Who's who: The six-team division consists of the Hutch-Tech Engineers, Kenmore West Blue Devils, Lockport Lions, Niagara Falls Wovlerines, Niagara-Wheatfield Falcons and Riverside Frontiers. Riverside also includes students from non-football playing schools City Honors, Buffalo Arts, MST Seneca and OTC Middle College. Hutch-Tech also includes students from Emerson and daVinci.
This year's alignment shift: Like the AA South, this division has dropped from seven to six schools, with longtime members North Tonawanda and Williamsville North having dropped down to Class A North. Niagara-Wheatfield, which has hopped back and forth from A to AA in football, has returned to AA.
Last year's champion: Riverside won the division title on a three-way tiebreaker thanks to a regular-season-closing 7-2 victory at Kenmore West. The Frontiers took the title because it owned wins over both Williamsville North and Kenmore West; all three finished 4-2 in the division. Riverside was one of the Buffalo Public Schools' success stories in the district's first season in Section VI; coach Tony Truilizio was named the league's coach of the year. The Frontiers lost in the AA quarterfinals at home to Jamestown, 7-6.
2010 rewind: The zany finish was fitting after a zany regular season in which North Tonawanda missed the playoffs a year after winning the state championship. Early in the season, Niagara Falls standout Dale Stewart was performing like his older brother (Green Bay Packer James Starks) as the Wolverines started 2-0 -- but they also missed the playoffs. Kenmore West was the only team in the division to win its playoff game as it beat visiting Frontier, 22-15, before losing at Clarence in the semifinals. The Blue Devils were the top-ranked AA North school in the final poll, finishing seventh.
Last year's records: Riverside 4-2, 4-5; Kenmore West 4-2, 6-3; Lockport 3-3, 4-5; Niagara Falls 3-3, 3-6; Hutch-Tech 0-6, 0-9. Niagara-Wheatfield was 0-8, 0-6 in A North.
2010 All-Western New York underclassmen: Kenmore West junior RB Martin Bailey and Lockport sophomore K Kyle Few were both named to the third team.
2010 all-league first-team underclassmen: Kenmore West juniors U Marcus Lobdell, DB Nick Hersey and Bailey as well as Lockport's Few. Bailey also shared the league's offensive player of the year award with Gordie Gronkowski of Williamsville North (now at Kansas State) and Stewart of Niagara Falls (now at Iowa Western Community College after his verbal commitment to the University at Buffalo was derailed due to academics).
Pre-snap read: Kenmore West is certainly one of the programs with the biggest buzz entering the season not only in this league but all of Western New York as it returns three top players (Bailey, Lobdell, Hersey). Riverside and Lockport figure to be the main challengers. Tim Hagerty takes over at Niagara-Wheatfield, which steps up in class after going winless last year in the tough A North.
Week One must-see games: There are no league contests on the opening weekend -- but there are a pair of tremendous AA crossover matchups on Saturday that might even be better than league games. Orchard Park visits Kenmore West at 2 in a meeting of two teams many have picked to win their respective divisions, while Clarence is at Riverside at 4 in a meeting of defending division champions. Also Saturday, Niagara Falls makes one of the longest road trips in Section VI down to Jamestown. On Friday, Hutch-Tech hosts Tonawanda at All High Stadium. Some northern nonleaguers have Niagara-Wheatfield at Albion on Friday and Lockport hosting Starpoint on Saturday.
Scrimmage Saturday: Teams hit the field for scrimmages for the first time on Saturday. Check buffalonews.com for a PrepTalkTV report, a photo gallery and a running account of visits to scrimmages on the Prep Talk blog -- the blog includes 34 additional videos, including action from Niagara-Wheatfield and Lockport.
Wednesday live chats kick off this week: The first of the weekly live chats at buffalonews.com will be this Wednesday at 8 p.m. A video chat will be added later.
At buffalonews.com: Along with the scrimmage coverage, watch the first PrepTalkTV episode of the season as Lauren Mariacher reported on the first day of practice, check out video interviews with 31 different coaches and review the complete schedule.
The countdown continues: The capsule countdown concludes Wednesday with the Monsignor Martin. Review them all -- including Class AA South, A, B, C, D and DD -- at buffalonews.com.
Season preview coming Thursday: 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.
Attention coaches & ADs -- rosters needed ASAP: If coaches have not done so already, they need to email a roster -- in spreadsheet form -- to email@example.com as soon as possible. Spreadsheet forms have been emailed to all coaches and athletic directors.
-- Keith McShea