Leading off today:
Keith McShea of The Buffalo News pretty much summed it up
when he observed that just about anybody could have looked at the football landscape on Labor Day weekend and said Randolph had a pretty good chance of playing in the Carrier Dome on Thanksgiving weekend.
On the other hand, Williamsville North wasn't high on anyone's "duh" list, and the situation certainly didn't improve after losses by 14-12 to Buffalo McKinley and 32-6 to Williamsville South to start the year.
But throw out a regular-season loss to Grand Island (avenged in the postseason) and Williamsville North has run the table since, landing a spot in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class A final vs. Queensbury.
Queensbury ran the table in Section 2 this year, twice beating Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake -- reason enough to take any team seriously -- and rates as the favorite Friday afternoon. But having seen Williamsville North, which also owns a win over Sweet Home, beat Eastridge by rallying in the final minute and then dominate Union-Endicott early, there's no way I'm ruling the Spartans out. The offense features a third-year starting QB in Ryan Majewski (105-for-237 for 1,469 yards and 17 touchdowns) and senior running back Derek Isler (1,131 yards), an indication of their balance.
In fact, the Class A final could very well turn out to be the highlight of the weekend. Williamsville North, which has made an impression on defense throughout the postseason in large part because of its effectiveness on the line, faces its most imposing challenge of the season. Queensbury's double-wing offense has churned out 4,031 yards and 58 touchdowns in 12 games.
A few notes on the weekend schedule:
Class AA, Aquinas vs. Monroe-Woodbury: Kevin Devaney Jr. of MSG Varsity correctly notes Aquinas wins if it controls the line of scrimmage on offense, because quality defensive line play has been an M-W hallmark this fall.
M-W quarterback Kevin Carr gets the job done with his legs and Aquinas' Jake Zembiec does it through the air, but neither is one-dimensional and it's likely both will end the day with impressive stats. Aquinas, which has a long string of all-state running backs, still pounds the ball but has reshaped its offense to feature Zembiec (119-for-203 for 1,721 yards, 23 TDS, six interceptions).
Where Zembiec may have the edge though is that he doesn't have to throw against the Aquinas secondary. The Little Irish have several interchangeable parts, including backs they routinely trust handling receivers 1-on-1; if Aquinas deems the air game to be sufficiently locked down, M-W is going to be trying to run the ball against eight men in the box -- and that won't work vs. Aquinas.
Class A, Williamsville North vs. Queensbury: Queensbury has been running its double-wing offense since coach John Irion took over in 1997, and 17 different backs have carried at least once this fall. The key is sophomore Brett Rodriguez with 107 carries for 1,111 yards and 15 touchdowns.
The problem with defending against that offense it two-fold: (1) Opponents don't see it very often and can't replicate it very well in practice; (2) Successful double-wing teams tend to get very good offensive line play, which goes a long way toward winning Week 13 games by wearing down defenses in the homestretch.
Queensbury reached NYSPHSAA finals in 1997 and 1998, losing to Vestal and Aquinas, respectively.
Class B, Maine-Endwell vs. Schalmont: Schalmont possesses wins by scores of 51-0 over Glens Falls, 61-0 vs. Johnstown, 54-0 vs. Hudson Falls and 53-0 vs. Green Tech -- not to mention a combined 180-13 mark in its last three playoff games. The defense has allowed just 33 points for the season.
Does that amount to a hill of beans against Maine-Endwell, winner of 37 straight games and NYSPHSAA championships in 2011 and 2012? I would have been tempted to say no until the 66-0 demolition (60-0 at halftime) of Marlboro in the semifinals last weekend.
Sunday's game is still M-E's to lose, but Schalmont has the potential to apply enough pressure to make it uncomfortable, especially if the defense loses track of Devon Willis. Willis was a first-team all-state running back as a junior but missed the first month of this season with an injury. He's piled up 1,000 yards and 18 TDs since returning to the lineup. With Willis, Trevon Perez-Tucker and Kyle Strube all capable of breaking long runs and state wrestling championship contender Nick Gallo playing QB, Schalmont has more weapons than anyone M-E has faced this season.