At last, the wait is over.
Section VI released its football schedule for the coming season Wednesday, and the highlights include three Week One nonleague games featuring public schools against private schools, two teams playing on four night’s rest and other unusual nonleaguers.
Defending state Class A champion South Park opens at All High Stadium on Sept. 2 against St. Joe’s of the Monsignor Martin Association in what will be the nightcap of a Catholic vs. public schools twin bill at the facility. The event begins at 4 p.m. with St. Mary’s visiting Hutch-Tech.
It’s the third straight season South Park has faced a member of the Monsignor Martin Association. The Sparks suffered their only loss of the season by a point at Canisius last year and two years ago held a lead at St. Francis before fading down the stretch in a loss.
The third Catholic-public game in Week One has Lockport visiting Canisius on Sept. 3.
Class B rivals Depew and Alden won’t have to wait long to face each other. They open Sept. 2 with the Wildcats visiting Alden. Two-time defending sectional Class B champion Cheektowaga hosts Dunkirk that night, too.
Other Week One highlights include Section VI Class AA champion Orchard Park hosting Section V’s Pittsford, and Lancaster visiting Williamsville South in nonleague play.
Because of the lateness in the release of the schedule due to appeals regarding classification by Bennett and Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake and an odd number of teams in Western New York, Chautauqua Lake must wait until Sept. 6 to open the season. The Thunderbirds will host Eden/North Collins, which will have played on Sept. 2. Four nights later, Chautauqua Lake plays its Week Two contest at Gowanda.
Section VI football chairman Ken Stoldt said there were no nearby teams available to play a nonleaguer in Week One.
“I can’t say enough about the cooperation from the coaches and athletic directors to make it work,” Stoldt said of the scheduling process.
Springville, a Class B school, hosts a pair of Class AA South teams, Frontier (Week Two) and Jamestown (Week Five).
The Week Two highlight: Sweet Home playing its first Friday night game at home against West Seneca West. In Week Five, Canisius visits Alden for a Friday nighter.
The potential Week Four games of the week feature South Park against Bennett on Sept. 24 at All High. Later that night, Burgard visits Cheektowaga in a rematch of last year’s sectional final.
The usual rivalry games highlight Week Seven. The playoffs begin Oct. 21.
Historically, the schedule has been released by March, but due to appeals by merged teams, Bennett and Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake, regarding their classification and division status for the season. A Section VI committee on merged schools decided it was best to move two-time runner-up Bennett from its Bed number total as a Class B to Class A, while Maple Grove/CL, a two-time Section VI Class C champ was bumped up to B. In response, the merged program separated at the varsity level for this fall only with Maple Grove returning to Class D and Chautauqua Lake to Class C.
Class AA will be split into a six-team North Division and five-team South Division. Williamsville North returns to Class AA North for the second time in three seasons. Niagara Wheatfield also will be part of that division with Niagara Falls, Clarence, Lockport and Kenmore West.
Riverside drops from AA South to Class A South, which has nine teams. Class A North has eight teams, while Class B will be divided into three six-team divisions. Eden/North Collins returns after taking last season off due to lack of players and will be in Class C North.
Here are the division alignments for the coming season:
AA North: Niagara Falls, Clarence, Lockport, Ken West, Williamsville North, Niagara Wheatfield.
AA South: Orchard Park, Lancaster, Frontier, Hutch-Tech, Jamestown.
A North: North Tonawanda, Williamsville East, Sweet Home, Grand Island, Williamsville South, Kenmore East, Starpoint, Amherst.
A South: West Seneca West, Hamburg, South Park, West Seneca East, McKinley, Lake Shore, Iroquois, Bennett, Riverside.
B South: Pioneer, Springville, Olean, East Aurora/Holland, Dunkirk, Fredonia/Westfield/Brocton.
B East: Albion, Depew, Alden, Medina, Roy-Hart/Barker, Lackawanna.
B West: Lew-Port, Cheektowaga, Burgard, Maryvale, Newfane, Tonawanda.
C South: Falconer/Cassadaga Valley, Southwestern, Gowanda/Pine Valley, Allegany-Limestone, Salamanca, Chautauqua Lake.
C North: Eden/North Collins, Akron, JFK, Wilson, Cleveland Hill.
Class D: Silver Creek/Forestville, Cattaraugus/Little Valley, Portville, Randolph, Maple Grove, Franklinville/Ellicottville, Frewsburg, Clymer/Sherman/Panama.