Coaching in the Kensington Lions All-Star Classic is part honor, part feeling like a kid making a trip to the candy store.
With so much talent at the disposal of South coach Jeff Tripp of Hamburg and North counterpart Al Cavagnaro of Starpoint, one can only marvel at the different personnel groupings each will use at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Williamsville South during the 44th edition of the contest pitting the top seniors (except Division I signees) from the 2018 season.
“The all-star game is a treat because not only are these young men really talented, but they’re often extremely smart,” Tripp said. “Their football intelligence is very high. We ask them to do something and they normally pick it up really fast.
“These games are not that difficult to coach. It’s just put the kids in positions to play the game everyone knows they excel at. That’s why it’s enjoyable.”
The North hopes to be as entertaining offensively as Starpoint was during the fall, considering Cavagnaro has his Spartans assistants serving as aides. While Cavagnaro won’t have his record-setting quarterback, Aaron Chase, due to his commitments to the University at Buffalo, the North has Grand Island’s Cam Sionko and Wilson’s Steve Frerichs and plans to air it out.
Starpoint is quite familiar with Sionko as they were division rivals during most of Sionko’s career. He passed for 1,769 yards and 18 TDs. Frerichs led Wilson with nearly 1,500 yards passing and 18 TDs. One of the passing targets could be first-team All-WNY pick Jon Stevens of Clarence.
While the North could get a little pass-happy, even with the presence of tough running backs Dylan Mann of Williamsville North and Joseph Stewart of Kenmore West, the South could be ready to grind it out.
It has a wealth of talented running backs – including first-team All-WNY picks Aaron Wahler of Cleveland Hill and West Seneca East do-everything-star Shaun Dolac, the Buffalo News Player of the Year. The South also has some hard hitters on defense, other than Dolac at linebacker. They include Jayon Renfro of South Park, along with fellow All-WNY picks Taivaughn Roach from Cheektowaga and Dawson Tyger from St. Francis.
Instead of four 12-minute quarters, the game will feature four 15-minute quarters. Proceeds go to Kids Escaping Drugs, among other charitable endeavors.
The game will be dedicated in memories of Milt Dickerson, one of the event’s founders who died last April, and Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Famer and Sweet Home coach John Faller, who passed July 14. Faller served as an assistant coach in the game two years ago.
“It’s been a sad time for Western New York football throughout the spring and the summer,” Tripp said. “The game will be dedicated to their honor. I just hope we can give them a great game.”