BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — High school football teams from around Western New York will play for glory in the coming days during the Section VI and Monsignor Martin title games.
Here is a preview of each matchup. View the full playoff schedule and brackets here.
Class AA: 1-Bennett vs. 2-Lancaster
When and where: 7:30 p.m. Friday at Highmark Stadium
How they got here: Bennett (9-0) received a quarterfinal bye as the top seed and defeated Orchard Park 62-22 in the semifinals. Lancaster (9-1) cruised to a 40-0 victory over Hutch Tech in the quarterfinals and won 36-7 in similar fashion over Jamestown in the semifinals.
Previous matchup: Bennett defeated Lancaster 44-20 on Sept. 29.
What to watch for: These two teams have squared off in the previous two Class AA sectional title games, with Bennett taking both. The Tigers are the defending state champions in Class AA, currently ranked No. 5 in the state and are favored to win this matchup again.
Bennett is a complete team, with an offense that features a versatile running game and solid quarterback play, as well as a defense that’s allowed an average of 8.6 points per game this season. Senior Noah McDuffie leads Section VI in interceptions (8) while another senior, Jazier Fluker, tops the section in sacks with 12.
Lancaster’s defense has turned it up at the right time, allowing 14 total points in their previous three games. If the Legends can win the turnover battle, their offense led by quarterback Alex Krupa is potent enough to pull off an upset. The junior threw three interceptions during the Week 5 matchup between these teams and will undoubtedly be looking for some redemption on Friday.
Class A: 1-Clarence vs. 3-Lockport
When and where: 8 p.m. Thursday at Highmark Stadium
How they got here: Clarence (10-0) defeated Williamsville East 43-26 in the quarterfinals and snuck past West Seneca West 28-21 in the semis. Lockport (7-3) shut out Grand Island 26-0 in the quarterfinals and pulled away late to down Starpoint 30-15 in the semifinals.
Previous matchup: Clarence went on the road and narrowly defeated Lockport 28-26 on Sept. 16.
What to watch for: The Red Devils have been the dominant team in Class A, with quarterback Bryce Tubin having arguably the best individual passing season around Western New York this year. The junior tops Section VI in passing yards (2,100) to go with 26 total touchdowns and just three interceptions while leading a team averaging 33.1 points per game. One of his best performances of the season came against Lockport, as he finished 22-of-35 for 333 yards, 107 yards rushing and four total scores.
After starting 1-3, Lockport rides a six-game winning streak into Thursday’s championship. The Lions know they can hang with the Red Devils following their narrow defeat earlier this season, but it’s been their resilience in recent weeks that’s pushed them to this point, mounting second-half comebacks in must-win games against Will North in Week 8 and Starpoint a week ago. They boast a solid running back duo of Jahkwon Davis and Shey Williams, and their defense has helped put points on the board as well with five touchdowns.
Class B: 3-Health Sciences/BASC/GC vs. 4-Pioneer
When and where: 4:15 p.m. Friday at Highmark Stadium
How they got here: Health Sciences (9-1) posted two consecutive shutouts to reach the title game, blanking Depew 46-0 in the quarterfinals and downing Maryvale 14-0 in the semis. Pioneer (9-1) took down Iroquois 23-0 in the quarterfinals and ended South Park’s Cinderella run with a 42-22 win in the semifinals.
Previous matchup: Health Sciences defeated Pioneer 26-18 on Sept. 22.
What to watch for: Pioneer has won every one of their games this season by 20 or more points beyond their loss to the Falcons. Health Sciences has outscored their previous five opponents 166-16 following their lone stumble on the year, a surprise 14-12 loss to Williamsville South. Simply put, this game has all the makings to be a thriller between two dominant teams that both possess a talented quarterback-running back duo.
Dalton Giboo has been a standout for the Panthers all season, tallying 1,462 rushing yards and 25 total touchdowns while also being his team’s leading receiver. Quarterback Gavin Schwab also boasts the best touchdown-to-interception ratio in Section VI at 20 to 1.
As for the Falcons, running back Antwan Ceasar has posted 342 yards and four touchdowns in his team’s two playoff games combined, while quarterback Shamere Banks has a quality TD-INT ratio of his own with 17 scores and two picks on the year.
Class C: 1-Medina vs. 2-Salamanca
When and where: 1 p.m. Friday at Highmark Stadium
How they got here: Medina (10-0) blanked Falconer/CV/MG 24-0 in the quarterfinals and posted another shutout in the semifinals, downing Southwestern 21-0. Salamanca (8-2) defeated Cleveland Hill 42-20 in the quarterfinals and took down Portville 35-24 in the semis.
Previous matchup: N/A
What to watch for: Medina has been a force in Class C over the past few seasons and appears favored to win the program’s third sectional title in four seasons. Not including two forfeit wins, the Mustang defense has posted five shutouts on the season, while running back Christian Moss has led the way offensively with 1,251 yards and 15 touchdowns in just eight games played.
Salamanca will likely lean on its balanced offensive attack that features five players with over 100 rushing yards on the season as they seek their first sectional title since 2001. Quarterback Jaxson Ross is coming off a strong game in the win over Portville, throwing for 197 yards and three touchdowns on 9-of-10 passing.
Class D: 1-Clymer/Sherman/Panama vs. 3-Wilson
When and where: 5 p.m. Thursday at Highmark Stadium
How they got here: CSP (9-0) took down Randolph 31-7 in the semifinals, while Wilson (7-2) pulled off a notable upset by downing Franklinville/Ellicottville 21-20 a week ago.
Previous matchup: CSP went on the road and defeated Wilson 41-13 on Sept. 15.
What to watch for: This is a David vs. Goliath-esque matchup.
CSP, the No. 2 Class D team in the state, won back-to-back NYS championships in 2018 and 2019 and has exerted similar dominance this season, boasting a +269-point differential over their nine games. Dual-threat quarterback Tate Catanese has had a strong campaign, totaling 28 touchdowns to go with 1,372 yards through the air while throwing to a talented receiving trio of Bryce Hinsdale, Carter Brink and Alex Barmore.
Wilson, seeking the program’s first-ever sectional title, has only 17 players on its roster but just keeps finding ways to win. They avenged a loss to F/E from earlier in the season by winning their semifinal matchup and will have to accomplish the same feat against CSP. The Lakemen’s recipe for a title is going to be a heavy dose of running back John Mahar, who is second in Section VI with 1,552 yards and coming off a 180-yard, three-touchdown performance in the semifinals.
Monsignor Martin A: 1-St. Francis vs. 2-Canisius
When and where: 7 p.m. Friday at St. Francis
How they got here: St. Francis (4-5) secured a bye to the championship game as the No. 1 seed, while Canisius (5-5) defeated rival St. Joe’s 42-0 in the semifinal.
Previous matchup: The Red Raiders took down Canisius 41-24 on Oct. 21.
What to watch for: For the sixth straight season, the Red Raiders and Crusaders will battle it out for a Monsignor Martin title. Despite their deceiving records, both sides are ranked in the top five of the Buffalo News’ large school poll, and they both boast talented workhorse running backs who will play significant roles in Friday’s game.
Terrence Pendergrass was dominant in the Red Raiders’ win over Canisius three weeks ago, with the senior going for 252 yards and five touchdowns. On the year, Pendergrass is averaging 121.2 yards per game to go with 19 total scores. For the Crusaders, freshman phenom Elijah Kimble has been their best offensive weapon. Kimble, who recently picked up offers from Penn State and Oregon, has 1,339 yards and 14 total touchdowns.
Monsignor Martin B: 1-Bishop Timon vs. 2-Cardinal O’Hara
When and where: 6:30 p.m. Friday at Mulroy Park
How they got here: Bishop Timon (7-1) earned a bye to the championship game as the top seed, while O’Hara (4-5) took down St. Mary’s 55-6 in the semifinal.
Previous matchup: Timon defeated O’Hara on the road 46-6 on Oct. 7.
What to watch for: The Tigers have looked like the dominant team in Monsignor Martin Division B this season and appear poised to claim their second straight title. Sophomore quarterback Dominic Anzalone has built off his strong freshman campaign and has helped the Timon offense average 36.7 points per game. If the Hawks are to pull off the shocking upset, it’ll likely be due to the play of dual-threat quarterback Jarrell Green, who’s tallied 21 total touchdowns on the season.