This edition of the Sweet Home football team is not as experienced as last year's state Class A championship outfit, considering the Panthers have a new offensive line, new signal caller and are without last year's stud running back Deshanaro Morris.
Yet, while the current Panthers may be a little more mistake prone than last year's perfect outfit at the moment, they still appear to be scary good.
Quarterback Pat McMahon finished with three touchdowns, while Sweet Home's defense kept visiting Clarence under wraps in opening the season with a 35-16 nonleague win Saturday afternoon before an estimated 1,500.
Sweet Home's win means all four defending state champions opened 2009 with victories. On Friday, Orchard Park and Maple Grove won in nail-biting fashion, while Southwestern won via blowout.
By the time Clarence reached the end zone, the Panthers had already turned this clash into a rout in securing the Panthers' 14th straight win.
McMahon (7 for 15, 105 yards) scored on runs of 6 and 21 yards to give Sweet Home a 14-0 halftime lead. After a Rob Nieman 5-yard TD run, McMahon threw a 22-yard scoring strike to D.J. Nettles.
Sweet Home had an emotional beginning to its season with Morris, last year's star running back, serving as a captain during the coin toss. Morris' promising career ended last January after he was paralyzed in a car accident. Morris also spoke to the team during halftime, according to Faller, who added that the Panthers have dedicated their season to him.
St. Francis 25, Bethlehem (Pa.) Catholic 21: The defending Monsignor Martin Association large school playoff champions rallied from an early 21-0 deficit behind three touchdowns by receiver Roland Kerr. Kerr, who began the comeback by returning a kickoff 87 yards for a score, gave the Red Raiders the lead for good by catching a 10-yard TD from Mike Chuchla with 6:55 left. Kerr caught five passes for 86 yards and also had a 35-yard TD reception. Chuchla, in his first varsity start, completed 12 of 19 passes for 168 yards.
St. Joe's 40, Niagara Falls 19: The Marauders pulled away from Niagara Falls after Durrell Crittenden's 60-yard punt return TD brought the Wolverines within 20-19 in the second quarter. St. Joe's quarterback Matt Rosenhahn (9 for 18, 173 yards; 14 carries for 67 yards) threw TD passes of 8, 57 and 17 yards and scored on a 1-yard keeper late in the first half to spark the Marauders' 20-0 closing blitz.
Lancaster 49, Kenmore West 7: Quarterback Justin Juda and the Redskins proved to be too much for host Ken West. Juda finished with four touchdowns, including three passing TDs during a 10-of-13, 219-yard performance. Juda threw scoring strikes of 26 and 98 yards to Andrew Mrozek (three catches, 128 yards) and a 29 yarder to Eric Rindo. Cleveland Hill 24, Maryvale 6: Bragging rights in this Town of Cheektowaga battle went to Cleve Hill as Dennis Thomas rushed for 103 yards on 20 carries and also recorded an interception. Ron Lawrence rushed for two scores and a conversion. Jacob Zielinski had 12 tackles and a sack.
Niagara-Wheatfield 21, West Seneca West 13: Ken Alexander returned an interception 55 yards for a TD with 18 seconds left as the Falcons made a winner of Dave Hack in his coaching debut. Early in the fourth, N-W's defense forced West Seneca West to fumble the ball out of its end zone for a safety to break a 13-13 tie.
West Seneca East 14, Starpoint 0: Bill Fildes rushed for 121 yards, scoring on runs of 2 and 77 yards in the win. West Seneca East rushed for 350 yards and preserved the shutout with a goal-line stand at the end.
Lake Shore 24, Kenmore East 14: Patrick Gilman caught a 45-yard TD and rushed for a 5-yard score for the Eagles. Matt Kennedy also had a TD in the win, rushing for 161 yards on 32 carries and adding seven tackles.
Class B South
Lackawanna 12, Olean 7: Junior John Brown (29 carries, 145 yards) followed a block by freshman tackle Javon Smith and sprinted to a 37-yard touchdown run for the Steelers with 4:59 left in the game. Christian Cheatom caught five passes for 75 yards and also forced a fumble to end Olean's drive in the final minutes.
Class C North
Eden 50, JFK 0: Julian Bermington had three interceptions, including a school record 101-yard interception return for Eden.
On the Web
For complete results of Friday night's action, go to buffalonews.com/highschool and the Prep Talk blog. That's also where you can voice your opinion on what you saw on the field and check out other readers' comments.