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Football coaches react to new Sec. 6 alignment

The rise in merged football programs has left just four teams in Section Class D next season, presenting a unique challenge both to the teams left in the division and those jumping up to the C level.

Just one merged program remains in Class D on the basis of its BEDS (Basic Education Data System) figures, Clymer/Sherman/Panama, and will play against Salamanca, Cattaraugus-Little Valley and defending champion Maple Grove. Section 6 denied an appeal by Franklinville/Ellicottville to stay in Class D, after the sectional merger committee ruled it could not stay at that level under a “dominance” policy. Thus, the Titans will play in Class C South, bumping up along with Portville (just seven over the Class D cutoff of 229 with a BEDS number of 236) and two new merged teams, Randolph/Frewsburg and Chautauqua Lake/Westfield.

The new Class C South division includes F/E, Allegany-Limestone, Portville, Randolph/Frewsburg, Falconer/Cassadaga Valley, Southwestern and Chautauqua Lake/Westfield. The seven teams play six league games and one nonleague, while the four Class D teams play three home-and-home serieses with their league opponents and two non-league games, starting playoffs in the semifinals in Week 9.

“It makes our schedule pretty tough,” Salamanca coach Paul Haley said. “We’ve got to play Maple Grove, C/S/P — those are teams we both lost by 40 to last year — we’ve got to play them twice, home and away, and then our nonleague games are (Franklinville/)Ellicottville and Olean. And then Catt-Little Valley, we had two good games with them. The first one was a nailbiter and the second one was close for the first three quarters, so we’ve got a tough schedule this year. They didn’t do us any favors, that’s for sure.”

Haley admitted seeing just four teams remain in Class D worries him as the coach of a small school.

“Especially because our numbers seem to be turning in the wrong direction,” he said. “But it is what it is. All these teams merging, it’s bound to (happen). These were small teams to begin with so now you’ve got two of them. Until they find a better way to do the mergers I think it’s going to be like this.”

F/E coach Chad Bartoszek said the move to Class C impacts his program’s scouting and scheduling to start with.

“The initial reaction was not 100 percent against it,” Bartoszek said, “just it’s going to create some new challenges... our comfortability with the league, different things like that are going to be challenged. Then we kind of just explored the reasons why. Why are we being moved up? What’s changing and I know the numbers issues with merged programs is going to be a big issue going forward, so I understand, I think that’s probably where we’re headed. We’re going to head to a place where there’s a lot of C schools and the D league is going to suffer for that. I understand that part of it, we’re not shying away from what we have in terms of our numbers.”

He noted his 2017 team was particularly senior-laden, including four Big 30 all-stars set to graduate. So while the section cited the Titans’ four straight sectional championship appearances, one victory, and a high margin of victory in most regular season games, next year will mark a transition for F/E regardless of its class.