By MIKE MEILER
Niagara Gazette — Last week the Lewiston-Porter Lancers traveled to Maryvale, which was the 10th-ranked small school in Western New York, and blew past the Flyers, 47-32.
This week, the Lancers, ranked for the first time this season in the WNY polls at No. 10, play host to another top school at 7 p.m. Friday: No. 2 Cheektowaga.
“It’s going to be a tough test,” Lew-Port coach Jon Hoover said. “The’re coming in undefeated and have a very powerful running game with a lot of speed. The might have the best back in Western New York in Marquel Jackson.”
Lew-Port (4-1, 3-1) is tied with Burgard for second place in Class B West, trailing only the Warriors (5-0, 4-0). The top two teams in the division earn an automatic bid into the Class B playoffs, and by virtue of their loss to the Bulldogs in the season opener, the last two divisional games of the year could be key to their Lancers’ playoff hopes.
“We’ve got to win every game that’s in front of us and make sure that we control our own fate,” Hoover said. “We don’t want to leave it to needing help from other teams.”
The Lancers were an afterthought at the beginning of the season after a one-win campaign in 2011. Friday’s contest is the school’s homecoming game, and Hoover said his team’s success has the locals talking.
“We’re expecting a real big crowd tomorrow night,” he said. “A lot of people in the community are talking about what’s been going on, so we’ve been talking about keeping focused. The most important thing about homecoming is us winning our football game.
“We had a really good week of practice, (the players) were focused all week. They didn’t buy into the homecoming stuff and have focused on football and Cheektowaga.”
Ken West at Niagara Falls
Coming off last week’s win against Hutch Tech, the Wolverines (2-3, 2-1) host the Blue Devils (2-3, 2-1) at 2 p.m. Saturday in their second consecutive Class AA North game at Sal Maglie Stadium.
Both teams have already clinched playoff spots by virtue of wins over Tech and Riverside. This is the last divisional game for both teams, and the winner will clinch the second seed and a home playoff game in the first round of the Section VI playoffs.
Niagara Falls won last week thanks to a big game from its defense, which held the Engineers’ offense scoreless. Wolverines’ coach Don Bass said the 21-6 win was his team’s most complete game of the season and helped lead to a more-intense week of practice.
“(The players) realize that they can win games and play good football,” Bass said. “It’s really rewarding as a coach because they come out and work harder knowing that they can compete at a high level.”
Bass said the keys to Saturday’s game will be playing mistake-free football and completing drives.
“We actually left a lot of points on the board (against Tech),” he said. “I’ve told these guys that we have to finish since the beginning of the year. If we can finish our drives and not hurt ourselves, we’ll be OK.”
Grand Island at
The Vikings, ranked No. 7 in the WNY large school polls, put their undefeated record on the line at 2 p.m. Saturday against the winless Falcons in Class A North action. Despite the difference in records, Grand Island coach Dean Santorio said he expects a tough game.
“Honestly, we never take anyone for granted,” he said. “We’ve watched them on film and they’ve done some nice things. We try to make sure our kids respect everyone. We’ve lost games in the last 10 to 12 seasons where, on paper, we might’ve been ahead of them.
“If they win this game at home, it makes their year. They’ll be more than happy to beat a team that’s 5-0. They’re not going to roll over.”
The Vikings (5-0, 4-0) have clinched a playoff spot and are tied with Sweet Home atop their division with two weeks remaining.
Starpoint at Ken East
In another Class A North showdown, the Spartans (3-2, 3-1) hit the road to take on the Bulldogs (1-4, 1-4) at 2 p.m. Saturday.
Starpoint has clinched a spot in the Class A playoffs, and still has a shot at the division title if they win out and get a little help. They’ve won two straight games against divisional opponents, and have turned to junior running back Evan Majewski, throwing the ball only twice over the course of those wins.
“(Majewski) has got all week to rest up for Saturday,” Starpoint coach Al Cavagnaro said. “We don’t practice him much all week because we want him for Saturday. He carries the load.”
The Spartans are also getting healthy at the right time. Senior quarterback Andrew Rankie returned last week after missing two games with a concussion.
“Andrew played well last week,” Cavagnaro said. “It was great to have him back. The confidence he brings to the huddle helps. (Backup) Mike Jakes did a wonderful job, but it’s nice to have a senior and your starting quarterback go in their and call the plays.”
Wilson at Newfane
The Lakemen (3-2 C North) wrapped up a playoff spot last week when they closed division play with a 32-29 win over Akron. They’ll face the rival Panthers (0-5 B East) at 2 p.m. Saturday in a game that’s been played every year that the schools have had football programs.
“It’s pretty easy to get (the players) up for this game because it’s our biggest rival,” Wilson coach Bill Atlas said. “With our league schedule behind us, we’re looking to keep everybody healthy, but we’re looking for a win, too.
The Lakemen are in fourth place in their division, but could move up as far as second by the end of the year if other divisional games fall the right way.
The Patriots have not played a game this year because of the low of players coming out for the team, but Niagara Catholic Principal Robert DiFrancesco said the athletic program is moving forward to schedule full-contact scrimmages against willing opponents in the upcoming weeks.
“From the beginning, our utmost concern has been for the players’ safety,” he said. “We want to make sure that they’re conditioned properly. We do have sufficient numbers, but we want to make sure the players are properly conditioned before we play any games.”
Low opening numbers forced the team to back out of its initial schedule of games. Players, parents and faculty have worked to encourage students to go out for the team, and recent numbers have grown enough to begin to schedule competitive scrimmages. DiFrancesco said it took a couple weeks to get new players in game shape, which led to the delay in scheduling.
DiFrancesco added that the athletic department is hoping scrimmage and practice experience will encourage underclassmen to return and allow the school to field a team next year.