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High School Football / Countdown to Friday Night Lights -- Class B West

*Who's who: The six-team division includes the Burgard Bulldogs, Cheektowaga Warriors, Lackawanna Steelers, Lew-Port Lancers, Maryvale Flyers and Tonawanda Warriors.

*This year's alignment shift: Class B again has three divisions, each of them reduced from seven to six teams this year. While B South kept its name, the other two divisions have changed: B Central and B North are out, replaced by B East and B West. The B West replaces B Central, where Burgard and Cheektowaga return while three teams departed (South Park up to A South; Akron and JFK down to C North). Lew-Port, Maryvale and Tonawanda were picked up from the former B North while traditional superpower Lackawanna moved in from B South.

*Last year's champion: Depew went undefeated to win B Central, with Burgard finishing one game behind in second place to help Jason Kolb earn division coach of the year honors. The Bulldogs beat Eden in the quarterfinals before losing at eventual Class B titlist Alden in the semifinals while playing most of the game without injured starting quarterback Darren Sanders.

*2010 rewind: 2009 Class B champion Cheektowaga started 3-0 and was ranked second among small schools before it was upended at home by East, 14-8. The Warriors went on to finish at .500 and out of the playoffs. Lackawanna was undefeated until Week Seven, when a loss to Eden put it in a three-way tie atop B South. The Steelers rebounded with a quarterfinal win at Depew, a semifinal win at Pioneer before losing to Alden, 14-12, in the B final at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Lew-Port edged Cheektowaga out for the final playoff spot by winning at Newfane, 34-30, in overtime.

*Last year's records: Burgard 5-1, 6-3; Cheektowaga 3-3, 5-3 in B Central. Lew-Port 4-2, 4-5; Maryvale 2-4, 2-5; Tonawanda 0-6, 0-8 in B North. Lackawanna 5-1, 8-2 in B South.

*2010 all-league first-team underclassmen: Lew-Port junior OL Kevin McMurray in B North; Cheektowaga junior DL Michael Morganstern in B Central.

*Pre-snap read: While last year's B Central was deemed Class B's toughest division on paper (Burgard, Cheektowaga, Depew), another powerful trio gives this new B West crew that designation. Longtime Harvard Cup power Burgard proved itself in the city's debut in Section VI last year, Cheektowaga has been a top small school for the last decade under Scott Zipp and Lackawanna is one of Western New York's big-name programs (the Steelers are under first-year coach Adam Tardif this season). It would be a stunner if the champion wasn't one of those three, and it wouldn't be a surprise if all three made the playoffs.

*Week One must-see games: All Class B teams kick off their schedule with a nonleaguer, and one of the overall highlights of opening night has Cheektowaga visiting Depew. On Saturday, Sept. 3, another matchup of top Class B teams has Burgard hosting Pioneer at Riverside's Dingboom Field while Maryvale plays at crosstown rival Cleveland Hill.

*Scrimmage Saturday: The first day teams can scrimmage is Saturday. Burgard is part of a great small school gathering at Cleveland Hill at 9 a.m. along with Cardinal O'Hara and Silver Creek. Cheektowaga hosts Tonawanda as well as Eden, Springville and West Seneca East at 9. As it has done the last few years, Lackawanna is at Iroquois at 4 p.m. along with Frontier and Niagara-Wheatfield. Coaches should email kmcshea@buffnews.com with updates to the scrimmage 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 28 different coaches and review the complete week-by-week schedule.

*Live chats kick off next week: The first of the weekly Wednesday night live chats will be Aug. 31 at 8 p.m. at buffalonews.com.

*The countdown continues: A South (Saturday), A North (Sunday), AA South (Monday), AA North (Tuesday), Monsignor Martin (Wednesday). Review them all -- including the rest of Class B as well as C, D and DD -- at buffalonews.com.

*Season preview coming Sept. 1: The 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 one needs to know about the 2011 season.

-- Keith McShea

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