It's NCAA playoff season and two local products will be right in the thick of things.
UAlbany (7-4) hosts Central Connecticut State (11-1) in the opening round of the Football Championship Subdivision, 1 p.m. on Saturday at Bob Ford Field at Tom & Mary Casey Stadium. The matchup pits two Lockport natives, Dante Mount and Kenyata Huston, on the postseason stage.
The Great Danes have bounced back from back-to-back losing seasons, making the FCS playoffs for the first time since 2011. Including the '11 postseason berth, this is only the program's second trip to the big dance.
Mount has been a major contributor to Albany's secondary this year, posting 34 tackles, seven pass breakups and a forced fumble. The senior cornerback talked about the experience he has had with the Danes' comeback season.
"One of (the) most enjoyable and rewarding seasons, to say the least," Mount said in a text exchange. "We were picked to be last in the conference and we finished second. So it's always fun to win."
Before playing for Albany in '18 and '19, Mount spent two seasons in Erie Community College's football program. The '16 Lockport alumnus shared what the transition was like going from JuCo to the D-I level.
"It was a pretty smooth transition because Albany and Western New York are similar in a lot of ways," Mount said. "The biggest difference is the mental aspect of things. There is a lot more time put into film study and practice. That transfers to the games as well. You have to always be mentally sharp because the moment you slip, it's an explosive play or touchdown. Especially at my position."
Huston has had a different path to this point, as the '18 Canisius grad has broken into the Blue Devils' lineup after redshirting last fall. He has enjoyed playing for such a strong team this fall though, with CCSU currently ranked No. 18 in the FCS coaches' poll.
The redshirt-freshman tailback started out hot, scoring a touchdown on his first carry of the season and another in week two to open the year. He was on pace for a bigger workload following 55-plus all-purpose yards in both of the first two games, before he eventually went down with a slight collarbone fracture against Columbia on Oct. 12.
"It's always tough dealing with (an) injury. Especially with a fast start that I got off to," Huston said, who is averaging 6.5 yards per carry. "Instead of sulking, I decided to dedicate myself to (the) rehab process, get a better grip on the playbook and cheer my teammates on. What a season we have had."
Huston has been healing up nicely though and he's anxious to re-join the Blue Devils on the field.
"I've been back on the field for the past three weeks ... (I'm) looking to get my swagger back this week, as I reach closer to one-hundred percent," Huston said. "I'm anxious to see if 16 (Mount) can catch me in the open field."
Mount is just as excited to do battle with a fellow Lock city product. Although Mount is two years older than Huston, they became familiar with each in middle school while playing for different little loop football teams. They would share the varsity field for one season at Lockport in 2015, which was the Lions' best season in terms of win-loss record since 2013.
"It's definitely gonna be fun playing against him though. It's cool to see someone else from Lockport playing at such a high level," Mount said. "I played Malik Brooks (Monmouth University) earlier in the season as well, so seeing guys you watch come up with you is always great to see."
Having won a state championship with the Canisius in 2016 and played with/against some of the area's top players, Huston has enjoyed watching other WNY talent thriving and he's excited about what the next crop of football players may bring.
"It feels good man, (the) class of 2018 was special. Me, Dylan McDuffie (University at Buffalo), Paul Woods (Rutgers), Matt Myers (University at Buffalo), Andreessen from Lancaster (Bryant University) all going D-I definitely showed the younger generation," Huston said. "Tyler Baker, Nik Mcmillan, Joe Dixon, Amier Mohammad (Canisius), Jimmy Scott (St. Joe's) little bro Nasier Starks, Jlynn Darrell (Lockport Little Loop), that with hard work and dedication anything is possible.
"Feels good to see the younger boys of 716 look up to me. I take pride in leading by example, academically and athletically."
For more from sports reporter Khari Demos, follow him on Twitter @riri_demos. Also, tune in to Khari as a guest on Tony Caligiuri's 'Inside High School Sports,' 10 a.m. Saturdays on WGR 550.