks while Mike Williams has been an all-around standout. McKinley RB Chris Pratt has run for more than 200 yards the last two weeks.

CHAMPIONSHIP WEEK

Monsignor Martin Championships

Wednesday at Ralph Wilson Stadium
League A
Walsh (6-3) vs. St. Mary's (5-4), 5 p.m.
Week Five: St. Mary's, 39-14.
League AA
St. Joe's (7-2) vs. St. Francis (6-2), 7 p.m. (1330 AM and www.wnywired.net)
Week Three: St. Francis, 21-0.

Far West Regionals

At Ralph Wilson Stadium
Friday's games
Class D
Ellicottville (9-1) vs. V-Oakfield-Alabama (9-1), 5 p.m.
State ranking (entering last week): O-A fifth, Ellicottville eighth.
Saturday's games
Class C
Falconer (9-1) vs. V-LeRoy (10-0), 10 a.m.
State ranking: LeRoy first, Falconer seventh.
Class B
Southwestern (9-1) vs. V-Hornell (10-0), 1 p.m.
State ranking: Hornell third, Southwestern 12th.
Class A
Iroquois (8-2) vs. V-Eastridge (8-2), 4 p.m.
State ranking: Iroquois 16th, Eastridge honorable mention.
Class AA
Orchard Park (9-1) vs. V-Webster Thomas (10-0), 7 p.m.
State ranking: Webster Thomas fourth, Orchard Park 18th.

Harvard Cup Semifinals

Saturday at All High Stadium
South Park (5-4) vs. Hutch-Tech (7-2), 10 a.m.
(1440 AM and www.wjjl.com, 4 p.m. tape delay)
Week Ten: Hutch-Tech, 22-14 (OT).
Riverside (6-3) vs. McKinley (6-3), 2 p.m. (1440 AM and www.wjjl.com)
Week Six: Riverside, 6-0.

e-mail: kmcshea@buffnews.com

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