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Former football classic players look to lead teams to win

Only the best of the best will be on the field for the 38th annual Lions All-Star High School Football Classic. But, while the experience is a lasting memory, a victory is still the goal.

The North team will take on the South in the annual senior all-star game at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 31 at Orchard Park High School.

“I want to win the game and those kids want to win the game,” said North coach Kraig Kurzanski, Williamsville South’s head coach and a player in the 1984 game. “It’s nice to get your name in the program, but it’s nice to win the game, too.”

Kurzanski represented Canisius on the South team in 1984; on the opposing side was Sweet Home’s Mike Torrillo, now an assistant coach on Kurzanski’s North team.

And nearly three decades later, another group of former foes have become teammates for the annual clash.

At the end of the day, it’ll be a memory to last a lifetime for both sides.

“It’s not all fun, there’s obviously a lot of dedication out there and we want to win,” said lineman Anthony Principale, a Clarence High School graduate.

“But you’ve got to have fun out here; you’re out here with all the best players in Western New York,” he added. “We’re all out here — we’re all great, and all having a great time. Getting to know all these guys has been great.”

A year ago, the North had an abundance of skill players, led by Sweet Home graduate and current University at Buffalo player Jordan Johnson, and rolled to a 48-6 win.

This year, the North team has an assortment of size and skill on this year’s team, which is trying for back-to-back victories.

“We have a lot of good kids,” Kurzanski said. “It’s always nice to coach kids that you usually don’t get to see, like some of the Catholic school kids — Kyle Abernathy (Canisius), Dylan Hall (St. Joe’s) and Liam Hall from Nichols. Some of the B school kids, like Austin Mietz from Akron, are very good, too.

Some of the top players that Kurzanski pointed to making the biggest impacts are quarterbacks Trent Ferguson of Williamsville South and Michael Torrillo of Sweet Home and wide receivers Denzel Benton from Canisius and Chaq Nettles of Williamsville South.

Lockport’s James Chambers was also one of the top running back sin Western New York.

He also noted that lineman Khalil Sommerville from Bennett and Alec Dietsch from Clarence have looked to be very solid football players.

Game tickets are $7 apiece and $2 for kids age 12 and under and available through all coaches and players and at the gate on game day.

The South leads the all-time series by a 21-16 count but the North is excited about it’s chances of getting another one in the annual rivalry.

“I like what we have,” Dietsch said. “I’m excited to play in this game. The best players in Western New York have played in this game for decades and I’m just proud to be a part of it.”

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