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Prep Talk: Sorting the football playoff field

By Miguel Rodriguez

NEWS SPORTS REPORTER

As Jamestown discussed capturing the Class AA South championship last Friday, the happy Red Raiders kept it real following their win over Orchard Park.

Sure, they had every right to be proud they shut out an opponent that had been averaging close to 52 points per game, a team that wanted to go into Strider Field and put a hurting on them. But amid the postgame hoopla, the defending Section VI champions put that 19-0 victory in the rear view mirror faster than it took me to write this sentence and with good reason.

It’s all about the playoffs now.

“You can either go 1-0 or you’re handing in your stuff Monday morning,” said Red Raiders senior linebacker Damien Jackson.

No team wants that. But the simple fact is in the single-elimination Section VI tournament half of the teams that buckle their chin straps this weekend will be crushed after their title dreams die.

The second season, the postseason, begins tonight in Classes AA, A, B and C. Here’s the breakdown of the tournament and which teams have a shot at playing for championships Nov. 6-7 at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Please note, there will be no predictions in this space regarding the Class D playoffs because the D schools complete their regular season this weekend.

The top four finishers in the D Division will vie for the Section VI crown and state qualifier. The last four in the division will play in their own four-team tournament that culminates with the Class DD final that opens up the Nov. 6 championship tripleheader at The Ralph.

There also are two weeks of regular-season games left in the Monsignor Martin Association, with News No. 1 Large School and national No. 43 Canisius visiting Bishop Timon-St. Jude at 7 tonight.

Enough of that. Without further ado, let’s talk playoffs.

Class AA

Favorites for The Ralph: News No. 2 Large School Jamestown (7-0) has been ranked in the News and state sportswriters’ polls all season. The Red Raiders, ranked fourth in the state, are coming off that statement win over Orchard Park (6-1), which at the moment is also a favorite to reach the final game. Lost in the loss is the fact the Quakers’ defense held Jamestown to roughly 27 points under its scoring average. Remember, the Red Raiders returned an interception for a touchdown.

Sleeper: Williamsville North. The Spartans return 13 starters on both sides of the ball who were part of last year’s run to the state Class A final at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. That type of experience is huge this time of year. North (6-1) has won four of its games via shutout. Duke Hwang and George Attea have the ability to control both sides of the line. Andrew Hwang is a tough inside runner with good speed. A bad loss to Kenmore West puts Spartans in position where they’ll likely have to face defending champion Jamestown in the semifinals.

High-quality quarterfinal: Lancaster at Kenmore West at 2 p.m. Saturday. This is a potential upset special as North Division champ Ken West (4-3) is coming off a loss to rival Kenmore East, which had been winless entering that contest. Being in a tougher division prepares Lancaster (3-4) for this moment.

Class A

Favorites for The Ralph: Without a doubt, it is News No. 3 Large School Sweet Home (6-1), which would be a contender in Class AA. Panthers are filled with playmakers and have outscored their opponents 265-79 since their Week One 35-28 nonleague loss to Jamestown. South Park (6-1) allowed the second fewest points among the playoff qualifiers in this bracket. Can Class A South Division champions ride strong defense and opportunistic scoring to The Ralph?

Sleeper: West Seneca East. The Trojans (6-1) have allowed the fewest points in all of Class A. They crushed West Seneca West, 50-0, in rival-week finale. They’ve won three in a row since 14-7 loss to South Park – including a 29-7 win over Hamburg in Week Six for the right to be a No. 2 seed.

High-quality quarterfinal: Hamburg (5-2) at Williamsville South (6-1) tonight strikes me as a game that can go either way. The Bulldogs can run and pass the ball effectively. South had trouble stopping both during last week’s 48-13 loss at Sweet Home, which cost the Billies the Class A North title. But if South’s offense is humming, watch out, Hamburg.

Class B

Favorites for The Ralph: On paper, unbeaten, top seed Bennett (7-0). The Tigers have steamrolled foes by a 312-45 score through seven games. Burgard (6-1) played Bennett toughest, dropping a 20-12 decision at All High in Week Five. In this gauntlet of a division, which includes defending Section VI champion Depew, only Medina reaching The Ralph would be considered a shock. Mustangs lost, 46-14, in Week Two at Bennett.

Sleeper: Fredonia. The Hillbillies (5-2) know how to get to The Ralph, having finished as Class C runner-up each of the past two seasons. They only lost by four points to visiting Burgard back in Week Two. The Fredonia-Burgard quarterfinal is a must-see game but …

High-quality quarterfinal: Our game of the weekend is the rematch of the Week Five clash between Depew (6-1) and Cheektowaga (5-2). Cheektowaga seemed to be cruising to the No. 2 seed in this bracket after a seven-point win over the Wildcats. Maryvale (6-1) blindsided the host Warriors last week, 35-6, to punch its own playoff ticket. Depew seems to be perfectly built for the postseason as it seems to only play and win close games, sans Week Five clash.

Class C

Favorites for The Ralph: Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake. The Class C South champions are 7-0 and have rolled everyone who’s lined across from them, outscoring foes 304-30. Cleveland Hill (5-2) is the two-time defending champion and enters the postseason on a four-game winning streak.

Sleeper: Beware Southwestern. Trojans have a history of making long playoff runs, making three state finals and winning twice since 2008 under coach Jay Sirianni.

High-quality quarterfinal: Gowanda has won three of its last four games with the blemish being a one-point loss to Falconer. Silver Creek, you’ve been warned.

email: mrodriguez@buffnews.com