By Jay Young
Football coaches from Section 6 will have a few extra adjustments to make for the start of the upcoming high school season. In addition to the usual practices, training camps and strategy sessions, teams will also be looking at scheduling changes in Classes AA, A, C and D.
Randolph football coach Brent Brown will have some new Section 6 Class D opponents when the season begins in September.
P-J file photo
Jamestown High School football coach Tom Langworthy guided the Red Raiders to a Section 6 Class AA championship in 2013.
P-J file photo by Jim Riggs
The Section 6 Football Federation has announced new alignments for this season, and there are several important alterations that will affect area programs.
The biggest change is the elimination of Class DD.
As a result of mergers by several programs within the section and lower class numbers, the smaller DD schools have been absorbed into D.
Class D will now have nine teams in Section 6, including defending state champion Randolph, Cattaraugus-Little Valley, Frewsburg, Panama, Portville and Pine Valley. The combined teams in D will include Franklinville/Ellicottville/West Valley, Westfield/Brocton, and newly merged Sherman/Clymer.
"What we are getting is smaller and smaller schools, class sizes are smaller and schools are merging," said Frewsburg coach Terry Gray. "That is limiting the number of total teams, and DD football was created to give the small schools an opportunity to compete, and now a lot of those teams have moved together.''
See ADJUSTMENTS, Page C2
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After claiming a Class DD title over Cattaraugus-Little Valley last year, the Bears will now be playing against stiffer competition, including newly merged schools.
"It is going to make competition better and it is going to be a challenge for schools who haven't merged to stay competitive," Gray said.
After playing both Clymer and Sherman in the regular season for years, Frewsburg will now meet a combined team from two different schools.
"We have been pretty lucky that we have had enough to maintain our program," Gray noted.
Gray called school mergers and consolidations a "forever work in progress,'' something that will continue to change the way local football is played for years to come.
Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake, which merged in 2013 and played in Class D, will now spend their first season in Class C. While many schools end up merging teams in order keep their programs above water, it can sometimes mean moving up into a higher class.
MG/CL will now be in the Class C South along with Southwestern, Allegany-Limestone, Salamanca and Gowanda. A combined team of Falconer/Cassadaga Valley will round out the South, and this will be the first year that the Golden Falcons play as a combined team.
Despite moving up into Class C, MG/CL will not have to worry about missing out on their rivalry with Randolph. The Cardinals will meet the Thunderdragons in a non-league meeting to keep the tradition alive.
"We have them as a non-leaguer,'' said Cardinals coach Brent Brown. "I think that's why they put us with (MG/CL). We've played them so many years now and it is already a great game.''
While it has been easy for some teams to merge with schools that are close by, Randolph is in a difficult position geographically.
"We're in a tough spot, because our district is so big,'' Brown said. ''I'm not sure who we could merge with. I don't really know if there is an opportunity to do that.''
It is not just at smaller schools where mergers and class sizes are shaking up Federation alignments.
The Jamestown Red Raiders will play next season in the Class AA South after last year was played without any divisions.
"Last year, what happened was we went to one league with nine teams, similar to the Big 10 - one total league," said Coach Tom Langworthy. "And the reason for that was with the numbers.''
Next season Niagara-Wheatfield and Williamsville North will be back in Class AA, thanks to higher enrollment numbers, which means that the class will once again be split into North and South.
Despite the changes, the Red Raiders will not be facing any serious changes in their schedule this year.
"We'll play every one of the South schools and then we each have two non-league games (Sweet Home and Canisius),'' he said, ''so for us this is a more traditional schedule that we have been playing for years.''