There's never been a Buffalo News sports preview section cover like this year's high school football cover. Because there wasn't just one cover: there were five.
As early as June, there were discussions among Sports Editor Steve Jones, Assistant Sports Editor Dennis Danheiser and Assistant Graphics Editor Vincent J. Chiaramonte about producing different section covers for each of our five editions. After some further brainstorming at a high school sports staff meeting in mid-July, the parameters were set: five different covers, three players per cover.
Reporters Mary Jo Monnin and myself whittled down a list of 15 of some of the best returning players for the 2007 season. The selection process was less stressful than any All-Western New York meetings, because we were just looking for a general group of top players. It could have been tricky since we were seeking players to represent different regions, but luckily things fell into place for us fairly easily.
Our final group certainly includes some of the best players, and they're from all corners of Western New York. The group of 15 players hails from four counties (Erie, Niagara, Orleans and Chautauqua) and 14 schools which cover every classification in Section VI (AA, A, B, C, D) as well as the Harvard Cup and both leagues of the Monsignor Martin Assocition. Cardinal O'Hara is the only school with two players represented, thanks to returning first-team All-Western New York players Reggie Garner and Jackie Feggans.
Here are the players:
CENTRAL: St. Joe's senior QB/DB Phil Scaffidi, Canisius senior RB/LB Justin Volk and McKinley senior WR/DB Willie Burnett.
NORTH: Senior RB/LBs Garner and Feggans of Cardinal O'Hara and Sweet Home senior OL/DL Nick Christman.
SOUTH: Iroquois senior OL/DL Josh Jesonowski, Orchard Park senior RB/LB Joe Leavell and Lackawanna senior OL/DL Joe Webb.
NIAGARA: North Tonawanda sophomore WR Aaron Davis, Niagara-Wheatfield QB/DB Kevin Ogiba and Albion senior OG/DL David Skrip.
WESTERN NEW YORK: Southwestern senior OT/DT Jon King, Falconer senior QB/DB Mitch Schrecongost and Maple Grove senior QB Tom Secky.
We had the players suit up as they would on gameday -- even it was the second day of summer practice. The photos were taken in our studio by News photographer James P. McCoy as he and Chiaramonte came up with the best angle and lighting for the portraits. Chiaramonte came up with the look for the covers, designing the logos, backdrop and color schemes. The result is high school players' photos getting some major-league treatment.
All that was left was a headline to tie it all together. With all of Western New York's players about to hit the field after putting in all their hard work in the offseason, we went with "Jacked up!"
Check out the covers at www.buffalonews.com/sports/highschool. All five covers are available. To order one, contact The News' Single Copy Sales Department at 849-4027.
--- Keith McShea