(Sam Erickson & Franklinville are one of six Southern Tier small schools receiving my vote)
As a pollster, I rank the top ten large and small schools in WNY each week. These rankings are based on games played through Sunday of each week. Here's how I see them and some of the rationale used to get there.
1. Park (MMA) - The Pioneers were ranked #1 in NYS Class A last week, but I still arrived late to the party. However, on the same day they debuted at #1 in the state, the team I had here (Canisius) finally fell locally. So it's time. The Pioneers have looked like the best team in WNY since the season began and the results to this point support that. They're in the midst of a major local grind, coming off wins over Timon & St. Joe's and heading into a week with games against Canisius & Will South.
2. St. Francis (MMA) - The Red Raiders rolled Cardinal O'Hara by 33 points last week and welcome WNY's top ranked small school, Health Sciences, to town on Tuesday night. Then on Thursday they travel to Canisius, looking for their first win against the Crusaders in over a decade.
3. Williamsville South (A1) - The Billies will put their undefeated record on the line at Park on Thursday night when they visit the Pioneers, if they can get past Iroquois first on Tuesday.
4. Timon (MMA) - Made history last Tuesday by ending the 36-game winning streak held by Canisius against local opponents. The 5-2 Tigers visit St. Joe's on Tuesday night and then take a 10 days off.
5. Canisius (MMA) - Rebounded from Tuesday's rare loss at Timon with a convincing win at rival St. Joe's. League play is in full force and the Crusaders have a pair of battles on tap this week. On Thursday night St. Francis rolls in, but first, there's a 'Game of the Week' with #1 Park to think about.
6. Amherst (A2) - Improved to 8-2 on the season with a win over West Seneca East on Saturday, behind a career-high 35 points from Marcellus Cooper. The Tigers will host Hamburg on Friday and then match up with McKinley in the MLK Classic on Saturday night. It will be the first time Amherst has played the Macks since 2013, when they lost the Class A1/A2 crossover game in a game they were leading in the final minute. McKinley went on to win a state championship.
7. Jamestown (AA) - Earned a major win over McDowell (PA) on Monday night, before falling in the last game of the United Way Showcase to Leadership Academy on Saturday. The ECIC I rivalry between the Red Raiders and Williamsville North renews on Friday night at 'The Mac'.
8. St. Joe's (MMA) - Had a very good showing earlier in the week against Park, not so much on Friday when Canisius came to Kenmore Avenue. The Marauders have no losses to teams ranked below them, but did win the Lockport Tournament, which keeps them ahead of the Lions for now. Big game with Timon this Tuesday.
9. Lockport (AA) - The Lions are now on a seven-game win streak and supported a win at North Tonawanda in December by winning at Grand Island on Friday night, after the Vikings had just won at Niagara Falls. Tavon Chambers, Kyle Brown, and Malik Brooks have Lockport tied for first place in the NFL and all over the Buff State radar in Class AA.
10. North Tonawanda (A1) - I brought the Jacks back into the top 10 after bumping them following the loss at Amherst over break. I was between them and Grand Island for this spot, and picked the Jacks for a slightly closer loss to Lockport than the one the Vikings suffered. Turns out NT hosts GI on Friday night at the Lumber Yard.
1. Health Sciences (B2) - Rolled up another game over 100 points last week when they beat BASCS, 103-35.
With just one loss this season at North Tonawanda, they will be in a major battle at at St. Francis on Tuesday. Friday night's game at Burgard could also be an entertaining affair.
2. Walsh (MMA) - Pulled off a 73-68 win at St. Mary's on Sunday after trailing by five points with just over one minute remaining. Tavien Kemp with another monster performance for the Eagles, dropping 46 points in the comeback victory. Special things going on at Walsh this season.
3. East (C2) - Pulled away from Randolph late at the United Way Showcase after the Cardinals tied the game at 49-49 midway through the fourth quarter. South Park, who already beat McKinley this season and swept the Panthers last year, visits tonight. On Saturday, East plays Cardinal O'Hara at the MLK Classic.
4. East Aurora (B1) - After winning at Lackawanna on Tuesday, the Blue Devils scored an impressive 60-39 win over Cheektowaga to stay unbeaten in ECIC III, which was enough to convince me to bump them up a spot. Friday night against Maryvale will be for first place in league.
5. Dunkirk (B1) - Won big at Fredonia, but had their game at Olean on Friday postponed. This week the Marauders have a big date with Chautauqua Lake for first place in CCAA I West.
6. Ellicottville (D) - Rebounded nicely from a loss over break to Randolph with a win at Franklinville in the 'Game of the Week'. That win gave the Eagles wins over the their chief competition in Class D this year - the Panthers & Sherman.
7. Franklinville (D) - Tough setback for the Panthers, losing at home to Ellicottville after a big win over Chautauqua Lake the week before. The Panthers have a pair of road games this week at Forestville and Cattaraugus/Little Valley.
8. Chautauqua Lake (C1) - The Thunderbirds are 8-1 including a win over Olean this season. Friday night's game against Dunkirk could give them a big leg up in league play with a victory.
9. Randolph (C2) - Dug a big hole early against East on Saturday. Once they figured the Panthers out and tied the game up, the Cardinals allowed another run and took the loss. Something tells me we could see those two meet up again this season. Wins for Randolph over Ellicottville and South Park this season make for a better resume than any other team eyeing this spot right now.
10. Depew (B1) - The only loss for the Wildcats this season was against Cheektowaga. Considering the recent success of Grand Island (winning at Niagara Falls), I thought the combination of the Wildcats' 7-1 record and owning a neutral court win over the Vikings warranted this last spot.