One year can make a big difference in many aspects of life.
Allegany-Limestone and Nichols are proving it's also true in the world of high school football.
Put bluntly, both were doormats last fall but have crafted new attitudes that are yielding far different results.
"Kids are starting to come back to our games and getting excited about us again," said junior Kevin Kirisits, a City of Tonawanda resident who has quarterbacked Nichols to a 2-2 start following last season's 2-7 record that saw the Vikings outscored, 278-79. "Everybody has a positive attitude. We had a solid [start] at a real high tempo. It's been a good year so far."
Ditto at Allegany-Limestone, which went 0-9 last season and was outscored, 238-54.
The Gators, ranked No. 8 in The Buffalo News' small schools poll, are off to a 4-0 start and have outscored their foes, 109-37.
The schools, which matched up last Saturday afternoon at Nichols' new Strauss Truscott Field, have more than early success in common.
They both have new coaches and each boasts a perfect record in league play -- Nichols 1-0 in League A of the Monsignor Martin Association and Allegany-Limestone at 3-0 in Class C South.
"Last year's 0-9 was an anomaly for Allegany," Nichols coach Colin Brinson said following a 37-0 loss to the Gators. "You knew they'd be back. They start a lot of seniors. We're still building with some younger guys. I think we learned from a program with a lot of experience."
A-L coach Paul Furlong insists there is no magic formula for turning things around.
"We have pretty good players," Furlong said without hesitation. "I think the 0-9 last year wasn't true to what that team was all about. A couple things went bad and everything kind of fell apart. They were right in most of the games last year until about the middle of the third quarter. The kids this summer, after I got hired, said 'we want to be better.'
"They killed themselves in the weight room and worked really hard to get prepared. A lot of these kids have won in a lot of sports. We won a basketball championship last year and the soccer team is always good. Baseball is traditionally strong. I think the football team has been pretty strong, they just haven't gotten over the edge. The attitudes were 'we want to win.' We're going in the right way."
A-L, which hasn't won a sectional football championship in 20 years, is just two years removed from a 7-3 campaign.
"It's just the effort that everybody is putting in," said A-L junior quarterback Connor King, who has passed for 277 yards and four touchdowns. "We worked hard all summer and we've kept going hard once the season started."
Said senior running back/linebacker Tim Forsythe: "This feels a lot better. We have a lot more leadership [and] last year it seemed like there was a lot more fighting. We've kind of come together this year with a new coach. [Furlong has] really whipped us into shape and taught us a lot about football."
Both schools will look to continue their turnarounds today. A-L, located about 5 miles from St. Bonaventure University in Cattaraugus County, hosts No. 3 Southwestern (4-0) at 7:30 p.m. with first place in the division on the line.
Nichols travels to Penfield at 3:30 p.m. for a nonleague game against Charles Finney of Section V, a rematch of the Vikings' 32-31, triple-overtime loss in Buffalo on Sept. 19. Nichols had won its first two games.
*Nichols and A-L aren't the only schools around Western New York enjoying comeback seasons. Bishop Timon-St. Jude (4-0), ranked eighth among large schools, hosts St. Joe's (1-3) on Tifft Farms' Paul Fitzpatrick Field at 7:30 tonight in the Tigers' biggest game in years.
Timon went 3-7 last season and 7-21 the last three years. Since the Tigers defeated the Marauders, 8-0, on Sept. 13, 2002, St. Joe's has won eight straight in the series and leads it, 38-23-2.
*No. 1 small school Lackawanna (4-0) travels to No. 4 Fredonia (4-0) in a battle for first place in Class B South. The Steelers have surrendered just eight points this season, one more than the Hillbillies.
*Class AA South, considered by many the toughest division in Section VI, has two key 7:30 p.m. games as No. 6 Clarence plays at No. 5 Lancaster and No. 10 Frontier heads to No. 1 Orchard Park.
*Jamestown (2-2) hosts its first night game ever at Strider Field and aims to stay in the AA South playoff hunt against West Seneca West (0-4) in Class AA South.
*No. 7 Grand Island (3-1) and Williamsville South (3-1), which have lost only to No. 3 Sweet Home (4-0), square off at South.
*No. 4 large school Iroquois is at Cheektowaga at 7 p.m. in a rematch of last year's regular season finale, a classic in which Cheektowaga won the A South title on a last-second field goal.
*If three-time defending champion McKinley (0-3) wants to keep its hopes for a return to the Harvard Cup playoffs alive, it must defeat East (0-4) in a 5 p.m. kickoff at All High Stadium.
*Saturday's schedule is highlighted by the 2 p.m. matchup of visiting St. Mary's (3-1) trying to beat No. 2 small school Cleveland Hill (4-0) for the second straight season; Canisius hosting defending Class A state champion Aquinas at its Robert J. Stransky Memorial Athletic Complex (2885 Clinton St., West Seneca) at 2; and Lafayette (3-1) and Riverside (3-1) meeting in the Harvard Cup at 12:30 p.m. at All High Stadium.