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Season opens with rankling rankings

The St. Joe's football team is 2-0. The Marauders are one of the best teams in the area, and they're coming off one of their greatest wins in recent history, a 29-27 road win at two-time defending large school poll champion St. Francis.

But in this week's large school poll, St. Joe's isn't ranked No. 1. Not only that, it only got two first-place votes.

It wasn't a surprise to St. Joe's coach Bob O'Connor. He's been through this before.

In 1998, the Marauders finished 10-0, but only reached the top of the rankings in the last poll of the season.

"In 1998 we had to fight to the very end of the season, and even then the vote was 6-3 with an abstention," he said.

"It comes down to same old thing it's always been, this feeling of the public school people for the Catholic schools. It comes down to that and I don't know what will rectify that. The only people that are getting hurt are the kids."

The first two polls of the season do seem to back up O'Connor's claim.

St. Francis, which last season earned the highest national ranking for a team from Western New York and finished atop the poll the last two seasons, lost its opener by a touchdown (21-14) to visiting Cardinal Mooney of Ohio. Mooney is a defending state champion from Ohio, where the high school football is, without question, exponentially better than it is here. Voters rewarded the Red Raiders by placing them at No. 9 in the season's first poll. (The News has one vote of 10 on the poll and does not disclose votes of the pollsters).

This week, after losing to St. Joe's in a game that went down to the final moments, St. Francis is out of the top 10 entirely after hardly getting any support from voters (10 points).

St. Joe's is second in the poll to Sweet Home, which received five first-place votes. Sweet Home is a great team, but it is in the area's second-largest classification, and its two wins came against fellow Class A schools (Kenmore East and Grand Island), which didn't make the playoffs last year.

It is just a poll, and debating "Who's No. 1?" is part of the fun. But when it comes to comparing football teams in Western New York, polls are all we have. It certainly would be nice if high school football fans could see some of these teams actually play each other in some nonleague games, but Section VI large school football coaches stubbornly refuse to play Catholic schools. And as long as the best teams from Western New York don't play each other, high school football in this area won't be as good as it could be.

"I'm sure the kids will be disappointed," O'Connor said of the rankings. "The kids don't understand how it works because they're innocent. They don't know the politics. They think things are on the up-and-up. That's the injustice of it all. This whole thing -- high school football -- is for the kids. And at this time, it's such a big part of their life. All the Catholic schools want is a square shake and we're really not getting that right now."

Harvard Cup Hall announced

The fourth class of the Harvard Cup Hall of Fame will be inducted in a ceremony on Sept. 24 at Pettibone's Grille in Dunn Tire Park.

The class: Les Boehmer (Seneca coach), Fred Brown (Bennett coach), Walter Brown (Grover Cleveland), Robert Carnevale (Lafayette), Herbert Coyne (South Park coach), Peter Diabo (Seneca), Joseph DiVincenzo (Riverside), Robert Edwards, Jr. (Kensington), Larry Gallin (Riverside), Donald Ganci (Grover Cleveland), Robert Johnson (Riverside), Richard Leous (Bennett), Hugh Lipsius (Kensington coach), Thomas Oatmeyer (Riverside), Jerry Obstein (South Park/Bennett coach), William Piccolo (East), Steve Poliachik (McKinley), Charles Rojek (Seneca), Christopher Roosevelt (Grover Cleveland), James Simon (Riverside coach), Haskell Singer (Masten), Frank Szafranski (Burgard), Fred Vollmar (Bennett), Arnie Weintraub (Bennett).

There will be an open bar during cocktail hour from 6 to 7; the ceremony will begin at 7 with a buffet dinner to follow. The cost is $35. Reservations should be made by calling 816-4633 and paid for at the door by cash or check.

Around the halls

The Mount St. Mary girls soccer team scored a nice early win by beating Nichols, 4-0, in the Vikings' Monsignor Martin Association debut last Tuesday. . . . The 39-yard field goal by senior Mike Benn for the Riverside football team in its 23-8 win over Bennett was the first field goal for Benn and the first field goal in coach Tony Truilizio's four-year tenure.


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