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Countdown to Friday Night Lights: Monsignor Martin & independents

Who’s who: The six-team Monsignor Martin High School Athletic Association consists of the Bishop Timon-St. Jude Tigers, Canisius Crusaders, Cardinal O'Hara Hawks, St. Francis Red Raiders, St. Joe's Marauders and St. Mary's Lancers.

The Nichols Vikings remain an independent team.

Alignment shift: Nichols football also has players from Central Christian Academy and Niagara Catholic on its roster for the first time.

Last year’s champion: Canisius won its second New York State Catholic High Schools Athletic Association championship in three years by defeating Cardinal Hayes 50-44 at Fordham University. Canisius reached that game by defeating St. Francis, 31-20, in the MMHSAA final. Canisius finished ranked No. 1 in the News' Large Schools poll.

Last year’s records: MMHSAA – Canisius 10-2, 3-1; St. Francis 4-6, 2-2; St. Joe's 4-7, 2-2; Timon-St. Jude 5-6, 3-2; Cardinal O'Hara 1-7, 1-4; St. Mary's 1-8, 0-2.

Independent – Nichols 0-7.

2016 All-Western New York underclassmen: Offensive lineman Jeremiah Sanders and Timon teammate and Matt Myers (as a punter) each earned first-team honors but both transferred to different schools for their senior seasons. Canisius' Paul Woods, a receiver, and lineman Brad Currell each earned second-team honors, as did St. Francis receiver Retsen Daley. Teammate and running back Dylan McDuffie also earned second team but is now at Sweet Home. Third team defensive back Juston Johnson transferred from Timon to West Seneca West. Honorable mention returnees include Canisius quarterback Jayce Johnson, St. Joe's signal caller Casey Kelly, the versatile Michael Clark of Cardinal O'Hara, lineman JeJuan Sparks of St. Francis and teammates/defensive backs Melique Straker and Dawson Tyger.

2016 all-league first-team underclassmen: RB Dylan McDuffie-11 (St. Francis), QB Matt Myers-11* (Timon), OL Jeremiah Sanders-11 (Timon), WR Paul Woods-11 (Canisius), WR Retsen Daley-11 (St. Francis), U Michael Clark-11 (Cardinal O’Hara), DL Nick Julian-11 (St. Joe’s), DL Michon Dudley-11 (Cardinal O’Hara), DL Stephen Boyd-10 (Cardinal O’Hara), DB Melique Straker-11 (St. Francis), DB Keenan Ollison-11 (Canisius).

*-league offensive player of the year.

Week One (Sept. 1-2): Opening night features a huge nonleague showdown between state powers as Canisius visits Section V's Pittsford at 7 p.m. Friday. The rest of the Monsignor Martin teams are in action Saturday with St. Joe's and Cardinal O'Hara both hitting the road. St. Joe's heads to Pennsylvania to face Archbishop Ryan. O'Hara goes to Baltimore to face Mount St. Joseph. Closer to home, Timon kicks off the Joe Licata-coaching era at home against St. Mary's of Lancaster, while St. Francis opens under the lights at Polian Family Field against McDowell of Erie, Pa. Nichols does not open until Week Two when it visits St. Mary's on Sept. 9.

At Review the Countdowns to Friday Night Lights for each Section VI classification, the entire week-by-week schedule and see photos and videos from our various training-camp stops.

Season preview coming Wednesday: Our annual preview issue will have capsules and schedules for all 70 teams in Western New York, along with feature stories, photos, a must-see cover and everything else one needs to know about the 2017 season.

Attention coaches & ADs: As soon as they are determined, Section VI coaches need to send a roster -- in spreadsheet form -- to Monsignor Martin coaches should email rosters to

#PrepTalkLive at Every weekend, the place to monitor all of the Friday night and Saturday afternoon action is We will have video reports, photos, live updates from several top games and you will again be a part of the team via Twitter. Tweet game updates with the #PrepTalkLive hashtag and those will appear in our live post.

#PrepTalkSpirit: High school students, tweet your fan photos from the crowd and include the hashtag #PrepTalkSpirit, and we'll retweet some of the best at @bufnewspreptalk.

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