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Salamanca visits Portville, newly merged Cardinals face Titans in Week 1

Something’s got to give Friday night in Portville.

Salamanca seeks its first regular season varsity football win since 2014. Portville seeks its first since 2015. The Warriors’ drop in classification to Class D has the team playing a nearly all-new schedule, with the only holdover from last season coming in a Week 7 non-league game with Gowanda/Pine Valley.

Portville went 0-8 last year, while Salamanca finished 1-8 with a consolation tournament win. Third-year Warriors coach Paul Haley knows his team is in no position to take any opponents lightly.

“I know they’ll be well-prepared,” Haley said of Portville. “Coach (Gary) Swetland has been at it a long time. I’m sure he’ll have those boys ready. We’ve been watching some tape on them and they definitely don’t shy away from tackling. They come up and hit you. They’ll get after it and I know coach Swetland will take a look at us and he’ll have something for us. He’s a heck of a coach and I’m sure he’ll have those kids ready to go.”

Salamanca played its annual Red and Gray Game intrasquad scrimmage Wednesday, Aug. 23, then visited Wellsville to play a four-way rotating scrimmage with Dansville and Bolivar-Richburg on Saturday. The tune-up week showed Haley his team’s defense is “definitely” ahead of the offense.

“Saturday at the four-way scrimmage our defense played pretty good,” he said. “We’ve still got a lot of things to work on but as far as them coming together with the new defense I thought they looked pretty sharp. Offense, we still have a lot of things to work on. We weren’t as smooth offensively, that’s for sure, but we know what we need to work on now and we’ll get after it in this week of practice.”

Salamanca will look to clean up “the little details” on offense.

“Being more consistent across the board,” Haley said. “We had some stuff our line needed to clean up, a few things our backs need to clean up, I think we need our backs out leading and throwing better blocks and being more decisive running the ball. It’s stuff that’ll come.”

Salamanca last played Portville in 2004, with the Panthers winning 37-14.

— Franklinville/Ellicottville coach Chad Bartoszek already had reason for concern weeks ago about his season opener. Randolph always stands out on a schedule, and an experienced and sizable Cardinals line promised to test a smaller, mostly new group of Titans line starters.

Then Tuesday, Aug. 22, Section 6 announced it had approved an emergency merger for Frewsburg to join Randolph this season, adding nine juniors or seniors to the Cardinals’ varsity roster, including likely starting quarterback Trent Gray.

“Obviously we were preparing for a big battle, a big test,” Bartoszek said. “Every year I’ve been coaching, Randolph has been at the top of the division and they’re just a great program. You prepare for Randolph as best as you can and then having them add another team, especially with the quarterback position, it changes things in terms of scouting. You’ve got to see how two different teams mesh together and I’m watching their film right now just see how it meshes together. They’re talented, they’re big, I think it’s going to be a tough opponent come Friday.”

Bartoszek expressed optimism his line can come together after scrimmaging Allegany-Limestone, but it still showed some signs of inexperience.

“We had a pretty good scrimmage,” Bartoszek said. “In terms of execution, we’re definitely going to try to clean up some missed assignments and a little bit of effort issues that we had. We talked about playing to the whistle. In practice you tend to get used to hearing a coach stop the play and correct things. We carried some of that into the scrimmage where we were making mistakes or we were blocking a guy for just a couple seconds instead of playing to the whistle. Against an opponent that’s going to close up holes real quick.

“I think we’re going to have a group that’s a little bit smaller than we’ve had in the past but I think we’re going to have better feet. We know we’ve got a tough group. It’s just a big week for us because Randolph is going to have a bigger line than just about anybody. It’s a tough matchup to start with a new fresh line but I think they’re up for the challenge.”

— The late Randolph/Frewsburg merger left seven teams looking for replacement games for Frewsburg, starting with Cattaraugus-Little Valley. Instead of visiting the Bears Friday night, the Timberwolves host Section 5 Class C private school Bishop Kearney to open the season.

Last year, Kearney went 11-1, making the NYSPHSAA Class C semifinals.

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