Editor's note: This is part of a series unveiling the All-Western New York football team as chosen by The Buffalo News. The football teams will be released on Friday.
Clymer/Sherman/Panama lost in the Section VI football semifinals last season and returned several key players from that team in 2018.
It would have been easy to conclude that the Wolfpack would have a very good team this season.
Still, potential needs proper guidance.
Coach Ty Harper and his assistants came together to put in the work necessary to achieve championship perfection.
CSP captured its first Section VI, Far West Regional and New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association Class D championships in its fourth season as a merged program.
Thirteen opponents. Thirteen wins. Scholastic football’s dream season.
For that reason, Harper has been selected as the 2018 Buffalo News Football Coach of the Year. Other coaches on the CSP staff include Chris Payne (defensive coordinator), Dave Bodamer (special teams/receivers/defensive backs), Bill Schneider (junior varsity coach), Brad Barmore (junior varsity coach) and Bob Newton (junior varsity coach).
Others who were considered for the honor included West Seneca East’s Jim Maurino, Lancaster’s Eric Rupp, Cleveland Hill’s Glen Graham and St. Francis’ Jerry Smith.
“It’s an incredible honor,” Harper said. “There are so many incredible football coaches in Western New York, guys who have been doing this a long time. To be selected as the top coach is just an incredibly humbling honor for me.”
He couldn’t have done it without a talented group of hard-working athletes who were driven to succeed. They wanted to do more than just have another winning season after losing to eventual state Class D runner-up Maple Grove in the sectional final last year.
In the offseason, players bought into the training program, and Harper thought 2018 could be something special.
“The kids were getting after it in the weight room and at 7-on-7 tournaments,” Harper said.
The belief factor kicked up a few notches in late August after Scrimmage Saturday.
CSP lined up against reigning two-time Class C South Division champion and Section VI runner-up Southwestern, a team with plenty of experience and talent.
“We knew it’d be a pretty good test,” Harper said. “We played them pretty even between our starters and their starters. We obviously wanted to take it week to week but I think at the end of August camp, we knew we had something pretty good.”
Which became something more as the season progressed.
CSP received the No. 1 ranking in the first state poll in mid-September and were hunted the rest of the season. The Wolfpack answered the challenge each week.
That included ending Maple Grove’s championship reign in the Section VI final to taking down the No. 2-ranked team in the state in consecutive weeks, first Alexander and then Tioga, to reach the state final.
At the Carrier Dome with the championship for the taking, Harper had the resolve to call for a hook-and-ladder play that hadn’t looked quite right in practice, but worked to perfection in the biggest game of the season against Moriah.
“It’s surreal,” Harper said after the title game. “We knew we had a special team coming in. ... The past four months have been so enjoyable. I’m going to miss the seniors. ... What a ride we had.”