Thus far the #DefendTheBlue rallying cry has been limited to just soccer games at the newly named Alden Alumni Sports Complex, but the football team will have its opportunity soon enough to defend its new home turf.
Alden is the latest Western New York athletics program to install a version of all-weather turf. The district, with assists from those in the community and far from home, added its own twist in this venture as instead of the traditional green color the playing surface is mostly a two-toned blue.
This field of dreams, which can also be used for soccer, field hockey and lacrosse, features a royal blue and a lighter blue scheme alternating every 5 yards, except for a 10-yard stretch between the 45s which sticks with the royal blue color. The end zones are yellow with the word Alden in white. Along the home-field stands around the hashmarks, the team’s Bulldogs nickname is etched in yellow. At midfield is the Bulldogs logo.
While that differs slightly from the famed Boise State blue turf field, Alden still needed to get the OK from the Idaho-based college to get its turf that color because Boise State owns the trademark on all non-green fields.
“It didn’t take much convincing (to let us do it),” Alden Co-Athletic Director Ken Partell said. “They were quick to turn around and write a letter for us (giving us the OK).
“The shading was recommended to us to give the field a little more gradient than just once solid blue (color).”
Alden still asked the community and students for their color preference, doing so via vote. They all voted in favor of the $4 million complex, which includes the installation of a new track, fencing and new archway entrance, going blue.
The football team has practiced on the new field but won’t get to play a home game until at least Sept. 20 against Roy-Hart. That’s provided the track surface has hardened and the painted lines have dried. Should the track need a little bit longer to dry, the next home date game is Sept. 27 against Tonawanda.
Baker’s the man
Tyler Baker has earned the right to begin the season as Canisius’ starting quarterback as the Monsignor Martin High School Athletic Association playoff runner-up opens its season at Euclid (Ohio) at 7 p.m. Friday.
The sophomore won a three-way competition to succeed All-Western New York honorable mention Christian Veilleux, a Canadian who transferred over the summer to a prep school in Maryland after one season with the Crusaders. Veilleux, a senior to be with a slew of Division I offers – including Power Five schools, reclassified as part of the 2021 graduation class.
Baker started on junior varsity last year and earned the nod over last year’s varsity backup Gabe Fisher and transfer Austin Williams from Section V Warsaw.
“He’s a fantastic athlete and a true dual-threat kid,” Canisius coach Rich Robbins said of Baker. “He runs a 4.5-40-yard dash and has a very strong arm. He has a high football IQ and is mature at the quarterback position especially for a sophomore.
“Coming into this week against Euclid, the No. 9-ranked team in Division I in state of Ohio who has a lot of team speed and athleticism, we just felt as though he gives us the best chance to win.”
Allegany-Limestone: Tom Callen takes over for Paul Furlong.
Chautauqua Lake/Westfield/Brocton: Bryan Bongiovanni takes over for Curt Fischer.
Franklinville/Ellicottville: Jason Marsh takes over for Chad Bartoszek.
McKinley: Brian Davis takes over for Micah Harris.
North Tonawanda: Rick Tomm took over for Eric Jantzi.
St. Mary’s: Matthew Ard takes over for Chris Dickson.
Salamanca: Chad Bartoszek takes over for Paul Haley.
Springville/WV: Mark Heichberger takes over for Rob Valenti.
WNY Maritime/Health Sciences: Tyree Parker takes over for Charlie Comerford.
Mergers and splits
-- Fredonia has opted to go solo again as it dropped Brocton.
-- Chautauqua Lake/Westfield has picked up Brocton.
-- Randolph drops Frewsburg after a two-year merger.
-- Frewsburg opts to play 8-man football.
-- Maple Grove has gone from 11-man to 8-man.
There weren’t too many teams moving up or down from class to class.
Class AA and A experienced some shifting. Jamestown and Frontier return to Class AA after spending last year in Class A-1.
Williamsville North moves from Class AA to A-1. WNY Maritime/Health Sciences drops from Class A-3 to Class B-2.
Fredonia, now a solo outfit, drops from Class B-3 to Class C South.
Randolph and Franklinville/Ellicottville return to Class D after spending last year in Class C South.
Week One’s top games
Every game is big during football season but as always some are bigger than others. Here’s some of those for opening weekend taking place within the cozy confines of the 716-area code.
-- Hutch-Tech at Lancaster, 7 p.m. Friday. ICYMI, Lancaster’s football program is celebrating its 100th seasons. To commemorate the milestone on opening night, the program plans to introduce former players by decades prior to kickoff who happen to be in attendance.
-- Grand Island at South Park, 7 p.m. Friday. Some of the faces have changed since these two staged an epic playoff game won in overtime by Grand Island last October. Still, both programs guided by veteran coaches have a tradition of reloading and winning on the fly. This game should be a dandy.
-- McDowell (Pa.) at St. Joe’s, 1 p.m. Saturday. The Trojans are 2-0 heading into St. Joe’s for the Marauders’ opener. Last year, McDowell needed overtime to beat the visiting Marauders, 24-21. First game for St. Joe’s sophomore quarterback and Division I prospect Callum Wither from Canada.
-- West Seneca West at Kenmore West, 2 p.m. Saturday. Two-time defending division champion West Seneca West has the look of a team that could make its third straight sectional Class A final. Kenmore West returns eight starters and a sound line from last year’s playoff qualifier and bolstered its offense with the addition of St. Joe’s transfer David Morgan.
-- Maryvale at Cleveland Hill, 2 p.m. Saturday. Cheektowaga town rivals renew their friendly pleasantries at Carl J. Kuras Field. Golden Eagles have won eight of last 13 meetings against Maryvale, but the Class B-sized Flyers have won three straight perennial Class C power Cleveland Hill. First meeting on new all-weather surface at Cleve Hill.