Dunkirk Marauders (6-3)
Coach: Mike Sarratori, second season
Home field: Karl Hoeppner Field
Program founded: 1901
Outlook: Dunkirk rebounded from a 0-8 season in 2013 to not only post its first winning season since 1994 but also come within an eyelash of making the playoffs. Rival Fredonia denied the Marauders entry into the postseason with a 50-48, four-overtime win in Week Seven. Dunkirk has three returnees on offense and two on defense – including senior Miguel Alicea. The 5-9, 170-pound running back and all-state honorable mention is coming off a 1,500-yard season in which he averaged 4.9 yards per carry. First team all-league linebacker Elwin Gomez returns after leading the team in tackles as a sophomore. Senior Alex Jones is a returning two-way lineman. The team will be without its best lineman, however, as Jones’ brother, junior Nick, is lost for the season with an ACL injury. He’s started both ways since freshman year.
Sept. 4 vs. Depew, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 18 at East Aurora/Holland, 7 p.m.
Sept. 25 vs. Pioneer, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 2 at Springville, 7 p.m.
Oct. 9 vs. Olean, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 16 vs. Fredonia, 7:30 p.m.
Fredonia Hillbillies (6-3)
Coach: Mike Marshall, third season
Home field: Orange Bowl
Program founded: 1901
Outlook: The Hillbillies return 12 players from last year’s playoff squad, looking to reach The Ralph for the third time in four years. Seniors Damian Johnson and Jovney Ruiz are battling for the starting quarterback job. The runner-up in the competition will play running back. Johnson saw some time last season, taking over midway through the season after John Piper suffered a season-ending injury. He led the team to the four-overtime win over Dunkirk in Week Seven to help Hillbillies clinch playoff berth. Eric Swoyer was the top receiving target last year and caught the game-winning TD against Dunkirk. Senior running back and linebacker Mike Pucci also returns. He scored the decisive two-point conversion in in Fredonia’s comeback win over Springville in Week One, when the Hillbillies overcame a program-record 22-point deficit.
Sept. 4 vs. Cheektowaga, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 11 at Springville, 7 p.m.
Sept. 18 vs. Pioneer, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 25 at Maryvale, 7 p.m.
Oct. 2 at Olean, 7 p.m.
Oct. 16 at Dunkirk, 7:30 p.m.
Olean Huskies (4-4)
Coach: Mike Kane, 27th season
Home field: Bradner Stadium
Program founded: 1893
Outlook: The Huskies got off to a fast start but ended last season with four straight losses. Returning to help Olean attempt to right the ship is senior quarterback/defensive back Elijah Ramadhan, one of several veteran holdovers for Kane’s crew. The Huskies have six returnees on offense and six on defense. They include senior receiver/safety Evan Threehouse, a standout baseball pitcher on the Division I radar, senior running back/linebacker Lucas Mehmel, junior center Jordan McLaughlin, senior guard/defensive end Nick Howard, senior lineman Zac Spears and senior defensive tackle Shawn Williams, who stands 6-3 and weighs 295. Senior fullback/linebacker Jared Slavin can bench 300 pounds, junior tight end/defensive end Darius Williams, a transfer from Cuba-Rushford, 295.
Sept. 4 vs. East Aurora, 7 p.m.
Sept. 11 at Pioneer, 7 p.m.
Sept. 25 at Bradford (Pa.), 7 p.m.
Oct. 2 vs. Fredonia, 7 p.m.
Oct. 9 at Dunkirk, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 16 at Springville, 7 p.m.
Pioneer Panthers (5-4)
Coach: Jim Duprey, 14th season
Home field: Pioneer Turf Stadium
Program founded: 1971
Outlook: The Panthers persevered last season as they closed the season with five consecutive wins after opening with four straight losses. Senior running back Nate Tackentien hopes to do his part to help that momentum carry over into 2015. He’s a strong, low-to-the-ground runner who runs a 4.5-40. The Panthers also expect good things from two-way senior lineman Foster Dell, a 6-footer who has been a starter since ninth grade. Josh Foley is another standout two-way lineman with size (6-2, 220). Senior Austin Kossow is back at quarterback with a year of starting experience under his belt and has improved tremendously, Duprey said. Sophomore Caleb RIordon returns at outside linebacker after racking up 50 tackles as a starter last year. Other returnees include Tyler Beyer, Ryan Palmisono, Todd Thompson, Jason Gauthier and James Eyock.
Sept. 4 at Alden, 7 p.m.
Sept. 11 vs. Olean, 7 p.m.
Sept. 18 at Fredonia, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 25 at Dunkirk, 7:30 p.m.
Oct. 2 vs. Albion, 7 p.m.
Oct. 9 vs. Springville, 7 p.m.
Springville Griffins (6-3)
Coach: Eric Jantzi, 12 season/first at Springville
Home field: Pop Warner Field
Program founded: 1898
Outlook: The Griffins return 15 starters, including eight on offense. While Springville plans to run by committee in its flex bone, triple-option offense, junior fullback Ian Baker is among the key returnees. His uncle, Tony, is a past Connolly Cup winner and ranks second all-time in school history in rushing yards. Senior Bryce Szudzik should also get opportunities to tote the rock. Kyle Warner, a Division I pitching prospect, will see time at receiver and running back. Springville, which closed last season on a four-game winning streak, has an experienced line anchored by three-year veterans Pat Hannon (OT/DT) and Josh Ball (OT/NT). Seniors Parker Rice and Greyson Louth and junior John Domes also are part of that unit. Colin DeWitt and Connor O’Brien vie for the starting quarterback job.
Sept. 5 at Burgard, 3 p.m.
Sept. 11 vs. Fredonia, 7 p.m.
Sept. 18 vs. Southwestern, 7 p.m.
Oct. 2 vs. Dunkirk, 7 p.m.
Oct. 9 at Pioneer, 7 p.m.
Oct. 16 vs. Olean, 7 p.m.
– Miguel Rodriguez