I figured this would be hard after a fall season in which nine, count them, nine teams won state championships. I underestimated just how difficult it would be to put together the Final Power 10 of the 2014-15 sports season.
In addition to the teams that attained championship glory before Christmas, six others also captured a state championship of some form (Catholic, Public Schools or Federation) -- accomplishments that deserve to be celebrated. Then there were two relay teams that also made history in winning state championships.
But do the math? This is the Power 10. There aren’t enough chairs for every champion in this poll. That means someone’s going to feel like they got jobbed. But sometimes, to borrow a line from my predecessor Keith McShea, “it’s a cruel arithmetic.”
Here’s the Power 10 for the 2014-15 school year.
- Canisius football. The unbeaten Crusaders ran the fall Power 10 table en route to capturing the inaugural New York State Catholic High School Athletic Association championship. Finished ranked 30th in the USA Today poll, which is a rare feat for Western New York teams. Crusaders were wire-to-wire No. 1 in state Class AA rankings and News Large School Poll. Prep Talk Awards Team of the Year beat eventual public schools state champ Jamestown during regular season to earn right to be considered the undisputed state champion. Coach Rich Robbins and his assistants did a good job keeping team focused amid unwanted distractions.
- St. Mary’s girls volleyball. Lancers went 47-0-1 and finished season ranked nationally – 20th by prepvolleyball.com and No. 65 in two other polls. Lancers won postseason Monsignor Martin Association and state championships without state Gatorade Player of the Year, Duke-commit and second team All-American Leah Meyer, who was injured. Lancers had more than enough talent to make up for her absence and win their third state title in four years.
- Jamestown football. Tough call for this spot but winning state Class AA title is not easy. Plus, Red Raiders did say yes to playing Canisius in a nonleaguer to give WNY football lovers the dream matchup they rarely see with the defending Section VI Class AA champion facing off against the reigning Monsignor Martin champ. That’s bonus points in this poll. Too bad there won’t be an encore this season.
- Canisius basketball. The Crusaders capped a historic season with a total team effort during the playoffs to not only win the Manhattan Cup but also capture their first state Catholic Class A title and first overall state Federation championship. The News’ No. 1 team’s only losses came against programs from outside Western New York. No other team displayed the physical and mental toughness Canisius did during the season’s biggest games.
- Randolph football. The first Section VI team to ever win three straight state championships. The 2014 Cardinals did it in sensational, comeback fashion in Class D final, outscoring Chester 42-14 in the second half to earn a 48-41 signature victory. Coach Brent Brown, Bryce Morrison, Devyn Nelson, Michael Bowers, Jeff Andrews and company deserve another standing ovation for the comeback of the ages.
- Park boys basketball. Pioneers won first Manhattan Cup Class B title and first state Catholic title before capturing Federation Tournament of Champions crown. Park could be scary good again next winter what with first team All-WNYer and Federation Tournament MVP Jordan Nwora returning along with 7-foot sophomore center Joe Jones.
- Williamsville South girls basketball. Coach Kristen Dolan’s crew is only the second girls program from Section VI to ever win a state Class A championship, joining the 1994 edition of the Lockport Lions. One of the most unselfish teams I’ve ever covered, Billies followed season-opening loss to a Rochester-area school by winning 25 in a row before closing with season-ending loss in Federation Class A final to Nazareth of New York City crew that played a Class AA schedule during regular season.
- Orchard Park softball. The Quakers became the first girls team in school history to win a state championship. OP won 14 of its final 16 games, including its final seven in which it outscored its foes 80-19.
- I-Prep/Grover boys soccer. The Presidents earn this spot by becoming not only the first Section VI team in 20 years to win the Far West Regional game in Class D against Rochester but first Section VI team in that time to win a state title in Class D. Grover joined 1994 North Collins crew as only other Section VI team to win a state title in Class D.
- East Aurora cross country. Blue Devils won boys and girls state titles in same season for the first time in coach Walt McLaughlin's tenure. EA won seemingly every major race it participated in and won a boys varsity race using its junior varsity team. Blue Devils also had individual state champions for boys (Kenny Vasbinder) and girls (Sophia Tasselmyer).
Honorable mention: Eden girls volleyball, Williamsville South girls volleyball, Canisius hockey, Portville girls volleyball, Nichols girls hockey, Mount St. Mary girls basketball, Tapestry 4x100 girls relay, East Aurora 4x400 boys relay team, Canisius volleyball, Canisius swimming.