Each of the last few Memorial Days, Tom Langworthy, Richie Joly and their families stand on Fourth Street in Jamestown to watch the city's annual parade. When the Jamestown High School band approaches, Langworthy and Joly - the Red Raiders' head football coach and assistant respectively - crane their necks to try and catch a glimpse of one of the group's tallest members.
That would be 6-foot-4 Stephen Carlson - alto saxophone player extraordinaire.
''Richie and I are more the sports fans at a parade,'' Langworthy said with a smile, ''so when we see Carlson and he goes by, we're yelling and rooting for him. He tries to hold it together, but you can see he's smiling.''
Zack Panebianco has caught 45 passes for 989 yards and 10 touchdowns this season. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Jim Riggs
Stephen Carlson (89) leads the Red Raiders in receptions (49) and receiving touchdowns (11). See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Jim Riggs
Fast-forward to Tuesday.
Carlson stands in the middle of the football locker room at Jefferson Middle School and plays a few measures from music gleaned from SpongeBob, the animated television series.
''Someone held the music,'' Langworthy said, ''and the whole locker room started clapping.''
It's good to be a Red Raider these days.
It's especially good when you're a Red Raider receiver.
''We've had a lot of opportunity to do great things,'' Carlson said.
Last Saturday night, my office telephone rang at 7 p.m., just as Jamestown's Section 6 Class AA championship game against Frontier was kicking off at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The conversation was relatively short, I hung up the phone at exactly 7:05 p.m., turned on the radio and listened to WJTN's Tom Ames and Bill Race call the early action.
I was already too late.
On Jamestown's second play from scrimmage, senior quarterback Jake Sisson connected with junior wide receiver Zack Panebianco on a 78-yard touchdown pass. When senior Quinn Lee Yaw booted the extra point, the Red Raiders led 7-0 while many fans were still waiting in line at the box office.
Welcome to Red Raider football - 2013 style.
''I think if it was the beginning of the year and we scored that quickly, people would be surprised,'' Panebianco said, ''but now I'm not so sure that it's that big of a surprise.''
Jamestown enters Saturday's Class AA Far West Regional against top-ranked Aquinas averaging nearly 55 points per game. Sisson has thrown for 32 touchdowns and run for 22 more. His receivers - Panebianco (45 catches, 989 yards, 10 touchdowns), Carlson (49-934-11), junior Ben Larson (25-394-5) and senior Brian Park (20-463-6) - are, in the words of Aquinas' assistant coach Derek Annechino, ''tough to cover.''
''There's always an open guy,'' he said.
But Annechino saves his greatest praise for Panebianco, calling him ''one of the best athletes I've seen on a football field in quite some time.''
It's hard to argue that assessment, especially after he racked up 181 receiving yards and a pair of touchdowns - all in the first half -to set a Ralph Wilson Stadium playoff record.
But that's not all the 5-foot-9, 180-pounder has done this fall. In addition, he has 50 tackles, including two for loss; intercepted two passes; defended seven others; and recovered two fumbles and caused another. Oh, and by the way, he has booted 10-of-13 point-after tries, averaged 37 yards per punt, and and averaged 16.5 yards per punt return.
''Nothing he does surprises me anymore,'' Langworthy said. ''If someone told me that he flies like Superman, I'd have to take a second to think about it.''
Already a three-year starter for the Red Raiders, Panebianco is also one of Western New York's top basketball players. All one had to do was watch his performance in last year's postseason when he helped Jamestown to its third Section 6 title in the last four seasons to confirm that.
''I guess I'm just lucky to pick things up quickly,'' he said when pushed on the subject.
I first noticed Panebianco's athletic prowess during a Tom Buttafaro Memorial League basketball game years ago. Not only could he handle the ball, but he could score just about anytime he wanted to. Remarkably, his expression - even though he was only in elementary school - never changed.
His demeanor is still that way.
''I would never know if I wasn't a part of the game whether (Panebianco) did something good or bad,'' Langworthy said, ''because he has ice in his veins. He just worries about competing.
''He's complemented by the state's best quarterback and a 6-4 receiver next to him and two other really good receivers.''
Carlson is one of JHS' top student/athletes.
''He's in the top-10 (academically), he plays football and basketball and he's in the band,'' Langworthy said. ''I'm sure if he played baseball or track, he'd be good at that, too.''
On the gridiron, though, there have been few better.
In addition to his gaudy receiving numbers, he's also one of the team's best blockers on the perimeter and, defensively, has 78 tackles, including five for loss.
His best game was at Orchard Park where he caught 11 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown.
''I think he can do it all,'' Langworthy said. ''He can run intermediate routes and he's beaten people deep all season.''
Carlson, humble as ever, deflects the attention.
''It's amazing the stuff we can accomplish with Jake (Sisson) throwing the ball,'' he said.
Now, it's on to Saturday's Far West Regional at Sahlen's Stadium in Rochester.
''This pretty much climaxes our season,'' Carlson said. ''(Aquinas) is No. 1 in the state and they're very good, but we're good, too. We're going to come out and give it our best. We think with the stuff we have going, the momentum we have and the skill we have, I think we can pull it off.''
If that should happen, Carlson and his buddies in the music department can really strike up the band.