SABATO: Justin Horvath, Xavior Fitzgibbon rise in GNN player of the year race

Nick Sabato

The first week of the high school football season delivered as promised.

Starpoint and Wilson won grinders, while Newfane and Lewiston-Porter dropped heartbreakers and Grand Island blew out Cheektowaga. So what did we learn?

Not much.

Lockport and North Tonawanda were handled by two of the top teams in Class AA, but a more accurate gauge will come this week when both schools begin play in Class A North. Newfane and Wilson also have early tests in Class C North, which could provide some foreshadowing for the remainder of the season.

It should also ferret out more clarity among the top players in the region. One week of football does not create more clarification on who will end up being the best of the crop this year, but we saw glimpses last week of who will be among the best and who could break out this week.

Stock rising

Grand Island quarterback Justin Horvath jumped into the lead position in the GNN Sports Player of the Year race with one of the best performances of his career. The senior threw for more yards (215) and touchdowns (3) against Cheektowaga than in six games last spring. He also showed ability as a runner after rushing for negative-6 yards on seven attempts in all of last season.

Horvath and the Vikings will have an opportunity to prove last week’s outing was not a one-off when they play Class AA power Orchard Park at 7 p.m. tonight in what could be an exciting quarterback duel with Quaker passer Ben Gocella, who threw for 321 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-27 loss to Jamestown.

Wilson’s Xavior Fitzgibbon also saw his stock rise after being in the Lew-Port backfield for most of the night in a 13-7 win. Fitzgibbon made eight tackles (seven solo) and three of them came behind the line of scrimmage. The senior linebacker also tacked on a sack for a defense that had nine tackles for a loss and two sacks.

Opportunity knocks

Everything goes through Jason Green Jr. for Lockport, but most of it came via his arm in a 48-14 loss to Lancaster. Green threw 51 times for 165 yards and two touchdowns last week, but rarely took off on options or designed runs.

That may change this week against Kenmore West and his explosiveness in space could bring another element to the Lion offense. It would open up the quick passing game Lockport attempted to establish against the Legends and create holes for running back Jaheim Clayton.

Newfane appears poised to put similar trust in senior signal caller Ryan Kramp after easing him into the starting lineup. Kramp scored both Panther touchdowns in a 19-13 overtime loss to Depew, completing half of his 18 passing attempts and running the ball six times for 18 yards.

He will have the ball in his hands quite a bit in Newfane’s triple-option, which could lead to more rushing attempts, while head coach Chuck Nagel stated in the preseason that more passes are in the future for the offense. Reigning Class C champion Medina comes calling this week and the Panthers will need a big game from Kramp.

Nick Sabato can be reached via email at or on Twitter @NickSabatoGNN.

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