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Open Mike: Eden, North Collins would share in benefits of co-op football team

Eden's Alex Smythe runs the ball last year during a season in which the Class B Raiders finished with less than 20 players.

Local Sports Commentary

It may be time Eden and North Collins join forces in football.

Eden could use the increase in numbers in its program playing for a third straight season as one of the smallest teams in Section VI Class B, while North Collins would be better off for the opportunity to give its male student-athletes another fall sport from which to choose. Many schools of North Collins size are cutting junior varsity programs in the only sport it offers in the fall for boys which is soccer.

The reality is that Eden should not be playing in Class B, but despite its school numbers falling in recent years, the team has remained in that classification with state numbers dropping as well. Several athletes from North Collins at each grade level would perfectly supplement a program fielding varsity teams with numbers in the low-20s. Last year, an even leaner Eden team finished the season with only 19 players.

It’s not like Eden and North Collins youth have not played football together before. Many of them play in the same Eden Little Loop before heading their separate ways for high school.

With the economic environment for schools getting no better and most Buffalo-area district enrollments dropping, co-op teams make the most sense in order to continue to provide students with athletic opportunity while sharing the cost. Co-op is certainly becoming a trend, at least in the expensive sport of football.

And now, changes in state athletic regulations make it easier to offer these opportunities. The state now breaks down the count of the joining school for the co-op team by male and female so that many times it will not change the original school’s classification. In football, Eden would not be pushed up to Class A; it would only be a stronger and more suitable “B” squad.

While co-ops are mostly seen among Class D schools and in City of Buffalo programs, Medina just recently added Lyndonville players to their roster and remained in the “B” classification. Like North Collins, Lyndonville only offered soccer for boys in the fall before this year, while Medina was struggling for numbers in the sport. Barker and Roy-Hart also combined last season to help retool two struggling programs. After enjoying success as an independent last year, the team has moved back into Section VI.

Despite the low numbers, Eden has gone to the playoffs the past three years. After making it to Ralph Wilson Stadium in 2009 for the Class C finals, the Raiders, under head coach Chuck Tilley, have used a disciplined style of play to reach the playoffs again the past two years in Class B. Imagine what they could accomplish with the added depth from North Collins.

Frontier young but future bright

Frontier’s senior class is unusually small for a Class AA school, but head coach Tim Myslinski and his staff do not seem too worried.

The Falcons have three sophomore starters from last year returning to the varsity as part of a deep junior class and an insurgence of players who were either members of an 8-0-1 junior varsity squad or 7-1 freshman team in 2012. Those teams beat many of the premier large school programs at the same level.

A lack of experienced varsity players may keep the Falcons from being a major player in Class AA this season but they’re certainly a team to watch the next few years with a plethora of dedicated and eager younger talent. Junior returning starters Kenny Kahler, Cameron Coon and Adrian Coon have set the stage for more players from their class to move into starting roles in 2012.

“We don’t have many seniors so to have all of these young bodies that are excited to be out here is a big help,” Frontier defensive coordinator Mark Privateer noted.

More Canadians with St. Francis

Jerry Smith joked that his good fortune with attracting Canadian student-athletes to St. Francis must be pay off for all of the time and money he and his offensive coordinator, John Scibetta, spent with their families in Crystal Beach on the northeast shore of Lake Erie in Ontario.

The well-documented story of Toronto native Akeel Lynch coming to St. Francis two seasons ago and running his way to a Division I scholarship at Penn State couldn’t have hurt either.

For whatever reason, two more Canadian players landed on the Red Raiders varsity football team. Devantie Campbell of the Montreal area and Toronto native Jamal Johnson will play as juniors at the varsity level. The two talents have some work to do but should make an immediate impact as skilled position players on a smaller St. Francis team of 29.

“Both of those guys are like Akeel coming in as juniors and being pretty raw,” Smith said. “They have to develop into players at this level and it’s going to take them a little while because it’s very different from what they were exposed to, but they’re working hard and they look like they have got some talent, too, so we’re pleased.”


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