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High School Football / Countdown to Friday Night Lights -- Class D

Who's who: This new division consists of the Frewsburg Bears, Maple Grove Red Dragons, Portville Panthers, Randolph Cardinals, Silver Creek Black Knights and International Prep at Grover Cleveland Presidents, who move down in class after making the Class C semifinals last year.

This year's alignment shift: In a win-win for both divisions of the smallest schools, there has been a split of the historically strong (Class D) and not-as-strong (Class DD). Class DD is playing its own schedule and will not participate in the state playoffs, leaving a revamped, power-packed Class D.

Last year's champion: Silver Creek beat Randolph, 21-14, for the Class D championship, its first sectional title since 2005. The Black Knights finished fifth in The News small school poll. Their only loss was in the regionals to Section V champion Caledonia-Mumford, which lost to Westchester County's I-Tuckahoe in the state title game.

2010 rewind: Silver Creek knocked off Maple Grove in Week One, but Randolph was regarded the top D team all year in the polls. The Black Knights turned that around by ending the Cardinals' 21-game win streak, which included the 2009 state championship, at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Last year's records: In D East: Randolph 8-0, 9-1; Portville 6-2, 6-2; Frewsburg 4-4, 5-3. In D West: Silver Creek 7-0, 10-1; Maple Grove 6-1, 6-2. In C North: I-Prep/Grover 5-0, 8-1.

2010 All-Western New York underclassman: DB John Jimerson of Silver Creek was an honorable mention as a junior.

2010 all-league first-team underclassmen: Frewsburg juniors WR Thad Johnson, DL Nathan Anderson and LB Nick Mitchell; Portville junior QB Colt Lowe and sophomore RB Zack Pilger; Randolph juniors RB Brent Robbins, RB Mason Burch and QB John Morgante; Maple Grove junior OL David Waterman; Silver Creek junior DB Jimerson and sophomore LB Zed Williams.

Pre-snap read: It's not a stretch to suggest that this is the strongest Class D league in the state. Nearly every week there will be major showdowns among the teams' top-flight five-game league schedules, while there are also fun public-private nonleaguers as well (including Cardinal O'Hara at I-Prep, Bishop Timon-St. Jude at Randolph and St. Mary's at Silver Creek).

Week One must-see games: Right on cue -- there's a good league opener of Portville at Maple Grove; meanwhile, I-Prep is at St. Mary's and Silver Creek heads down the lake to Class B's Dunkirk.

Scrimmage Saturday: The first day teams can scrimmage is Saturday, Aug. 27, and this lineup lets you know how serious these schools are about football. Randolph makes its annual trip to Southwestern; Maple Grove will knock heads with Timon and McKinley is at Riverside; Silver Creek is among a solid group at Cleveland Hill. Coaches should email kmcshea@buffnews.com with updates to our complete list, which is available at the Prep Talk blog at buffalonews.com.

At buffalonews.com: Watch the first PrepTalkTV episode of the 2011-12 season as Lauren Mariacher reported on the first day of practice, check out video interviews with 25 different coaches and review the complete week-by-week schedule.

The countdown continues: C South (Monday), C North (Tuesday), B South (Wednesday), B East (Thursday), B West (Friday), A South (Aug. 27), A North (Aug. 28), AA South (Aug. 29), AA North (Aug. 30), Monsignor Martin (Aug. 31). Class DD ran Saturday. Review them all at buffalonews.com.

Season preview coming Sept. 1: Our annual preview issue will have capsules and schedules for all 82 teams in Western New York along with feature stories, a must-see cover and everything else you need to know about the 2011 season.

-- Keith McShea

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