Don’t panic now, but the high school football season is quickly coming to an end. With just two weeks left in the regular season, some teams are positioned to make a sectional playoff run. Others still have to scratch and claw just to punch a ticket into Section VI’s dance.
Newfane (Class B-4) and Wilson (Class C North) have already been crowned division champions heading into sectionals. The Panthers will play Lewiston-Porter this weekend and Wilson travel down I-90 to take on Silver Creek, before the two divisional champs face off in a non-league showdown on Oct. 18.
Justin Humphrey-Goldsmith — known by the Wolverines’ faithful as “J5” — and Zion Paige keep rolling heads for Niagara Falls. J5 was able to set the NFHS single-season passing yardage record (1,044) in the team’s 43-19 comeback win over Frontier, while Paige was back at again with his game-changing speed in the open field (144 receiving yards, 3 receiving TDs, 1 punt return TD). This connection will need to remain as strong as they have been to knock off the mighty Jamestown Red Raiders on Saturday.
We also have a big-time matchup in Class A-2, with division rivals Starpoint and Grand Island doing battle on the Spartans’ senior night. This game has so many implications it’s only right that we feature it as our game of the week.
Week six, here we come.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Grand Island @ Starpoint
Friday, Oct. 11
Starpoint (3-2, 3-2 A-2) got off to a fast start, but is reeling from back-to-back losses to Sweet Home and South Park over the last two games. That slide can be attributed to the loss of QB Carson Marcus, who suffered a lower leg injury against the Panthers and was unable to play against the Sparks.
This is such a big factor because that prompts the Spartans staff to move All-WNY receiver Joe Carlson over to QB, running a wildcat package with one of the area’s most dangerous weapons (11 total TDs on the season). With Marcus’ status unknown, this will be a development to watch throughout.
The Vikings (2-3, 2-2 A-2) have had some highs (knocking off SH in week three) and lows this year (heartbreaking losses to Williamsville South and Cheektowaga over the last two weeks). But the biggest thing is that GI has given themselves a chance in Class A — with the win, the Vikes can supplant the Spartans in the league standings with a head-to-head tie-breaker.
My key to the game will be how All-WNY candidate Jake Dean and the Spartans ‘D’ can slow down the GI ground game. The Viking’s triple-option attack features three players who have rushed for over 270 yards, with RB Jack Dlugokinski (319 rushing yards, 3 total TDs, 6.1 yards per rush), QB Ben Moskala (309 rushing yards, 214 passing yards, 3 total TDs) and FB Blake Bielec (277 rushing yards, 6 rushing TDs, 7.7 yards per carry).
Bielec should have a big impact — he rushed for career-high three TDs last week against the Warriors and this senior team captain can provide pressure up front. He is second on the team in sacks with three, coming in right behind Josh Archer’s four.
The other archer, Justin, is also making his presence felt as a ball hawk with his three INTs on the year.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Zion Paige, WR — Niagara Falls
Zion Williamson isn’t the only athlete living up to his biblical namesake.
Paige has been balling all year, totaling 548 receiving yards and eight total TDs. He is currently WNY’s receiving yards leader and his seven receiving scores is the second highest in the area. His craziest statistic may be his yards per catch though — Paige’s 548 receiving yards have come on 18 catches, which averages out to be 30.4 yards per reception. Absolutely disgusting.
The speedster will need to have a big day once again to help NFHS (4-1, 3-1 AA) knock off Jamestown (4-1, 3-1 AA).
RUN THE DAMN BALL
One of my favorite matchups of the year will be this weekend’s game between Newfane (4-1, 4-0 B-4) and Lew-Port (2-3, 1-3 B-1). Non-league games are always interesting because they don’t factor in on any playoff races, but that doesn’t mean that these squads won’t go at it regardless.
I also love this matchup because of the old-school feel with these two run-heavy offenses. The Panthers have averaged 288.6 rushing yards per game, led by the dynamic duo of QB Garrett Srock (646 rushing yards, 309 passing yards, 9 total TDs, 11.1 yards per rush) and the rumbling, stumbling bruiser in RB Jaden Heers (593 rushing yards, 11 rushing TDs, 9.7 yards per rush).
Heers’ 11 rushing touchdowns place him second in WNY, tying him with Jamestown’s Savon VanSickle.
Coming into week six the Lancers’ lead back, Gino Fontanarosa, is the Section VI leader in rushing yards at 887. With just 113 yards needed to crack 1,000, Fontanarosa will be looking to have another big day against one of the stingiest defenses in all of WNY.
The L-P senior was also a guest on this week’s #GNNSportsPodcast, which you can check out right on the @GNN_Sports_ Twitter account, the ‘Niagara Gazette’ Facebook page, Spotify or the Apple Podcasts app.
The weekly Canisius report now has some life, after it was able to take its second straight victory last weekend in a 41-20 win over Erie (PA). QB Tyler Baker’s consistency keeps coming along, with what could have been his most complete performance of the season (170 passing yards, 2 passing TDs, 141 rushing yards, 3 rushing TDs, 17.6 yards per rush). The Lockport native is finding his legs — and his arm — which could be a big x-factor with plenty left to play with the Monsignor Martin regular season and postseason.
Niagara Falls native Joseph “JoJo” Dixon had a fine showing out of the backfield with his 85 yards from scrimmage (28 rushing, 57 receiving), while Lockport native Amier Mohammad finished with two tackles as well. Next up for Canisius (2-3, 0-1 MM) is a test with Pennsylvania powerhouse Cathedral Prep, which will be the Crusaders last non-league matchup of 2019.
For more from sports reporter Khari Demos, follow him on Twitter @riri_demos. Also, make sure to tune into Khari as a guest on Tony Caligiuri’s ‘Inside High School Sports,’ Saturday at 10 a.m. on WGR500.