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High school football: Day One from St. Joe's and St. Francis

Just got back from watching St. Joe's and St. Francis on their first day. Wasn't able to see any 7-on-7 or 11-on-11 stuff at either camp, but did get to speak with Joe's quaterback Chad Kelly and St. Francis running back Akeel Lynch.

Lynch and Kelly are regarded as the top two prospects in the area. Over the summer Kelly comitted to play at Clemson and Lynch comitted to Boston College.

Highlights from the summer for Kelly included meeting numerous NFL and college level quaterbacks and being named one of the best QBs in the country at the Elite Eleven camp in Malibu, Calif.

But on Monday Kelly was all about getting his team back to the Monsignor Martin championship game.

"I'm ready to win a championship again, hopefully we can repeat," Kelly said. "St. Francis, they reloaded, Canisius, they reloaded too. It's going to be a great league again this year and hopefully we can get back to another championship. Hopefully we get new chemistry with all these new players and hopefully they are ready to go."

St. Joe's has lost 16 players from last year's squad said heach coach Dennis Gilbert.

As for Lynch, he said he is hoping to be able to play a full 12 games this year. Lynch was forced to sit on the bench for the season's final six weeks because of a ruptured tendon in a finger on his left hand.

One of those six games just happened to be a loss to St. Joe's in the championship game.

"I only played half the season last year. My first goal is to just make it through the season," Lynch said with a laugh. "Then just take it one game at a time. We're trying to go and win every game, that's our goal."

Lynch also said that even though he is comitted to Boston College he still plans on looking at other schools before signing his letter of intent.

St. Francis coach Jerry Smith was pretty optomistic about his teams chances. He said that he thinks he has 22 solid players that he can rely on. As always with high school football though, Smith wondered about his teams depth.

I have to go write a notebook up for tomorrow's paper now, but check back here later. If some stuff doesn't make it into the notebook I might put it up here.


More from St. Francis

For the second straight year St. Francis head coach Jerry Smith helped setup offseason work outs for his team with John Opfer in the Northtown Center as a part of Opfer’s Proformance Sports Training. This offseason, a group of 20 players from the Red Raiders football team worked out with Opfer twice a week. Recently, Opfer worked with Dominic Cook, who was signed as an unrestricted free agent by the Bills and then released.

In years past Smith has helped arranged for his players to do yoga and martial arts to help get ready for the upcoming season.

"What I've done over the years, I've been here for over 30 years, every year I try to do something different," Smith said. "We do something a little bit different to get the kid's interest and get them away from me in general.

"A lot of stuff that I do is the college stuff. I take them to camps, to look at schools and stuff. I could teach them the same things, but I'm not their mom and dad and they don't want to see me every minute of the day."

The sessions started after the conclusion of the high school basketball season in March and went up to last week.

The feedback from the players seems to suggest its something that is going to help the team this year.

Running back Akeel Lynch said that the training helped him decide to stay in Buffalo for the summer. Lynch is originally from Toronto, but transferred to St. Francis last year to get more exposure for a potential collegiate career. He committed to Boston College last month.

Also benefitting from the training was lineman Miles Bartholomew. The 6-foot-4 270 pounder enjoyed the sessions and said they helped keep him in shape over the offseason.

"It helped us with athleticism and speed and towards the end of the training sessions we began doing position specific things," he said.

Smith said that Opfer will be coming to some of St. Francis' upcoming practices to work with the team more.


I also spent time talking with Bartholomew about his prospects for college. Head coach Jerry Smith told me that Bartholomew had offers from Maine and Albany and was asked to walk on at Penn State.

I asked Bartholomew about where he wanted to go and the first school he mentioned was Stanford. He said that Stanford gave him a preferred walk-on status, similar to what he has at Penn State. He was at Stanford this summer for workouts.

Bartholomew also said that he was supposed to travel with Lynch to Penn State for a visit about a week before camp, but couldn't make it out.

The lineman is thinking about his prospects for next year, but said that he is trying to keep it behind his goals for the upcoming season.

“I can’t keep it up front because it might not happen,” he said. “But I definitely keep it in the back of my mind.”


One other things about St. Francis is the grandstand has magically switched sides of the field. Usually the main grandstand is on the side of the east side of the field. This made it so that when the sun set people in the stand would get a nasty glare from the sun. But now that is all solved as the grandstand has been moved to the side of the field that is closer to St. Francis Dr.


More from St. Joe's

Last year St. Joe's had seven players named All Western New York by the News. Only one of those returns, quarterback Chad Kelly

Two of those players were kicker, Marc Montana, and punter, Anthony LaMancuso.

Normally losing two special teams players isn't a huge deal, but ask Marauders head coach Dennis Gilbert and he'll tell you what he thinks those players meant to his team last year.

“One thing that we got to answer in the next couple of weeks is who is going to kick for us," Gilbert said. "Both of our kickers from last year are gone and they’re both on scholarship and in college. It’s a big hole that we have to fill. We forced teams to play on long fields last year because our kicking game was so strong.”


Its also interesting to point out that Kelly was named All Western New York last year as a defensive back.

When asked if Kelly would be focusing on his role at QB or if he would still see time in the secondary, Gilbert said: "We will do what’s best for our team to win. I’m not concerned about individuals. If it’s deemed that we need to do that to be better, then that’s what we will do. Kind of play it by year.”


This is probably my last bit of knowledge I'll be dropping today, but St. Joe's has a new locker room this season.

Gilbert wouldn't say how much money the new setup cost the school, but he did say that donations were made to pay for the facility and that it cost more than his yearly salary.

“It’s beautiful, state of the art," Gilbert said. "We got state of the art video equipment in there. We got the ability to break down the film and everything in the room. We got an HD projection system to watch film. The kids can watch film from their lockers. Electronic windows, air condition, heat, it’s beautiful.

“It’ll make us a little more comfortable, I don’t know if it will make us better. It’s certainly a nice compliment to the facilities that we have outside.”

---Ryan Marfurt

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