This weekend is one of the most important of the high school football season. Not only do 10 games determine who is headed to Ralph Wilson Stadium next week to play in the Section VI finals, there also are some key battles in other leagues.
Some scheduling tweaks give fans a chance to see a few games. Here's a walkthrough:
The weekend starts with the 5 p.m. Harvard Cup matchup at All High Stadium between Lafayette and McKinley, which has won three straight behind Kevin Chillis (1,060 yards in those games). With both teams 3-3 in the league, this game could decide a playoff spot.
There is a marquee Section VI semifinal in the Northtowns, Southtowns and the Southern Tier.
A 7 p.m. kickoff at North Tonawanda has the No. 2 large school Lumberjacks (8-0) hosting No. 5 Lancaster (6-2). NT has played all season with the intent of erasing last year's home semifinal loss to Lancaster, 12-7.
At Lackawanna, the No. 1 small school Steelers (8-0) host last year's champion and seventh-ranked Depew (6-2) at 7:30 p.m. Depew beat East Aurora in the quarterfinals by the same score (20-17) that Lackawanna did the previous week.
At Bemus Point at 7:30 p.m., a Class D matchup many have been pointing toward has undefeated Maple Grove hosting Randolph, which has won six straight after losing its first two, including a 37-6 Week Two loss to the Red Dragons. However, the same scenario occurred last year and visiting Randolph won the semifinal, 12-7.
In other games, Orchard Park, the state's top-ranked AA team, hosts Kenmore West for the second time this season. OP won, 44-6, in Week One. . . . St. Francis hosts Bishop Timon-St. Jude at 7. . . . In Class C, Southwestern (8-0) hosts Allegany-Limestone (5-3) four weeks after it beat the host Gators, 28-0.
Are you ready for a full day of football?
Fans who want to get out really early can take in the 10 a.m. kickoff at All High that has Burgard taking on East in a game crucial to those teams' playoff chances; both are 2-4 with two games to play.
Then it's time for the Game of the Year in the Harvard Cup as Riverside takes on Grover Cleveland at 12:30 p.m. at All High. Both teams have separated themselves at the top of the standings. Riverside has recorded four shutouts in a row while Grover will surely be hungry after suffering its first loss last week (to East).
From there, depending on your allegiances there are four great 2 p.m. options.
In Section VI, No. 3 large school Sweet Home (8-0) -- which has surrendered just seven points during the last three weeks -- hosts No. 8 West Seneca East (6-2) in a Class A semifinal.
Frontier is the site for a Class C game between No. 2 small school Cleveland Hill (8-0) and No. 9 Silver Creek (7-1) -- the game was moved due to Cleveland Hill's field being muddied by recent rain. Speedy Cleveland Hill, after winning by blowout most of the season, has won its last two games by a combined 20 points. That includes a 12-0 win last week over Salamanca, which lost, 21-0, to Silver Creek in Week Five.
The Monsignor Martin Association small-school (League A) game that everyone has waited for all year has host St. Mary's trying to knock off three-time defending champion Cardinal O'Hara. O'Hara has beaten St. Mary's six straight times.
And then there is Buffalo's version of The Game: The new turf at St. Joe's hosts its first Canisius-St. Joe's contest. Canisius is a decided favorite, being ranked seventh among large schools with a 4-3 mark while the Marauders are 2-6. Canisius won two games from St. Joe's last year -- one in the regular season and one a week later in the playoffs -- by a combined eight points.
Some rare Saturday night games, which were pushed back a day due to logistical concerns related to Friday being Halloween night, both shape up to be very ready for prime time.
In Class A, No. 4 large school Grand Island (7-1) is at No. 6 Iroquois (7-1) at 7 p.m. Returning All-WNY wide receiver Alex Neutz has been outstanding for Grand Island, while the same can be said for returning All-WNY first-team running back Brandon Murie of Iroquois.
In Class B, Alden (8-0) looks to continue a sterling season against Fredonia (7-1) at 7:30 in what should be an electric atmosphere. Neither team has been to The Ralph in a while -- Alden's last trip was in 1991 while the Hillbillies' only trip was their 1985 win.