Tim Delaney and Charlie Comerford don’t usually cross paths, even though there are times, like the first two weeks of the season, that their teams take turns using the turf field at Mulroy Park in South Buffalo for practice sessions.
If they should bump into each other any time in the near future, it’s highly unlikely there will be any small talk between the two football coaches. That’s because Delaney, the South Park pilot, believes Bishop Timon-St. Jude recruited his best player right from under his nose, despite a denial from Comerford.
It doesn’t change the fact that first team All-Western New York offensive lineman Jeremiah Sanders, a key member of the Sparks’ state Class A championship team last season, has opted to transfer from the Buffalo Public School to the nearby private school.
Sanders, a junior who has been a starter since his freshman season at Bennett, is a 6-2, 265-pound physical specimen who moves very well and comes into the season as a returning first-team all-state selection.
Sanders, a potential Division I or II prospect, walled off many a defender last season, opening up the corner so that quarterback Tyree Brown -- The News Player of the Year -- could use his incredible speed for long gains. Brown ran for four touchdowns in South Park’s historic state final win at the Carrier Dome as the Sparks became the first Buffalo Public Schools program to win a New York State Public High School Athletic Association crown.
Now, Sanders will be doing that for the Tigers, trying to give junior quarterback Matt Myers -- a potential Division I talent coming off a second team All-WNY season -- time to make plays to help lead his new team to victory.
Sanders, who practiced Tuesday with his new teammates, will also get to showcase his own skills to more college coaches as Timon’s first three games are against some of the country’s better programs. The Tigers open the season Friday at perennial national power Buford (Ga.) and will play at Permian (Texas), the school famously known for being the subject of the book, "Friday Night Lights." Sanders' status is pending approval from the Monsignor Martin Association.
“Anytime you can add one of the best players in Western New York it helps,” Comerford said. “We have a pretty good line now. … To add a player of his caliber it’s huge for our program.”
It’s a big loss for South Park, one Delaney did not expect even though he said the private school has been pursuing Sanders since spring.
From there we have both coaches engaging in a game of he said, he said.
Comerford said Sanders contacted Timon back in the spring, not the other way around.
“They recruited him, it doesn’t matter what anybody says,” Delaney said. “They recruited him actively because if they didn’t, Charlie calls me and tells me your kid contacted me. … That never happened. There’s no doubt in my mind (they recruited him).
“My problem with it isn’t that the kid went to another school. It’s that we are three days away from playing and this is allowed to happen. Just line up the facts and how does this not straight up stink of recruiting from a private. We won a state championship. How do we compete with that?"
Said Comerford: “I thought it was almost a done deal in June or July that we would get him. I was surprised it fell through.”
Regarding the recruiting allegation, Comerford said: "People can say that, but we didn’t."
“I think all the schools have the same policy. We don’t contact kids from other schools. They have to contact us," Comerford said. "Once they contact us then we can pursue him. We’re happy to have him. He’s a great kid. The recruitment charge is totally unfounded.”
Will Sanders be allowed to play Friday? Monsignor Martin Athletic Director Brian Kiszewski refused to confirm or deny that.
“I do not have any completed waiver forms for us to rule on,” he said. “I can’t discuss it because I don’t have paperwork. I’m not saying anything that can or cannot allow. Once I get completed paperwork it’ll be reviewed.”
One thing that won’t be reviewed is that this won’t help the strained Public-Catholic schools relationship in Western New York.
Delaney, one of the fresh faces in local football coaching circles, has scheduled nonleague games without hesitation against members of the Monsignor Martin, including Friday night’s opener against St. Joe’s at All High Stadium. Delaney has even stated that last year’s contest against Canisius helped prepare his team win the state title.
Friday, though, could be the last time South Park faces a Catholic school with Delaney at the helm.
“I’ll never play a Catholic school again,” Delaney said.