WNY HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: CLASS D PREVIEW
Until somebody beats them when it matters, Maple Grove is the face of Class D. The league now consists of just four teams, which means playing one another twice in the regular season. Maple Grove has a new head coach in Justin Hanft who once donned the Red Dragons uniform. After a successful college playing and coaching career at Alfred University, Hanft stepped away from the game for family reasons. Once the opening for the head coaching position became available, Hanft knew he had to take advantage of the opportunity. Maple Grove is looking for a fourth straight Sectional title. They do have some key players returning in senior Easton Tanner who was the quarterback the past two seasons. Enter 2018, Tanner will be lining up as a running back and receiver for the Red Dragons while senior Carson Crist takes his place under center. The battle tested Red Dragons are in prime position to maintain their elite status in Class D. Clymer/Sherman/Panama (CSP) is a team that has continually improved under head coach Ty Harper. The Maple Grove Red Dragons have been their Achilles’ heel and until the Wolfpack can beat them, they will continue to ride shotgun. This could be the year that CSP breaks through. Junior quarterback Gerrit Hinsdale had a breakout year in 2017. He has his favorite target in senior Cam Barmore returning as well as running back senior Derek Ecklund. The Wolfpack also have one of the bigger lines to help keep the pressure off of Hinsdale. The Wolfpack aren’t looking too far ahead but there’s a good chance they find a way to play at New Era Field. Cattaraugus/Little Valley would love to crash the party this year and with a number of returning players the idea isn’t too far-fetched. They’ll need junior running back Nick Burroughs to carry the load but he has an experienced line up front anchored by Jason Young, Brodie Hill, Damion Ly, Dylan Barber and Taylor Zolner. Junior Sam Grey had a nice 2017 and is another reliable back the Timberwolves will depend on. Salamanca’s senior back Ira John is one of those players that does not get enough respect. The 5-foot-10 running back is in his fourth season on varsity. He ran for over 700 yards in 2017 and is ready to build on the previous season's success. Coach Paul Haley is in his fourth season. The Warriors finished up at 5-4 last season and have 20 players returning. Don’t sleep on Salamanca.