2015 team champions: Section VI -- Orchard Park (A), Sweet Home (B), East Aurora (C), Maple Grove (D); Monsignor Martin Association -- St. Joe's.
2015 individual champions: Connor Doran, Lockport (A); Pete Rindfuss, Hamburg (B); Kenny Vasbinder, East Aurora (C), Ryan Hetrick, Maple Grove (D).
2015 All-WNY first-team underclassmen: Doran, Lockport; Chris Nowak, Sweet Home.
Taking some hits: East Aurora’s state championship team was clobbered by graduation, and the squad has moved up a level to Class B. But no one is feeling sorry for the Blue Devils as the season approaches, as they still have plenty of talent in the pipeline. Ian Russ was named the best sophomore in Section VI last year, and Pat Murray and Matt Sieracki made the all-ECIC III team. Elsewhere in the ECIC, Orchard Park is ready to defend its championship - and it has almost everyone coming back. The Quakers could be in line for a special year in 2016.
In the MMA: It’s usually St. Joe’s and Canisius competing for the league championship, and this year figures to be similar. Turner Dirrigi and Ryan Chimiel are back for St. Joe’s, and they should be ready to move up to All-Catholic status as seniors. The Marauders lost their top three runners, so there are opportunities for the rest of the team. But Canisius will be back, with Josh Lane returning for his senior year. St. Francis should be in the conversation as well. The winner heads to the Federation meet in November.
Niagara-Orleans: Barker has two first-team all-stars coming back in Jack Hopkins and Jacob Arnold, and second-teamer Adam Wagner is around again, too. But Newfane has some returning talent as well. Sam Auernhamer is ranked 14th in the state and ranked as a tie for first in the section for Class C. He’s the favorite to take the league crown.
In the city: Hutch-Tech had six runners make first or second all-city teams last year. Five of them are back, including Sergio Trujillo and Marc Parrilla. The Engineers could be ready for a memorable year.
New home: The Section VI championships have a new home at Beaver Island. They had been staged at Sunshine Park in West Seneca, a difficult course when the weather doesn’t cooperate.
How long? Not long: It takes a little time for teams to figure out just how good they are in relation to the competition. That makes the McQuaid Invitational in Rochester a good barometer of who to watch when the postseason matchups arrive in October and November. The event attracts teams from 20 states and in Canada.
Save the dates: East Aurora Invitational on Sept. 17; McQuaid Invitational on Oct. 1; St. Joe’s, Canisius and Nichols tri-meet at Delaware Park on Oct. 26.
Championship Time: Section VI championships on Nov. 4 at Beaver Island State Park in Grand Island; All-Catholic championships on Nov. 6 at Knox Farms; NYSPHSAA championships at Chenango Valley State Park on Nov. 12; state Federation championships on Nov. 19 at Bowdoin State Park in Wappingers Falls.
Prep Talk Player of the Year: Doran was an all-WNY choice last year and he was selected as the region’s best junior. He’s one of the hardest workers on the team and leads an always good Lockport team by example. But East Aurora (Vasbinder won the last two) probably will have something to say about that particular award.