By Mike Meiler firstname.lastname@example.org
Niagara Gazette — Two local schools will match up in a Class A North showdown this weekend, highlighting Niagara County’s high school football schedule.
The Niagara-Wheatfield Falcons (0-2, 0-1) travel to Grand Island to take on the Vikings (2-0, 1-0) at 2 p.m. Saturday in a battle of banged-up teams.
The Vikings, pegged as favorites to compete for the division title this season, lost senior quarterback Quinn Corrao to an ankle injury less than halfway through their opener at Hamburg, but impressed by holding off the Bulldogs and beating the North Tonawanda Lumberjacks last week.
Head coach Dean Santorio said Corrao is a game-time decision Saturday, but added that he has complete faith in backup Giuseppe Campanella, who went 8 for 15 for 120 yards and two touchdowns against NT. Running back Paul Sukmanowski rumbled for 142 yards.
“We were really happy with the way we played,” Santorio said. “We had a real nice defensive performance, (Campanella) did a great job and we ran the ball pretty well.”
The Falcons haven’t had the same start, losing a non-league game to visiting Lewiston-Porter in their opener before falling to A North power Sweet Home in Week Two.
They’ve seen more than their fair share of injuries, as well. First-year coach Brent Tylec said he could be missing as many as four starters on both sides of the ball.
That doesn’t mean Saturday’s game won’t be competitive, though. Last season, an 0-5 N-W team hosted the 5-0 Vikings and played tough in a 14-7 loss.
“I thought they did a really nice job (last year), especially defensively,” Santorio said. “We did have a couple turnovers, but you have to credit them with playing hard. Even so far this year, what we’ve seen is they play pretty good defense and they get after you. We’re not going to take anyone for granted.”
“We played them tough last year, and we’re expecting to do the same this year,” said Tylec. “Our kids are working hard in practice. They didn’t forget last year’s game.”
Lancaster at Niagara Falls, 3 p.m. Saturday
The Wolverines (0-2, 0-2 AA) play their first home game in the third week of the regular season when the Redskins (2-0, 2-0 AA) visit Sal Maglie Stadium.
Niagara Falls lost two tough road games at Jamestown and Frontier to open its season, while Lancaster won at Kenmore West and hosting West Seneca West.
The two schools met at Lancaster in last year’s season opener, with the Redskins pulling out a 16-10 win after trailing 10-0 at halftime.
NF coach Don Bass said his team is heading into the game in high spirits, despite the 0-2 start.
“After Jamestown, we had a good week of practice,” he said. “We realized we left some points on the field against Frontier, and we’ve been building off that.”
Bass said the key to the game will be controlling the line of scrimmage and eliminating turnovers, two things that have plagued the Wolverines early on. He also said his defense would have to prepare for Lancaster quarterback Kevin Colafranceschi, who he called the “best in the league.”
Jaylin Smith, who stepped in at QB after an injury and led the Wolverines to a 3-1 record in games he started as a junior last season, returned under center against Frontier. Bass said a full week of practice for Smith at quarterback could bode well for his offense.
Burgard at Lew-Port, 7 p.m. tonight
By beating Niagara-Wheatfield on the road and Barker/Royalton-Hartland at home to open their season, the Lancers (2-0, 1-0 B North) set up a showdown with the undefeated Bulldogs (2-0, 2-0 B North).
Burgard hasn’t allowed a point yet this season, outscoring opponents 62-0. It also beat Lew-Port in last season’s opener, 42-26.
“We were a new coaching staff at the time, a new team,” said L-P’s Jon Hoover, who began his coaching career with last year’s loss to the Bulldogs. “We didn’t have personnel in the right spots because we didn’t know where they really belonged yet.”
The Bulldogs present matchup problems for just about every team in B North, boasting size and speed that most of the other small schools don’t have. Hoover said his team knows the challenge it faces.
“You have to try to weather the storm,” he said. “They like to come out fast, get an opponent down and take away what their opponent likes to do. We have to limit their big plays and move the ball on offense.
“We know that this is the toughest test that we’re going to face this year.”
Cleveland Hill at Wilson, 7 p.m. tonight
The Lakemen (0-2, 0-2 C North) face as tough a test as anybody when they host the Eagles (2-0, 1-0 C North), last year’s Section VI champions.
Wilson played Cleve Hill tough during the regular season last year, losing a 16-13 road game. In a playoff rematch at Wilson, the Eagles rolled, 42-7.
Facing an 0-3 start, Wilson coach Bill Atlas said he hopes last year’s games can help prepare this year’s team.
“They showed us some stuff last year that I think we’ll be able to exploit,” he said. “As a whole we’re more prepared. Even my quarterback (Tim Walch) has come up to me a few times this week telling me about how he’d like to try certain throws.”
Starpoint at Sweet Home, 2 p.m. Saturday
Class A North
The banged-up Spartans (0-2, 0-1 A North) travel to the perennial division favorite Panthers (2-0, 1-0 A North), who boast a 62-game winning streak over Section VI opponents.
Starpoint lost a mud-soaked rivalry game to Lockport on opening weekend before falling to Kenmore East last weekend. It didn’t scored a point offensively in either game and could enter Saturday’s game without star running back Evan Majewski (hamstring) and quarterback Sam Terrazzino (concussion).