Lackawanna's 13-12 loss last Friday at defending Section VI Class B football champion Southwestern means contests in that division will feel like a game of musical chairs during the final month of the season because three of five contenders won't be happy once the music stops.
The Steelers (3-1, 3-1) and Trojans (3-1, 2-1) are among the four one-loss teams tied for second behind unbeaten Springville (4-0, 3-0). Olean (3-1, 2-1) and surprising East Aurora (3-1, 2-1) are the other contenders as only the division champ and runner-up qualify for sectionals.
"This is turning into the black and blue division," said coach Bruce Lakso, whose Lackawanna Steelers are in playoff contention for the first time since losing the state title game in 2000. "It looks like last man standing wins. Someone might come out of this with one loss and might be on top of the heap but I think a second or third loss is going to really be devastating to somebody."
Springville, the News' No. 1 small school, has outscored its opponents, 115-23, but has the most difficult closing schedule among contenders as it must face each of the second-place teams beginning with Friday's game at East Aurora.
East Aurora hasn't had a winning season since finishing 5-3 in 1996 when it lost the Class C title game to Salamanca.
While Class B South is poised for an exciting finish, Cheektowaga (3-1, 3-0) and Medina (3-1, 3-0) are in control of the North side. These two teams don't face each other because there are nine teams in the division. Also Cheektowaga won't play newcomer Akron (3-1, 2-1) -- which needs some outside help to make the playoffs after a crushing 20-15 loss at Medina last Friday.
Cheektowaga's neighbors, John F. Kennedy (3-1, 2-1) and Cleveland Hill (2-2, 1-1), will be scrambling in Class C after each had losing weekends. Silver Creek (4-0, 2-0) leads the division, while Cassadaga Valley, Falconer and Salamanca each have one league loss. The top four finishers in this nine-team division make the playoffs.
In Class A, Starpoint hasn't had a winning season since 1996 and last appeared in a postseason contest in 1992. The Spartans (3-1, 2-0) have a chance to end both streaks, playing three of their next four games at home against Kenmore East, Sweet Home and Williamsville East. Starpoint, which has won six of eight games dating to last season, closes at Grand Island.
In Class AA, Niagara-Wheatfield (2-2, 2-0) is the surprise leader in the North Division and hosts a key showdown Saturday with perennial contender North Tonawanda (3-1, 2-1). Niagara Falls' quest for its first postseason berth should become clearer in the next two weeks as the Wolverines (2-2, 1-1) host Williamsville North (1-3, 1-2) and N-W before closing at NT and winless Lockport.
In Class AA South Lancaster (3-1, 2-1) is coming off a tough loss at NT and has a key showdown with unbeaten Orchard Park this Friday that will determine its postseason fate. The Quakers hook up with West Seneca West (4-0, 3-0) in Week Seven in a game that could decide the division.