If it's the last Saturday of August, it must be Scrimmage Saturday, and we must be on our way to seeing as much football action as we can.
We'll be bopping around Western New York today -- as we have the last two years -- to catch as much football as we can in a limited time.
Disclaimer/explainer: Regular visitors to the blog know how much I love it when fans cite scrimmages as evidence for one team being better than another during the regular season, especially when it comes to the discussion of our polls. Just because I'm interested in all of the scrimmages (and getting to as many as I can), and learning about teams and players, they are still scrimmages. Once the season starts, I don't want to hear about them. 🙂
If you're out and about like we are today, we want your reviews and breakdowns of what you saw. Keep it in context -- try and notice which first-team units are out there and what the teams are trying to do. Be sure to comment here our on our Facebook page, tweet us at @KeithMcSheaBN or send an email.
8:34 a.m. We are on our way. I met up with photographer Mark Mulville at One News Plaza and we're headed to Cheektowaga for our kickoff.
Eden, Springville, Tonawanda and West Seneca East are visiting Cheektowaga. We're planning a quick stop before heading nearby to Cleveland Hill.
9:22 a.m. Great start to the day for us -- and for Eden. The Raiders, known for their ground-and-pound-and win formula, threw for two touchdowns against Cheektowaga -- including one on the first play of the scrimmage! -- and added in another touchdown as we were leaving.
We were on hand for some warmups before things got started, with Tonawanda coach Rob Gross asking his team, quite loudly, "What's this half-speed!? Why are we doing anything half speed?!"
After a fairly lenghty prepractice address by the officials, we got started as the head referee said, "Rock and roll, Scott," to Cheektowaga coach Scott Zipp.
And early misstep by Cheektowaga against Eden prompted a "Do your job!" admonition from an assistant coach to a player.
On the other half of the field, West Seneca East scored a TD against Tonawanda.
And let's go to the video:
Above is our first play of our season as West Seneca East got things off and running against Tonawanda.
Talk about a great start for Eden. This is their first play as their offense went against Cheektowaga.
A nice run for Eden.
9:30 a.m. Just about to pull in to Cleveland Hill. (Reminder for any hey-buddy-keep-your-hands-on-the-wheel fans: Mulville is driving).
9:37 a.m. iPhone update from Cleve Hill, where they haven't started due to Silver Creek being late. This may screw up some of our travel plans. We'll see.
9:48 a.m. Official addresses teams: "Next week it starts for real, today's for fun."
10:24 a.m. Back in Mulville's Honda heading north to Lockport. It's a super bummer that Cleve Hill was behind because we're a half hour off the ideal schedule I had set up for the day. That's alright. Every game (and every assignment) isn't going to go as planned and you've got to make those key adjustments, right?
On the bright side, we saw the first-stringers for all four teams at Cleve Hill. The defenses ruled the first round as a fired-up Silver Creek unit bottled up Burgard and the Cleve Hill defense kept Cardinal O'Hara out of the end zone.
Daryl Spencer had a nice sack for a big loss for Cleve Hill on defense, then looked very good with some rollout completions on offense. Zeddie Williams, who should be the feature back after the graduation of older brother Zach, looked solid out of the backfield for Silver Creek. Burgard also had some very solid run stops.
Here are the top videos from Cleve Hill:
10:36 a.m. It's a long trip to Lockport. We're just on to Transit from Millersport & the I-990. Six top programs in action up at Emmet Belknap Intermediate: St. Francis, Sweet Home, North Tonawanda, Williamsville South, Grand Island and the host Lions.
Trying to plot out a backup plan -- a main stop for us is Orchard Park, which is hosting Canisius in a scrimmage that started at 10.
11:02 a.m. Got to Lockport in time to catch the tail end of Jordan Johnson of Sweet Home leading the offense against Will South. Johnson and Sweet Home looked to be moving the ball fairly effectively -- he had a touchdown pass to the far left side of the field called back on a penalty. We didn't see a ton of Sweet Home against Will South but we saw a few more plays against Lockport.
Williamsville South and Grand Island were paired up on the other end and there were some hard hits, including a busted play for South that almost resulted in a hit on coach Kraig Kurzanski, who was in the customary coaches' spot behind the huddle.
St. Francis finished strong on defense against Grand Island and then paired up with North Tonawanda. I caught the second half of that pairing, with NT making some nice stops on defense.
Here's our best video from Lockport:
11:31 a.m. We're on the road again, heading south and hoping to fit in a stop at Riverside but that might not be a great decision with OP are key final stop.
11:37 a.m. Just talked to PrepTalkTV partner Lauren Mariacher at Canisius. The first-stringers are done there -- she has video and interviews from there so I might not go down there. I think we'll head to Riverside.
11:40 a.m. Just checked in with Lauren again. Canisius and OP will be on the field for another hour, so Mark and I are going to squeeze in a visit to Riverside, which is hosting McKinley, Bishop Timon-St. Jude and Maple Grove.
Even if we stay just a few moments, we'll be able to get some video, photos and some looks at the teams. Right now we've seen 14 teams in three stops.
With Scrimmage Saturday, it's certainly about quantity, not quality.
11:54 a.m. And JUST when we think we've come up with a great plan, we pull into the Riverside parking lot and pass a kid wearing orange-and-black carrying his shoulder pads out.
"That's not a good sign," says Mark.
It wasn't. The Riverside field was empty.
The kid was from McKinley. Arghhhhhhh.
If I wrote what I'm feeling right now, I'd get an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Maybe two.
Off to OP. Arrrrrrgh. Sigh.
1 p.m. We caught the very end of the Canisius scrimmage at Orchard Park, did some interviews and filmed an intro for PrepTalkTV. Lauren Mariacher is working on that and it'll be posted later today.
I'm headed back to One News Plaza to get some more videos and details posted before heading out to evening scrimmages at Iroquois and Amherst.
More updates to come ...
3:02 p.m. Here is the finished PrepTalkTV product (now starring on the buffalonews.com home page):
3:49 p.m. I've posted a bunch of video here, and I'll have more to come from the six-team Lockport scrimmage as well as some from my next two stops -- Iroquois and Amherst.
4:26 p.m. Hello from the awesome back field setting at Iroquois.
5:40 p.m. Note to football coaches and athletic directors. If you want Prep Talk hanging out at your scrimmage for a long time, have it at night :-).
Got a good long look -- along with the Prep Talk blog's "Milt Latimer" -- at Lackawanna, Frontier, Iroquois and Niagara-Wheatfield, seeing all of their first-strings go at in in their second go-round of '1's.
Lackawanna was very impressive with Keith Taggart leading the way not only at running back but on defense. Some big hits there.
Niagara-Wheatfield sure looked the part, sporting uniforms which looked ready for gameday, right down to every player's pulled-up red calf socks with a black Falcon logo on them. Coming off a winless season and with a new coach in Tim Hagerty, the program looks like it has a little spark. The sideline was extremely into the final offensive session against Iroquois in the first go-round.
Iroquois and Frontier both had good spurts in their session against each other, some nice run stuffs and scoring drives. Frontier got a spark on its offensive series after it made a change at quarterback.
It looked like a productive scrimmage for all four teams.
Here are the video highlights, which were included the best stuff I saw all day:
With six stops and 20 teams seen, now I'm off to Amherst for the final stop of the day.
6:25 p.m. Arrived at Amherst, which is hosting West Seneca West, Kenmore East and Hutch-Tech.
7:09 p.m. Saw some nice play at Amherst's Dimp Wagner Alumni Field, where it appeared that the hosts were the top unit -- not too surprising based on last season and the Tigers' returning experienced players, but certainly impressive nonetheless. Amherst is very fast, and they showed it off on both sides of the ball against a West Seneca West unit that made a few unforced errors, including some turnovers on offense. The Tigers had one player sprint from the backside to chase down a run, and also sped to big gains off of short passes.
Hutch-Tech had some nice run stops and moved the ball better than Kenmore East did in their two series.
And check this out -- I call it a day and walk off the field, and as I walk out of the gate, I run into Tonawanda coach Rob Gross. He was the first coach I saw this morning, and the last coach I see as I leave. Can't make this stuff up.
I think that gives us a very strong finish to our Scrimmage Saturday -- looks like we're ready to go for next weekend.
* * *
Also check out a photo gallery by Mulville.