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Alumni: Bartoszek, Caulcrick, Fischer Have Fond Memories In Orchard Park

It’s the day after Halloween, but it can be argued that on a beautiful sun-baked Tuesday at New Era Field it feels like May 1 rather than Nov. 1. The temperature is in the 60s, the sky is royal blue and, well, there is no other place that the 10 remaining teams in the Section VI football playoffs would rather be.

It’s the annual media day at the home of the Buffalo Bills, the official start to championship week. Wearing their game jerseys, the players are scattered around the field. Some are doing interviews, some talk amongst themselves, while others engage in team-bonding exercises that — if awards were presented for the “did-you-see-that?” moment of the morning — Maple Grove quarterback Dalton Dubois would win in a landslide.

More on Dubois’ dramatics in a bit, because there are three guys — all head coaches — who have a special history with this place, dating back decades, so I seek them out for their stories.

According to the Bills’ official website, groundbreaking ceremonies for the then-Rich Stadium were held April 4, 1972. Bills owner Ralph C. Wilson Jr. and Erie County Legislature Richard J. Keane both turned the first shovel full of dirt. Sixteen months later — Aug. 17, 1973 — the team opened its new home against the Washington Redskins in a preseason game.

Six years after that, Section VI held its first championship games, and it’s been the desired postseason destination for high school programs in Western New York ever since.

Chad Bartoszek is recognized as one of the finest players in the history of Salamanca High School, an all-state tight end who went on to play at the University at Buffalo and spent two summers in the training camp of the Indianapolis Colts.

In his fourth year as the coach of Franklinville/Ellicottville, the 35-year-old is looking to win his second straight sectional crown when the Titans square off against Maple Grove on Friday. He also admits to recently checking out highlights from his 1998 high school season when Salamanca claimed the Class C sectional title.

“We’ve got an alumni Facebook page,” Bartoszek said. “One of my buddies posts videos all the time, so it brings back memories every once in awhile. It’s pretty cool.”

As a sophomore at Salamanca, Bartoszek and the Warriors played East Aurora at the stadium.

“I was a tackle blocking a very large person,” he said. “We won that game and came back two years later.”

And won again.

“I think a lot of kids locally have the childhood memories of seeing the big plays here,” Bartoszek said. “It’s just cool.”

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