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South catching on quickly under Delaney

Tim Delaney would know as well as anyone the significance of the opportunity to play in the Kensington Lions Club all-star football classic.

The South Park head coach, who once played in the game himself, is now heading the South team in the 38th version of the competition featuring some of Western New York’s top senior high school football players.

Delaney’s come full circle after being a participant in 1998 following his senior year at South Park. He is now an English teacher at South Park for the past 11 years and head football coach the past five seasons.

His experience playing in the game made such an impact that he decided to again get involved in the classic, this time as a coach. And although team numbers are down from prior years’ games, he hopes to impart his own positive experiences in playing the game to the recent high school graduates who are about to embark on the classic and beyond in their football careers.

This year’s Lions All-Star High School Football Classic, sponsored by AdPro, will take place Wednesday, July 31 starting 7 p.m. at Orchard Park High School on 4040 Baker Road. Game tickets are $7 apiece and $2 for kids ages 12-and-under.

“I was asked to help out a few years ago and I came back to assist last year and this year, I’m the head coach. It’s an honor, especially since I played in the game and know how big it is,” said Delaney, who will also be coaching against a colleague and good friend in Williamsville South’s Craig Kurzanski, the North squad’s coach.

Delaney has been impressed with just how quickly this year’s team is learning the systems being installed for Wednesday’s game. He’s thrown quite a bit at the players in just four days and they have responded by picking up on many of the concepts. They’ll practice up to a day before the game to get in the required 11 practices.

“We have a really good group of student-athletes with character and smarts,” said Delaney on Monday afternoon a few hours before the team was to practice at Cheektowaga High School. “They’re quickly picking up what we’re putting in front of them, and we’ve already had a couple of very physical practices in preparation.”

Much of what’s being installed for this year’s game revolves around the executing the passing game on offense and stopping it on defense. Delaney said he and his assistants from the staffs of South Park and Cheektowaga, including Warriors’ head coach Mike Fatta, expect both teams to engage in plenty of the aerial assault.

On offense, the South will have dual-threat Andy Smigiera throwing the ball. The West Seneca East graduate brings with him a skill set that includes the ability to throw and understand the complexities of an offense, to go along with incredible speed. Delaney noted Smigiera has run a 4.4 second 40-yard dash.

Delaney said that Smigiera easily could have been a quarterback at the next level, but he’ll play defensive back at Robert Morris.

“He’s just a fantastic football player — I’ve coached against him the past two years,” Delaney said. “I think he’s going to shine in the game. Just being around him the past four or five days, you see he’s got quite the skill set.”

Also playing in the all-star game will be Smigiera’s two teammates from a sectional finalist East team in running back and wide receiver Scott Ackerman and fullback and linebacker Ryan Johnson, both of whom are expected to play critical roles for the North. Ackerman will play at Buffalo State and Johnson at Erie Community College.

Another enormous help on the offensive end will be having running back Corey Barczykowski of Alden, this year’s Connelly Cup winner who ran for more than 2,000 yards for the Section VI Class B champion. Delaney likes the vision and ability to run outside from the tough Barczykowski, who will also play at ECC.

His teammate at Alden, Jason Bunk, will anchor the South at the line of scrimmage. Bunk, who Delaney calls a “Mountain of a Man,” should have a huge impact up front after a Trench Trophy finalist season. He’ll play at Brockport State College.

Among the weapons on the outside for Smigiera will be Stephen Johnson of McKinley and Edgardo Berrios, a graduate of South Park with whom Delaney is quite familiar. Berrios, who’s off to Brockport State, will also play a little quarterback. Also expected to be in the mix at receiver are Shaquille Brooks of Lackawanna, Zach Klisiewicz of Silver Creek and Tyler Bain of Silver Creek.

Delaney, an offensive guy at heart, is excited about the possibilities for his team on that side of the ball, but also realizes the South will need to be strong in the defensive backfield to defend against all of the North’s weapons at wide receiver.

Buffalo State-bound Nick Anderson, a standout on JFK’s division-title winning team, will occupy the free safety spot. Delaney said Anderson understands play on the defensive end very well and should help in run support. Once rivals and now teammates, Cortland state-bound Jonathan Thomas of Cleveland Hill will play beside Anderson at strong safety. Berrios will also play some strong safety.

Delaney said a pleasant surprise has been Chris Phinney of Springville, who may be a smaller inside linebacker, but so far in practice he has stood out. The member of the sectional finalists will also see some time at fullback in the game before heading off to play at Alfred State. His Springville teammate Tyler Studd has been nursing a hamstring injury but is expected to play and contribute to the line.

From Timon, Jackson Brown has shown off his ability to be tough and versatile as both a fullback, linebacker and the holder on kicks, while Sean Murphy will bring to the South side a another steady lineman.

Delaney also noted that Iroquois’ Tyler Miller (Hobart College) will help in the offensive backfield, and Timon’s Tom Gioia Jr. could make a big impact in the game as a kicker and punter. The ECC-bound Gioia has the ability to make field goals of 40-plus yards.

“He’s really been a weapon,” Delaney said of Gioia, who made 27 of 30 field goals so far in practices. “We back him up to 40 yards and he’s making them. I think we’ll see him come into play in this game.”

While Delaney said that he is disappointed to see both teams’ numbers dip below 35 players, he also understands that playing in the game takes a big commitment that not every player can make. There will be no players on the team from the Southtowns’ Orchard Park, which happens to be the host, Jamestown, St. Francis or Frontier, as well as no one from small school standouts Maple Grove, Randolph or Eden.

“The commitment is almost three weeks of a player’s summer,” noted Delaney, who leads a South team trying to bounce back from last year’s 48-6 drubbing by the North. The South still leads the series 21-16. “ A lot of guys play in the game and then right after, go off to play in college. I understand the kids who wan want to have a summer and enjoy it.”

Still, Delaney is excited about the talent that will be out on July 31.

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2013-07-31 | 11:58:52
caps is such a great thing.the kids have a balland everyone is a winnerand thanks goes to all the volanteers
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