PENDLETON — Finally, the unofficial start to the fall is here.
With the high school football season right around the corner, some local talent will get to show off its skills for one last interscholastic contest. With Starpoint head coach Al Cavagnaro at the helm, he and a group of local talent make up this year’s North team, which is set to take on the South in the 44th annual Kensington Lions Club All-Star High School Football Classic tonight at Williamsville South High School.
Cavagnaro will be joined by his Spartans coaching staff, consisting of offensive coordinator Tim Racey, defensive coordinator Paul Mulvey and assistant coaches Shawn Latini, Bill Aquino, Justin Bauman and Nate Beutel. After being unable to take part in the game in years past, Cavagnaro has taken great pleasure in being an assistant coach last year the head man this time around.
“These have been two of the best summers I’ve had,” Cavagnaro said. “... What an experience. I think any coach that gets asked should definitely take it. It’s a wonderful experience (and) great kids.”
Cavagnaro has been preaching to the players to get off to a quick start, especially considering how anemic the North team looked in last year’s 36-0 loss.
The North’s leader is also bummed to not get to coach All-Western New York talents like Lewiston-Porter’s Joe Powers, Lockport’s Malik Brooks and his former players Aaron Chase and Max Bowden. Brooks, Bowden and Chase will soon to begin fall camps at Monmouth University and the University at Buffalo, respectively. Powers, one of the squad’s four team captains, was an All-WNY first teamer who will unfortunately miss the game due to a leg injury suffered in practice last week.
Cavagnaro does, however, looks forward to working with former Spartans Matthew Spina, Robert Roetzer, Jacob Agro and Brendan Gawel for one last hurrah.
“You just don’t know if you’re ever gonna get that chance again. It’s been great to have those kids here,” Cavagnaro said.
“We’re missing a couple of kids that are at UB (and) that hurts. But let me tell you something, the two kids that we’ve got playing quarterback have been early, stayed late (and) done everything we’ve asked them. And it’s been a pleasure to coach (them). ... Cam (Sionko) and Steve (Frerichs) are great kids and they’ve been wonderful.”
The quarterbacking duties will be handled by two of WNY’s best, All-WNY honorable mentions Sionko (Grand Island) and Frerichs (Wilson). The two signal callers gave some perspective as to how unique an opportunity the game is for them.
“I feel very honored, very lucky. I think it’s pretty cool playing with these guys,” Frerichs said, as the reigning Class C North Co-Player of the Year prepares for his first collegiate season at SUNY Morrisville State.
“A lot of these guys have really good talent, so a lot of better competition. It’s a lot of fun. ... I think this is just practicing against better talent that you don’t see all through (Class) C. You’ve got a lot of guys who do have good talent, but it’s not all across the board. So hopefully this’ll be like a warmup or a springboard to the talent in college.”
“It’s pretty cool. Growing up, especially when you’re like in eighth grade, a freshman, or when you start actually getting into football, I think the big thing is the All-Star game at the end of the summer,” added Sionko. “... It’s just nuts to be in it and play in it. ... We’ve got Joe Stewart, Cam Crosier and myself and all of us are going to Buff State, so we’re already getting that connection going.”
Sionko forgot to mention his All-Star teammates and fellow future Bengals Jacquez Jones (Burgard), Jihad Loynes (Bennett) and Jemelle Jones (Will. South). Loynes, a first team All-WNY pick on the d-line, has been billed as the team’s “disruptor” up front and he’s buying-in to the role.
“(I’m looking forward to) causing a disruption, honestly,” Loynes said. “Stopping their run game and forcing the pass. We’ve got lockdown coverage. That’s really it, honestly.”
Jones is no slouch either, a third team All-WNY selection in his own right. He’s also the lone Billie that will play his last high school game right where it all started.
“It feels pretty good, it’s gonna be my last game on (South’s field),” Jones said, “... so I’m gonna try to put on a show and do what I always do and just play at my best ability.”
Some other faces to look for on defense will be second team All-WNY member Scott Becht (Williamsville North) and Moran Montgomery (Niagara Falls).
Montgomery will be an interesting piece to keep an eye on — Mulvey said the former Wolverine stand-out is physical enough to get some snaps as a defensive end and rangy and athletic enough to drop back into coverage as a safety.
“It feels great to know that I was one of the people that was good enough to be selected for this game, “ Montgomery said. “... Anything the defense needs, anything they need (me) to be, wherever they need me, I’m there.”
Montgomery will serve as one of the team’s captains alongside Powers, Reese Casinelli (Newfane) and Jonathan Stevens (Clarence). Casinelli will be joined by his twin brother, Tyre, as the former Panthers prepare for their last time together on a high school field.
“It’s pretty crazy because, you know, I’ve never seen myself really as an All-Star. So just to be called one or to be on the team with the great guys, it feels pretty good,” Tyre said.
“I played against Frerichs over there and the kids from Wilson, (Zachary) Braddell from Tonawanda and some of the Roy-Hart kids (Ian Whitford). All great athletes, so it’s a pleasure to play with them.”
The annual North-South matchup will kickoff at 7 p.m.