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Fab Five by Miguel Rodriguez: Class A North contenders to determine their playoff fates

When Grand Island snapped Starpoint's 17-game winning streak against division opponents, it created a situation that thrust Class A North into the spotlight for the final two weeks of the Section VI Football Federation regular season.

Five teams – Grand Island, Sweet Home, Starpoint, Williamsville East and Williamsville South – are vying for the division's four playoff spots. There should be some clarity after this weekend since four of them play each other. Two meet in Week Seven.

"There's so much to be determined this week as well as next week," Grand Island coach Dean Santorio said. "Everyone kind of controls their own destiny as far as where they're seeded. If you win out you can finish first. If not you can go from first to fifth."

That includes the Vikings, who look to build on the momentum of beating Starpoint for the first time in four years when they visit Sweet Home on Friday night. They close the regular season Oct. 13 at Gene Masters Field against Williamsville East.

Starpoint looks to regroup against Williamsville South, the only team to beat Grand Island thus far, at Tudor Stadium in Pendleton on Friday.

Williamsville East, which has wins over Sweet Home and South, hosts Kenmore West on Saturday afternoon.

Without further ado, here are five of this week's most intriguing games.

-- Grand Island Vikings (4-1, 3-1 in Class A North) at Sweet Home Panthers (4-1, 3-1), 7 p.m. Friday at Bob Barczak Field. The Vikings slowed down a Starpoint offense that had been averaging 53.6 points the previous three games during last week's 33-7 win.  Santorio said his team did a good job of understanding where to align and attack against certain offensive formations against the Spartans.

GI will need to do that once more against a Sweet Home team that can score points in bunches. The Vikings must contain several Panthers, who have big-play ability. That includes receiver Eric Johnson, who averages over 23 yards per catch; quarterback Maurice Robertson (12.53 yards per pass attempt and eight TDs) and running back Dylan McDuffie (7.56 yards per carry, six total TDs in four games).

The Vikings' defense has been led by LB/FB Nick Anzalone (58 tackles, 17 carries, 221 yards, two TDs) and DE/TE Frank DePalma (38 tackles, 3 sacks). DePalma also has done a fine job helping open holes in the ground game, as running back Thomas Cecere has rushed for 671 yards and seven TDs on 92 carries. Cecere rushed for 203 yards, three touchdowns and returned an interception 64 yards for a score in last week's win.

The Panthers also must keep tabs on big-play receiver Zane Johnson (21 catches, 414 yards, six TDs), who missed most of one game this season with an injury.

-- Williamsville South Billies (4-1, 3-1) at Starpoint Spartans (4-1, 4-1), 7 p.m. at Tudor Stadium. Starpoint fell behind early, an unusual position for the Spartans, and never recovered against GI. The Spartans can't let a slow start bog them down again. They must get their running and passing games untracked if they want to have a shot at earning one home playoff game. They struggled in both areas against Grand Island. This is Starpoint's last league game.

Williamsville South rallied for a 20-16 win at Ken West with Josh Foster scoring two touchdowns and recovering two fumbles in the win. Jemelle Jones rushed for 102 yards, a touchdown and made eight tackles. Billies' last two victories have been via fourth-quarter comeback.

-- Lancaster Legends (5-0) at Jamestown Red Raiders (4-1), 7 p.m. at Strider Field. The high-scoring Legends, ranked second in the state, can clinch home-field through the Section VI Class AA semifinals with a win. Lancaster set records for points (61) and kick-return touchdowns (three) in a single game last week in win over Niagara Wheatfield. Jamestown bolted to an early 13-0 lead before being subdued by unbeaten Williamsville North.

-- Albion Purple Eagles (5-0) at Dunkirk Marauders (5-0), 7:30 p.m. at Karl Hoeppner Field. The winner will be champion of Class B-2 Division and guaranteed at least one home game during the playoffs. The loser could be anywhere from a Nos. 4, 5 or 6 seed for the playoffs. Top four in Class B, which includes three division champions, host quarterfinal games. Defending Section VI Class B champion Marauders scored close road win at Southwestern last Friday.

--  Kenmore West Blue Devils (1-4, 0-4 in Class A North) at Williamsville East (3-2, 3-1), 2 p.m. Saturday at Williamsville East. Depending on how the tiebreakers shake out should multiple teams finish with identical records, Williamsville East has head to head versus Will South and Sweet Home but has worst point-differential of the contenders. To keep it simple, a Flames win enhances team's chances of making the postseason in coach Mike Torrillo's first season. Joey Shifflet has two fourth-quarter TDs in a pair of comeback wins this season.

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