As we inch even closer to the start of high school football season, our local student-athletes got some "preseason" action in on 'Scrimmage Saturday.' The scrimmages came a little early this year, with North Tonawanda and Lewiston-Porter opening up on Friday. The two squads would work against West Seneca East and Cardinal O'Hara.
As far as Saturday went, I started out with my alma mater of Lockport High School, where the Lions played host to Niagara Wheatfield, Grand Island, Williamsville East, St. Francis and Sweet Home. My last stop of the day was over at Niagara Falls High School, where I caught up on their action with WNY Maritime/Health Sciences and St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute.
I saw a lot of promising young talent in all three scrimmages and noticed a few guys I'm really excited to cover this season. Here's some of the things I saw:
• North Tonawanda looked pretty solid in its option attack when taking on West Seneca East. With options like Aiden Ferry, Joe Caporicci and Aidan Pless touting the rock, the Lumberjacks should be able to give defenses headaches as they try to slow down the 'Wing-T.' All three of the backs had breakout runs and a few red zone TDs, especially in their last matchup against O'Hara.
The quarterback position is still a question, with Andrew Kosikowski and Nash Rieselman having up-and-down evenings, with an interception thrown and several fumbled snaps. Out wide, they should continue to find Camerin Holmes, who is listed at 6-foot-6 and provides them with a big target to attack the middle of the field.
As for the Jacks' defense, it looked pretty strong. The group was able to play stingy against the Trojans for most of their matchup and shutdown the Hawks 'O' until their very last possession.
• I was really impressed with the running game of the Lew-Port Lancers. Both Gino Fontanarosa and Frank Previte ripped off long runs against O'Hara, both scoring twice against the Hawks. They also ran tough against WSE, which is coming off of a Section VI Class A title and a berth in the Class A state championship game.
The Lancers should be able to piece together a solid passing game to compliment, with three-year starter J.P. Stewart back for his senior season. Their defense also battled all night, not necessarily shutting the Trojans down but they had to work for just about everything on the offensive side.
Considering how successful WSE has been in recent years, head coach Matt Bradshaw was more than pleased with his team's performance.
• In the brief time that I saw Grand Island, the Vikings may be answering any questions about how they can replace QB Cam Sionko. Ben Moskala looked sharp early on, finding Anthony Homa down the sideline for a TD strike. Moskala was able to get in on the action himself too, catching a wild 50/50 ball down the right sideline from Tyler Weigel. However the situation plays out, the Vikings have to feel much more confident about their QB room at this point.
The GI defense also was rather impressive. The unit was able to slow down the Lions offense to just two scores in the session. With schools like South Park, Starpoint, WSE and both Williamsville's North and South back in the mix, the Vikes should feel confident about how they'll be able to compete in the Class A-2 division.
• Lockport had a pretty potent offensive attack all day, with QB Nick Cascia looking in tune with Josh Cooper, Santino Drake and Collin Thompson. The player that really caught my attention too was Julius "Juice" Williams. "Juice" made several downfield plays in the passing game, giving Cascia another weapon to use at his disposal this season.
I also liked what I saw from the Lions running game, with the tandem of Ricky Maye and Joe Taylor Jr. The better they got on the day, the better the offense seemed to perform. After a solid start against GI, they seemed to get even better when taking on Sweet Home before they both broke out against NW. Both kids are pretty downhill runners, which could help give the Lions a newfound attitude with that unit.
Speaking of breaking out, the 'O' looked almost flawless against the Falcons, with a plethora of long runs, TD passes and even taking some screen plays to the house. The biggest question will be how the Lions 'D' continues to take steps. It had its ups and downs, but the group was able to make a few plays like their goal-line stand against the Vikings, where Xavier Carroll punched the ball loose for Drake to recover.
• The Falcons had some highs and some lows, but they were able to show that they should have one constant this year: the ability to run the football. Conner Badendyck was able to get in the end zone against Will. East and should be one of the featured pieces in their run-heavy attack.
With this option-style offense, NW should rely on some of the jet sweeps and zone runs that they ran and can mix in even more misdirection concepts as the season goes along. For me, there were just two major concerns that I had after watching the Falcons:
1) Can they remain disciplined? I counted at least three neutral zone infractions on the defensive side, and head coach Russ Nixon made sure he got his point across about how that can't fly once the season starts.
2) How will the defense hold? I know it may have been a test in stepping up to play a AA school like Lockport but the Lions almost scored at will in the session. We'll have to stay tuned to see what they are able to piece together.
• NFHS was able to have a rather strong showing overall, showing an ability to run the ball well and play some pretty sound defense. Kalem "KK" Chapell had a big day, ripping off long gains left and right on both Health Sciences and Joe's. Zion Paige, who should be one of the areas best deep threats this year, flashed his blazing speed on a 50/50 deep ball against the Marauders. With speedsters like "KK," Zion, Abraham "AB" Averhart and Jashawn Prather, the Wolverines might be able to turn any game into a track meet.
The defense showed strong all day long, slowing down the Falcons for most of the scrimmage and slowing Joe's down for most of the period, too. They were able to force some turnovers against the Marauders, with Kishaun "Keeno" Miller forcing a fumble recovered by Paige and Mark Wilson tipping QB Callum Wither's pass that led to a Vashaun Sanchez interception.
The biggest question for me was with the quarterback play. Justin Humphrey-Goldsmith had his moments but he struggled at times, throwing several picks in both matchups. JHG did show off his big arm and and the ability to extend plays from the pocket, but he will need to improve his accuracy and continue to grow in reading the field to be able to take the Wolverines to the playoffs.
Respond to sports reporter Khari Demos on Twitter @riri_demos or via email at email@example.com.