A couple of defending champions found themselves on the ropes at the same time that runner-up teams from 2008 put scoreboards through a workout as the New York high school football season opened over the weekend.
It contributed to an exhilarating kickoff across the state that immediately had observers reconsidering what they thought they knew.
For starters, take the developments in Class AA. Defending New York State Public High School Athletic Association champion Orchard Park was taken to double overtime by Lockport, coming off a 3-6 season, while runner-up Monroe-Woodbury put up (and gave up) mind-numbing yardage numbers against a Binghamton squad that a fair number of people are projecting to win Section IV.
And at the other end of the enrollment figures, Class D champ Maple Grove rightfully expected a battle with Randolph on opening night, but you won’t find many people who thought the Red Dragons would need a 1-yard Chris Secky run followed by his extra-point kick with 3:11 to go to extend their winning streak to 14.
Randolph, with 14 returning starters from a 6-3 team and reinforced by prospects from a 7-0 JV squad, broke a scoreless tie midway through the fourth quarter on Alan Lockwood's 13-yard run.
Section VI’s two other defending state champions opened with more convincing performances.
Jamestown Southwestern (Class C) dispatched Allegany-Limestone 33-6 as Zack Sopak went 13-for-14 for 169 yards and Levi Bursch accounted for 120 yards of total offense. Sweet Home (A) scored the game’s first four TDs en route to a 35-16 win against Clarence in the opener.
Rye, the fifth 2008 NYSPHSAA champion, opens this weekend along with the rest of Section I and the Catholic High School Football League.
Orchard Park prevailed against Lockport in double overtime 32-26, with Okoya Anderson (28 carries, 169 yards) scoring two TDs — including the winning 15-yard run — in his debut as the heir to all-everything tailback Jeff Tundo.
He was matched play-for-play by fifth-year Lockport varsity player David Fluellen, who ran 28 times for 176 yards and three touchdowns. He was stopped two yards short of a first down on a fourth-and-13 pass play to end the game.
Anderson and Fluellen added up to about 80 percent of senior quarterback Dan Scalo’s effort for Monroe-Woodbury, which had Orchard Park reeling at halftime last Thanksgiving weekend before losing the state large-school final in Syracuse.
Scalo put up 428 yards of total offense and figured in seven touchdowns in a 64-34 non-league victory against host Binghamton, during which the teams combined to roll up more than 1,000 total yards. Coming off shoulder surgery following his junior season, Scalo was 8-for-9 for 247 yards with four touchdowns through the air and rushed for 181 yards on 19 carries, scoring on runs of 6, 12 and 21 yards, as M-W won for the 59th time in 63 games.
The Crusaders, state finalists four straight seasons, led 35-26 at halftime and then turned it on in the final 24 minutes to fend off the effort of Dorian Feggins, who carried 33 times for 270 yards for Binghamton.
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, the Class A runner-up last season, opened with a 46-14 win against Scotia-Glenville after rolling to a 39-0 lead at the half. Brandon Beatty ran 10 times for 113 yards as the Spartans rushed for 323 yards.
More football: Section V picture comes into focus quickly
Junior QB Ashton Broyld's Rush-Henrietta debut was a success, as he rushed 26 times for 121 yards, ran for two TDs and threw for two to power a 28-21 victory at Webster Schroeder to bring some early-season clarity to the Section V Class AA hierarchy. Broyld, who transferred from Marshall in the spring, rallied R-H from a 14-0 deficit in a game that was arguably the decider for the Monroe County League Division I title.
Division II Hilton also announced itself as a serious Rochester-area large-school contender with a 62-34 victory against Irondequoit. Senior Duell Smith (6-for-7, 204 yards) threw for four TDs as the Cadets racked up 49 first-half points in their first test after an 8-1 mark in 2008.
"He knows where to put it, where to throw it and when to throw it," Cadets coach Rich Lipani said. "We did a lot of the same stuff last year — just turn him loose."
Bring your own pad and pencil to keep track of the score of Friday’s game at Hilton because the scoreboard lights may burn out: The Cadets play Wilson Magnet, a 60-28 winner vs. Edison in another opener.
LaSalle-Saratoga rematch as good as expected
LaSalle Institute and Saratoga Springs played one of the state's most memorable games in the 2008 sectionals. Their 2009 rematch wasn't bad for an encore.
The Cadets held Saratoga on fourth-and-3 at the LaSalle 21 late in the fourth quarter to clinch a 21-16 victory. LaSalle had taken charge in the third quarter on TD passes from Mike Murray to Lou DiNovo (5 receptions, 147 yards) for a 21-10 lead.
But Saratoga backup QB Michael Gonzalez completed a fourth-and-10 pass to Joey Moore for 41 yards, setting up Tyler Bates for a short TD run midway through the fourth.
“We tried hard to give it away," LaSalle coach Al Rapp told The Times Union. "I'm pretty pleased with the way the guys stepped up, especially on the fourth-down play."
In the 2008 Section II playoffs, LaSalle trailed 26-0 in the second quarter but rallied to win 41-39 with a 99-yard drive to a TD with 11 seconds to play.
More highlights from around New York
* Schenectady, one of last season's feel-good stories, capitalized on six Albany turnovers to score 40 unanswered points in a 47-20 Section II victory. Schenectady trailed 12-7 early in the second quarter before converting five fumble recoveries into TDs or eventual scores. The Patriots also capitalized on special teams by foiling a fake punt and recovering a snap over the head of the Albany punter.
* Senior Fajri Jackson broke loose for five touchdowns and rushed 18 times for 186 yards as Syracuse CBA opened its new facility with a 48-21 victory over Auburn. Four Jackson TDs helped build a 35-0 lead in the first half of the Section III contest.
* Hours after Syracuse University met Minnesota there, Liverpool made sure there would be no gut-wrenching late loss of its own by storming to a 42-14 victory against Fayetteville-Manlius at the Carrier Dome. Greg Bell scored three touchdowns as part of a 21-carry, 138-yard night.
* In Section IV, Maine-Endwell senior Nate Reynolds rushed for 256 yards and TDs covering 49, 39 and 63 yards to beat Oneonta 28-0.
* Walton moved up to Class C this fall based on enrollment numbers, and the Warriors opened with a 20-19 victory over Class B Windsor courtesy of Phil Hanley's second touchdown with 4:20 to go. The game-deciding drive covered 14 plays and 69 yards, and then Chris Calabrese and Evan Boyd clinched the outcome with a fumble recovery and an interception, respectively, on the subsequent Windsor possessions.
* A 344-yard ground game lifted Livonia to a 34-7 rout of LeRoy in Section V, ending the Oatkan Knights' 43-game home winning streak. Steven Diener led the way with 113 yards and a pair of TDs on 10 carries.
* Accomplished Hornell wrestler Austin Dwyer had five TDs by midway through the second quarter of a 57-13 win over Dansville. His scoring efforts included a 73-yard punt return and an 86-yard kickoff return. Dwyer lost to the eventual state 145-pound champion in NYSPHSAA Division II wrestling last March.
* Dundee's Steven Webb collected 315 yards and six TDs in just 11 carries during a 71-0 rout of Geneva DeSales.
* St. Francis from Buffalo’s Monsignore Martin Association rallied from a three-TD deficit and beat Bethlehem (Pa.) 25-21 on the strength of three Roland Kerr scores. Kerr's first TD was on an 87-yard kickoff return, and he capped his day with a 10-yard TD catch from Mike Chuchla with 6:55 to play.
* A 3-yard TD run by Barry Surrett late in the third quarter stood up as Newburgh Free Academy edged visiting Minisink Valley in a game between Section IX teams that were state-ranked a year ago.
* Eldred senior Ian Halloran rushed for 191 yards and three TDs and returned an interception 30 yards for another score in a 56-3 win vs. Tri-Valley. Afterward, he dedicated the game to his mother Darlene, still hospitalized after emergency surgery for an aneurysm at Westchester Medical Center last weekend, The Times Herald-Record reported.
* In the PSAL, Canarsie played without injured Syracuse-bound tailback Stephen Rene (ankle), but junior backup Saquan Peters turned in two TD runs and a two-point conversion to top Bronx JFK 22-0.
* Susan Wagner QB Jordan Rodriguez made a sparkling season debut with 158 yards and two TDs to Michael Ellam on 7-for-8 accuracy to power a 32-14 win over Boys and Girls in a quality early-season PSAL matchup. Susan Wagner finished with 18 first downs and 395 yards of total offense, with junior Trevor Ellam rushing for 129 yards and a score.
John Schiano, who has written about high school sports in western and central New York for more than 25 years, covers New York for MaxPreps. He may be reached at email@example.com.