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Week Nine walkthrough: Who's going to The Ralph?

Ten teams are one step away from The Ralph and the Section VI championships. So which five are going to make it?

Before voting on this week's games, let's take a look back at last week's numbers.

Kenmore West is a decided underdog going into Orchard Park, but they should be used to it after last week's voting.

Only 26.5 percent of 113 voters picked the Blue Devils to win its AA quarterfinal at home against Jamestown, and in our poll asking which large-school road team was most likely to win, 44.1 percent of 145 voters picked Jamestown. Final score: Kenmore West 27, Jamestown 0.

The other team to defy voters was Allegany-Limestone, which was picked by less than half (45.5 percent) of the 77 voters before its 12-7 win at Akron.

Only 10 percent of 113 voters picked the Gators as the small school to most likely to win on the road (A-L was the only one on the ballot that did win on the road; Randolph won on the road but purposely wasn't listed because of Class DD's size advantage over Class D).

There were only two other games that the majority of the masses got wrong: Depew was picked by 40.7 percent of 108 voters before its home win over East Aurora; Fredonia was picked by 44.4 of 90 before routing Maryvale at home.

Here's a rundown of the winners picked at the polls:

AA: Orchard Park (93.9 percent of 114 voters), Lancaster (89.8 of 108), North Tonawanda (70.9 of 86).

A: West Seneca East (55.6 of 108), Sweet Home (82.9 of 117) , Grand Island (67.3 of 107), Iroquois (86.3 of 102).

B: Alden (80.7 of 140), Lackawanna (90.0 of 110).

C: Southwestern (82.1 of 78), Silver Creek (78.1 of 73), Cleveland Hill (91.0 of 78).

D: Maple Grove (84.7 of 79), Randolph (78.9 of 76), Clymer (69.9 percent of 73), Portville (87.5 of 56).

And on to this week, with a mini-preview and my picks underneath each class:

Class AA: There's not much to say about picking Orchard Park (which remains ninth in USA Today's East Region rankings), particularly since it thumped Kenmore West in Week One.

In my tournament bracket I picked Lancaster, so I'll stick with that. If Class AA South is as half as good as its perceived to have been all season, it gets two teams to The Ralph. This has the makings of a tremendous game, and I'm very tempted to pick NT -- I've had my doubts about how good the Lumberjacks have been all season (which is almost only due to its schedule and that perception about AA North), but they keep answering those questions rather emphatically.

Class A: The picks are Class A North partners Sweet Home and Grand Island. Sweet Home seems on a mission with shutouts at Jamestown and home last week against Amherst. I expect a business-like win by the Panthers, although they better not underestimate the fight in the Trojans. I've voted Grand Island well ahead of Iroquois for the last several weeks because, based on the teams' results, I just think the Vikings are in a different class. Alex Neutz is a Player of the Year candidate, but GI can grind it out if it needs to as well -- and Iroquois has had trouble with teams grinding it out (Clarence is the best example).

Class B: I don't think defending champion Depew will go down without a serious fight, but I expect Capone Smith to lead Lackawanna. I picked Alden in my pre-tournament bracket, but I'm going with Fredonia. That's based in large part on last week's scores -- the Hillbillies romped over a Maryvale team in what was expected to be a much closer game; the Flyers played Alden and Depew tough early in the season and rolled into the playoffs. On the other hand, Alden's win (14-0 over Springville) was much closer than expected. Call it a nod (along with EA giving Depew a very good game) to the strength of Class B South. Also, there might be something to be said about how these are some hungry Hillbillies who were a win away from The Ralph last year.   

Class C: Like the Orchard Park pick, the Southwestern one is an easy one -- maybe easier -- since Southwestern won the team's first matchup, and on the road to boot. The Trojans love their new field and shouldn't have any trouble giving their fans a fine last show. Similar to last week's visit from Salamanca, I expect a tough game and a close win for Cleveland Hill over Silver Creek, even with the change of venue to a neutral Frontier due to Cleve Hill's field being a mess. I think the Eagles will be too fast for the Black Knights.

Class D: How huge is this Randolph-Maple Grove game? With last year looming over the Red Dragons' heads, this makes for just a tremendous matchup and a great atmosphere. Could the Cardinals pull off a win in Bemus Point again? I just can't see it happening. The pick is Maple Grove, and if the Dragons can get past this game, they could go a long way. On the other side, I think Class DD's Portville will have too much for Clymer.

Monsignor Martin: You can throw the records out for a rivalry game like St. Joe's-Canisius. Well, maybe not this year. Things are definitely trending towards a big Canisius win, and I think the Crusaders would love to make a statement on St Joe's new turf. Last year Canisius beat Joe's on back-to-back weeks, first by a touchdown and then by one point. But this is a new Canisius team. Should be interesting to hear what kind of reception the Rowdies give Canisius transfer Ricky Pringle, who played in those two games last year for St. Joe's.

In League A, the regular season game to watch for the last three seasons has been St. Mary's-Cardinal O'Hara, and the Hawks have won all three of them. O'Hara has also won the teams' second meeting in the championship game all three years. That's six straight wins, and I'll pick O'Hara to score a seventh. A few weeks ago, I was leaning the other way, but the Hawks showed they still have weapons with their recent win over St. Joe's.   

Harvard Cup: Once McKinley struggled out of the gate, the Riverside-Grover Cleveland game became the game of the year in the city. I'm picking Riverside because of what they do best -- defense. The Frontiers are on an extremely impressive run -- four straight shutouts after losing at Aquinas. While the Macks certainly struggled early, they are focused and roaring behind Kevin Chillis now, so we'll pick McKinley in what should be an outstanding game since playoff lives' are likely in the balance.

Now you have the floor -- exercise your right to vote and feel free to do some campaigning in the comments section below.

---Keith McShea

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