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St. Francis is better than a No. 5

St. Francis coach Jerry Smith is used to it.

His team played big, bad defending state champion Aquinas even for a half while Boston College-bound Akeel Lynch ran for a ridiculous 239 yards. That's right, he did that in the first half. Lynch suffered an ankle injury before halftime and he was held out of the rest of the game as a precaution. It was a one-touchdown lead for host Aquinas for much of the second half before they won, 34-20.

Chris Battaglia, straight-shooting coach of the Rochester private school which is considered by many the top team in the state, acknowledged to Smith afterwards that the Little Irish could have been in trouble if Lynch played the entire game.

So in The News large school poll this week, St. Francis is fifth.

"If we had beaten Aquinas, there would be no debate [that St. Francis should be No. 1]," said Smith, before catching himself. "Actually, in this area there probably would be a debate."

The News, one of 10 voters on the large school poll, voted St. Francis (2-1) second. If we knew that Lynch was healthy enough to play in the near future (more on that later), we would have voted them first. No disrespect to an outstanding Orchard Park team or any others, but even hanging with Aquinas deserves to be at least acknowledged, if not rewarded.

I often say that's the fun part about polls. We think this, someone thinks that, someone else thinks something else entirely, and in the end, eventually most things get settled on the field.

Except that in Western New York football, things don't get settled on the field. Thanks to Section VI not allowing private schools in (which I agree with, and is a whole other column), and the majority of Section VI large schools too stubborn to schedule nonleague games with private schools (which I totally disagree with, and is also a whole other column), we will go an entire season without true on-field matchups between teams.

Except there are things to look at.

No. 4 St. Joe's is somehow in front of St. Francis. St. Joe's is coming of a great win over Canisius, but in its season opener, Joe's lost at home to Aquinas (40-20) in a game that was over by halftime (33-6).

No. 3 Sweet Home is somehow in front of St. Francis. It is very fair to say that Sweet Home, right now, is not the team it was at the end of last year. And it is very fair to say that Aquinas, right now, is better than the team it was last year. Its key personnel (quarterback, running back, Notre Dame-bound lineman, electrifying defensive back/receiver/returner, among others) are all back from the team that routed Sweet Home in last year's Far West Regionals in another game (36-6) that was over at halftime.

Based on those very real results, St. Francis should be at least No. 3.

Pollsters are either being lazy, which might be inexcusable but understandable. Or perhaps they're being lazy on purpose. Why vote for a 2-1 private school that actually might be better when there is a 3-0 Section VI team to vote for? If it was just about records, we wouldn't do a poll.

It has happened this way more often than not, which is why Smith just shakes his head.

There are a lot of teams out there that have some improving to do after three weeks. So does our poll.

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Lynch 'probable'

Lynch's ankle injury was diagnosed as a first-degree sprain, Smith said, and the running back would be listed as "probable" if he had an NFL Injury Report to fill out. St. Francis hosts Gateview of Pennsylvania Friday night; the following week it hosts St. Joe's at 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 1.

"If it's bothering him, we're not going to put him out there [Friday]," said Smith, who said he'll make a decision Thursday morning. "We've got Joe's next week, so we'll see."

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No Burger-gate here

The Deer Head Inn, located at 2683 Clinton St., is on your right as you make your way from Buffalo to Canisius' Stranksy Complex in West Seneca. In recent seasons, a "Crusader Burger" has been advertised on its outdoor sign on game days.

I noticed it again Saturday on my way to the game. About an hour after the game, following interviews and a good amount of live blogging, I left and noticed that the "Crusader Burger" was off the sign.

Could it be that a loss to rival St. Joe's was so tough to stomach that the menu was altered?

Not at all. It was just normal procedure: Game over = promotion over.

"It was nothing to do with that they lost to St. Joe's," assured Gwen, who answered the phone at the Deer Head Tuesday afternoon. "They're home again on Oct. 1. It'll be back."

And because inquiring grumbling stomachs want to know: The Crusader Burger is a cheeseburger complete with blue potato chips, making for a delicious-looking option for fans of the blue-and-gold.

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Live video chat tonight

Our weekly high school sports chat makes its video debut tonight at 8 p.m. at buffalonews.com. Join fellow News Sports Reporter Lauren Mariacher and I as we answer your questions on camera for the first portion of the chat; then we'll go back to the traditional chat format and I'll answer your questions. As always, anything in high school sports or our coverage of it is up for discussion.

e-mail: kmcshea@buffnews.com

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