Demos: Notes from VI football media day

Khari Demos 

And then there were two. Only Class A-2's Grand Island and the Class C North champion in Wilson remain from our local football programs in the Section VI playoffs. Many of our area's schools have played in Chuck Funke Memorial Classics, but these two still have a sectional crown in sight.

The Lakemen are one of four remaining undefeated programs in WNY, and they could be on a collision course with C South's unblemished-powerhouse in Southwestern at New Era Field. But first, they'll have to handle business against a formidable Portville team.

The Vikings are the darlings of the Section VI, pulling off one of the biggest upsets of the opening round by downing Kenmore West. Things get dicey from here though, as they're on to South Park.

Let's dive into these semifinal matchups.

2S-Portville at 1N-Wilson

Friday, Nov. 1

The Wilson (8-0, 5-0 C North) offense came alive in Week 8, scoring over 35 points for the first time since Week 1. Brayden Dunlap (937 rushing yards, 11 TDs) continues to be the straw that stirs the Lakemen ground game and he's saving his best stuff for later — since Week 6, Dunlap is averaging 141.3 rushing yards per game.

QB Bobby Atlas (10-15, 219 yards, 2 TDs, INT) is coming off of what could his best game of the year. He will look to 2018 all-state selection Declan Faery (339 receiving yards, 24 receptions, 3 TDs), who could pose a challenge for a Panthers secondary led by Blake George (28 tackles, 4 INTs, 2 defensive TDs, 1 fumble recovery) and Dalton Tobola (27 tackles, 3 INTs).

Portville (7-1, 5-1 C South) will also lean on Roland Thompson (46 tackles, 2 sacks) to contain the Wilson running game. Speaking of running game, the Panthers have as strong of a ground attack as anyone in WNY.

Jayden Lassiter (1,153 yards from scrimmage, 23 total TDs) is as dangerous of a tailback as they come and he'll be under the watchful eyes of the Lakemen D. The tandem of Wilson edge-rushers Faery (35 tackles, 17 TFLs, 11 sacks) and Ben Mahar (29 tackles, 18 TFLs, 8 sacks) will need to keep applying pressure, particularly on Portville signal caller Hunter Griffin.

Drew Westmorland (79 receiving yards, TD, 39.5 yards per catch) may have had his best offensive game of the season last week against Allegany Limestone, but the '18 all-state linebacker's defensive prowess will be key to clamping up a strong Panthers 'O.'

3/A2-Grand Island at 1/A2-South Park

Friday, Nov. 1

The Vikings have already served up an upset special, but pulling this one off would be their greatest feat yet. South Park (8-0, 6-0 A-2) has been dominant all year, averaging a bonkers 41.3 points per game. Williamsville North may have set the blueprint to cooling off the Sparks though, limiting them to just 14 points in last weekend's opening round.

South Park's offense is filtered through QB Mykell Hepburn (1,574 passing yards, 178 rushing yards, 22 total TDs), dual-threat back Keith Jackson (824 yards from scrimmage, 13 TDs, 20.9 yards per catch) and the receiving corps of Brandan Brown (33 receptions, 572 yards, 6 TDs), Andre Augustiniak (27 receptions, 471 yards, 6 TDs) and Anthony Mack (22 receptions, 374 yards, 3 TDs).

Grand Island (4-4, 3-3 A-2) will look to slow the Sparks down by being physical with them, behind the likes of Kurtis Smith (51 tackles, 1 fumble recovery), Joe Seifert (35 tackles, 1 fumble recovery, 1 sack), Jack Dlugokinski (33 tackles, 2 sacks, INT), Josh Archer (28 tackles, 3 sacks) and Blake Bielic (26 tackles, 3 sacks, 1 fumble recovery). The secondary play will be key too, notably with players like Justin Archer (3 INTs), Dlugokinski and Ben Moskala, with Moskala and Dlugokinski making game-clinching picks in back-to-back weeks.

Speaking of Moskala (564 passing yards, 655 rushing yards, 12 total TDs) he has been on fire as of late. Since Week 4, he is averaging 118.6 yards per game on the ground and he capped that stretch off with 143 rushing yards and four total TDs in last week's win over Ken. West.

The Vikings 'O' has already shown it can out-physical a team like the Blue Devils and they've leaned on the backfield of Moskala, Dlugokinski (643 yards from scrimmage, 5 total TDs) and Bielic (322 rushing yards, 8 TDs) all season. Anthony Homa (29 receptions, 404 yards, 5 TDs) cannot be forgotten out wide either.

The Sparks have a tremendous defensive unit, led up front by Marqwan Fluitt (75 tackles, 17 sacks, 16 TFLs) and Jaysean Armstead (55 tackles, 11 sacks, 11 TFLs). Jackson (64 tackles, 6 sacks, 3 INTs) has also been a menace defensively, scoring two of his 13 TDs on that side of the ball.

Having lost to South Park in Week 1, Grand Island has added motivation to get this one back. If they can pull off another great upset, maybe this really is a team of destiny.

For more from sports reporter Khari Demos, follow him on Twitter @riri_demos. Also, tune in to Khari as a guest on Tony Caligiuri's 'Inside High School Sports,' 10 a.m. Saturdays on WGR550.

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