Buckle your chin straps, folks. Week One of the high school football season is finally here.
Don’t be fooled into thinking this season is a marathon. It’s not. It’s a sprint that will go by pretty fast. That’s why every game matters, although some are slightly bigger deals than others. That’s just the way it is in sports.
Without further ado, here are the five most intriguing games on the docket for opening weekend:
1. St. Joe’s Marauders vs. South Park Sparks, 7 p.m. Friday at All High Stadium. Catholic versus public school matchups in football are always a big deal in Western New York since they so rarely happen. This one is significant for a few reasons. The biggie: This could be the last time South Park schedules a Monsignor Martin foe, what with the Sparks understandably ticked at losing perhaps their best player, first team All-WNY lineman Jeremiah Sanders, to Timon via transfer just four days ago before the season opener. Another reason: it’s the Sparks’ first game since becoming the first ex-Harvard Cup program to win a state championship. Then there’s the St. Joe’s point of view. The Marauders most definitely want to kick off the Derek Landri era on a triumphant note, and a win over a reigning state champion would provide some early-season momentum.
2. Bishop Timon-St. Jude Tigers vs. Buford Wolves, 7 p.m. Friday at Buford, Ga. Ready or not, Timon begins its three games in three different states, with its season-opening gauntlet at nationally renowned Buford. The 0-1 Wolves enter the season having won 11 state championships, including eight over the past 10 seasons. Last year, they failed to win it all – having their string of three straight titles snapped by Cartersville, 10-0, in the Class AAAA final at the Georgia Dome. This may be an opportunity for the Tigers to flaunt their athletes to college scouts who may not normally see them, but they still may be in over their head against a program with several Division I commits. The Wolves also are coming off a rare season-opening loss two weeks ago.
3. Bennett Tigers vs. West Seneca East Trojans, 7 p.m. at Trojan Field. The battle between reigning Section VI runners-up provides a dynamite start to what should be a season worth of epic battles in Class A South. Bennett, led by senior Boston College-commit Isaiah McDuffie, is 17-3 the past two seasons – having won division titles in Classes B and C. The Trojans, led by quarterback Austin Breidenstein and stud linemen Joe Ramunno and Ryan Kostek, look to keep their run of success going. West Seneca East’s only losses last year came against eventual state champion South Park, and the program has gone 31-7 the past four years.
4. Orchard Park Quakers vs. V-Pittsford Panthers, 7 p.m. at Quaker Field. The defending Section VI Class AA champions only lost twice last season. One of the teams to beat the Quakers was Pittsford. OP looks to get revenge for that and kick off what it hopes to be a season to remember in style by beating a suburban Rochester team that should be among the contenders for the Section V title.
5. Cleveland Hill Eagles vs. Maryvale Flyers, 7 p.m. at Maryvale Stadium. The start of the season just wouldn’t be right without the annual grudge fest between Cheektowaga residents. The Eagles have dominated the past 10 Week One matchups between the programs as they have won eight of those meetings, including last year’s 18-15 nail-biter.