Honors at 33rd annual WNY high school football awards banquet  

Contributed photoCanisius football was honored at the 33rd Annual WNY High School Football Awards Banquet, from left, with head coach Rich Robbins, Samuel Haring, C.J. Ozolins, Donovan Cornelius, Niagara Falls native JoJo Dixon, Lockport native Tyler Baker, and assistant coach Bryce Hopkins all in attendance, on Saturday, Dec. 28, at Classics’ V Banquet & Conference hall in Amherst.

AMHERST — Another high school football season is in the books as Dick Gallagher hosted his 33rd annual WNY High School Football Awards Banquet, this past Saturday at Classics’ V Banquet & Conference hall. Buffalo Bills radio announcer and Lockport native John Murphy emceed the event, as many players, coaches and programs in our coverage area were honored, including Canisius, who was just one of two Section VI teams to win a state title this fall.

Crusaders running back and Niagara Falls native Joseph “JoJo” Dixon was named the Ray Karney Award winner as the offensive Most Valuable Player for the Monsignor Martin Association Football Championships for his 112 rushing yards and three touchdowns against St. Francis on Nov. 16. The 2019 first team All-Western New York defensive back selection was joined at the event by Lockport native and Crusaders quarterback Tyler Baker, who was named one of the Monsignor Martin’s four offensive players of the year, a group that also included Newfane native and St. Joe’s receiver Sam Kline.

Baker helped Canisius take states with 2,755 total yards and 26 total touchdowns in just his first varsity season. Baker and Dixon’s head coach, Rich Robbins, was also honored with the Joe Foyle Award, alongside South Park’s Tim Delaney and Lancaster’s Eric Rupp, as Section VI’s large school coaches of the year.

Kline was also an All-WNY first teamer after leading the area with his 11 receiving TDs and was one of two players to receive the James Lofton Award as WNY’s most outstanding receivers.

The awards were aplenty for Declan Faery and Wilson, with Faery being named the John Urschel WNY Football Scholar Athlete of the Year. The second team All-WNY selection was also named one of WGRZ-TV2’s three defensive players of the year, along with his teammate Drew Westmorland. Faery was also an All-WNY Academic Football Team member, as well as one of three recipients of the Jim Burt Award as WNY’s top defensive linemen after tying his father and defensive coordinator, Matt, with a program-record 13 sacks.

Westmorland got in on the winning too, taking home a Chuck Funke Award as an offensive player of the game honor for his 230 scrimmage yards (135 receiving, 95 rushing) and three total TDs (1 passing, 1 rushing, 1 receiving) in the Class C title game.

Other Lakemen receiving awards were Bobby Atlas, who was a C North offensive player of the year (along with backfield mate Brayden Dunlap), a Cross Training Athletics All-WNY Character Team member and a selection to All-WNY Academic Football Team. Brayden Thompson also joined Atlas and Faery as an academic team selection. Thompson was the team’s leader in the trenches and recorded a team-high 56 tackles, while Dunlap had one of the best rushing seasons in Lakemen history (966 yards, 10 TDs).

Atlas guided the offense with an 11-4 TD-to-interception ratio, helping Wilson finish the season at 9-1.

Wilson head coach Bill Atlas, Bobby’s father, was also one of three coaches awarded the Gene Masters Award for small school coaches of the year, after leading the Lakemen to their first undefeated regular season and just their third berth to a sectional championship game in school history.

Other offensive players of the year include Starpoint’s Joe Carlson for Class A-2, Lewiston-Porter’s Gino Fontanarosa for B-1, and Newfane’s Garrett Srock for B-4. Carslon was a first team All-WNY selection at punter after playing all over the field and scoring 16 total TD’s (9 receiving, 4 rushing, 2 defensive, 1 passing), Fontanarosa cracked the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the Lancers and Srock led Section VI in rushing yards for a QB with 954 and helped the Panthers win their first division title in over 25 years.

Aside from Faery and Westmorland, only Newfane’s Jaden Heers in Class B-4 was another local defensive player of the year. Heers had a team-high 89 stops, all while splitting his time from the offense where he had 14 scores.

Last but not least, another group of players added to our 11 total members on the academic team. That rest of the list includes: Starpoint’s Jacob Brooks and Aidan Davis, Grand Island’s Trevor Knight, Sean Rustowicz and Ben Moskala, North Tonawanda’s Michael Rees, Newfane’s Chance Caccamise, and Lew-Port’s Cooper Krawczyk.

For more from sports reporter Khari Demos, follow him on Twitter @rri_demos. Also, tune in to Khari as a guest on Tony Caligiuri’s ‘Inside High School Sports,’ 10 a.m. Wednesdays on WGR 550.

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