Weekly Feature

2017-11-22 / Sports

Regional champions dominate First Team

All-Bee Football — Offense

Section VI’s Far West Regional champions are well-represented on first-team offense for the 2017 All-Bee Football Team, as six of the eight honorees also played in the state semifinals this past weekend. The first team, from left, includes Max Giordano, Lancaster; Jacob Calo, Lancaster; Andrew Hersey, Lancaster; Juston Johnson, West Seneca West; CJ Perillo, Iroquois; KeShone Beal, Cheektowaga; and Tariq Whittaker, Cheektowaga. Fellow First Team honoree Brian Strybel, from Orchard Park, is missing from the photo. 
Photo by Kathleen KramerPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Section VI’s Far West Regional champions are well-represented on first-team offense for the 2017 All-Bee Football Team, as six of the eight honorees also played in the state semifinals this past weekend. The first team, from left, includes Max Giordano, Lancaster; Jacob Calo, Lancaster; Andrew Hersey, Lancaster; Juston Johnson, West Seneca West; CJ Perillo, Iroquois; KeShone Beal, Cheektowaga; and Tariq Whittaker, Cheektowaga. Fellow First Team honoree Brian Strybel, from Orchard Park, is missing from the photo. Photo by Kathleen KramerPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com The 2017 season has featured historic dominance for Section VI football, particularly teams in Bee coverage areas.

The section won all five Far West Regional games, with four of those teams — Cheektowaga, Cleveland Hill, Lancaster and West Seneca West — coming from towns with Bee Newspapers. The Legends and Indians will be playing for a state championship this weekend at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.

The makeup of the First-Team offense of the All-Bee Football Team reflects this as all but two of the players on the First Team played in a state semifinal game Friday or Saturday.

KeShone Beal — Quarterback


Junior signal-caller KeShone Beal knew he had big shoes to fill coming into the season. Last year’s quarterback, Eric Bartnik, led the Warriors to two years of success and put up impressive numbers while doing so. Beal was able to replicate that success while working with an almost entirely new offense.

“It wasn’t just quarterback we were replacing,” Cheektowaga coach Mike Fatta said. “We really graduated everyone offensively last year. We only have one receiver back, [lineman] Tariq [Whitaker] and one other lineman. The entire offense graduated last year. It’s impressive not only what he’s done, but that he’s done it with a whole new cast of kids. It makes what he’s done even more impressive.”

It was evident right away that he was special. In the opener against Lew-Port, Beal threw for 259 yards and three scores while running for another. He was also impressive in a week two loss to Sweet Home, totaling five touchdowns and more than 250 yards through the air and on the ground.

Beal completed 104 of 215 passes for 1,864 yards, 20 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He was dangerous on the ground as well, taking off 196 times for 1,255 yards and 25 touchdowns. He was a major driving force in leading the Warriors to a Class B Section VI Title over Maryvale and a Far West Regional win over Hornell.

“To have a spread offense, you have to be able to throw the ball,” Fatta said. “Take last week for example. They really tried to take him out of the game and it made them vulnerable in the secondary. He’s had the skill to make you pay for that. It’s really essential to be effective. You need to be able to throw the ball and he’s as good of a passer as he is a runner.”

Andrew Hersey — Running back


Andrew Hersey has been a workhorse for Lancaster this season. The senior running back stepped into the starting role replacing a program great in Zach Samborski and had success right away. He ran for 118 yards and three touchdowns against Bennett week one and never looked back. He finished the season with 201 carries for 1186 yards and 20 touchdowns. He also caught 13 passes for 141 yards and two scores.

“Andrew has done a great job this year. Our rushing attack hasn’t really missed a beat after graduating one of the best running backs in school history,” Lancaster coach Eric Rupp said. “That’s a credit to Andrew. He’s an extremely hard-working kid. He really gives everything he’s got in practice. In the defensive portion of our practice, he’s off to the side doing drills by himself and doing extra sprints. His drive is incredible.”

Hersey has been a major factor in Lancaster advancing to its first-ever state championship. He ran for 93 yards in the Section VI Class AA Final and 104 in the Far West Regional game.

“Andrew was very good last year when he got the opportunity,” Rupp said. “He reeled off some big runs and made some key plays for us down the stretch last year. So I know he was very excited for the opportunity. He’s done a great job.”

Hersey has committed to St. Bonaventure to play lacrosse.

CJ Perillo—Running Back


Perillo only started at running back for one season, but he certainly made the most of it. He ran for 1,601 yards —59 shy of the school record — and 20 touchdowns. He’s still among the leaders in all of New York in rushing yards, despite only having played until the sectional semifinals. He carried the ball 298 times in the season, including 48 times in a playoff win over Starpoint. Both are school records.

“He has speed. He’s that prototypical zone running back,” Iroquois Coach Rob Pitzonka said. “He knows how to sift through his blocks and set it up. The thing is he did have a ton of power because there was a lot of times he was contacted at the line of scrimmage and he’d still have an 8-yard gain. He doesn’t look like a power back, but he carried a lot of people this year. He had the nice blend of power that had him gain more yards than he should have.”

Perillo’s success was the result of a tremendous work ethic. He went to every offseason workout, sometimes showing up early. He gained more than 30 pounds and added a noticeable amount of muscle to his frame.

“I didn’t expect as big of numbers as he had, but I knew he was going to have this kind of season. The work he put in is next to no one else,” Pitzonka said. “He’s the hardest worker I’ve ever seen. I played under Coach Jankiewicz at Lancaster and I played at the University of Buffalo. I knew right away last November when he was already working toward this season. He was coming to our 6 a.m. workouts and he was coming at 5:30 a.m., sleeping on the gym floor. There were days where I had to kick him out because we had a snow day and he was already at the school.”

Perillo has not yet made a decision about college, but is being looked at by several schools, including New Hampshire and Brockport.

Max Giordano — Wide receiver


Max Giordano did it all for the Legends. He was the team’s top receiver, catching 53 ball for 770 yards and five touchdowns. He also had eight return touchdowns between defense and special teams.

“Max is one of the most dynamic players in Western New York,” Rupp said. “Every time he touches the ball, he has a chance to score. He has a huge impact in all three phases of the game. He’s a great wide receiver, he’s a great kicker, he’s a dangerous kick returner and he’s a good free safety.”

Giordano is a three-year varsity player, but wasn’t the top target until his senior season. He’s been a big-play machine on top of being a reliable target on third and fourth down. He caught the only touchdown in the 9-0 Far West Regional win over Aquinas and had four touchdowns in a semifinal win over Jamestown. Most importantly, he’s taken over a major leadership role on offense.

“Max is a three-year varsity player,” Rupp said. “He’s done a great job for us. When he was a younger player, we had Alex Damiani and LG Castillo. Him being a leader of the offense is something he talked about in the offseason. It was one of his goals. He stepped up in a big way for us.

“He just comes in every day and he works and he’s prepared. He puts in the time on the practice field and in film study. He’s done a fantastic job. He’s set numerous school records for us.”

Juston Johnson — Wide receiver

West Seneca West

To say Juston Johnson was a good addition to West Seneca West would be an understatement. with 43 catches for 817 yards and 10 touchdowns. The junior added an explosive element to the Indians offense.

“He’s an explosive athlete,” West Seneca West coach Mike Vastola said. “He always has the potential to go the distance on any play. He’s the total package. He’s got speed, moves, great hands and he runs great routes. All the voters are looking for those big-play guys on their teams so I’m sure Juston stands out as one of those guys.”

Johnson was a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. Playing him one-on-one was almost always a mismatch, but focusing too much on him opened things up for other players.

“He played a large role on the team,” Vastola said. “He’s as steady as they come. If teams want to play him one-one-one, that’s a win for him. If they want to double him or pay special attention to him, that’s a win as well. The other guys will thrive if he’s being doubled. He’s not just a receiver, we move him around a lot. Defensive coordinators have to worry about him, which is nice.”

Tariq Whitaker — Offensive line


Tariq Whitaker dominates his competition like someone who has played football for his entire life, but that is not the case. The monstrous guard did not play until he was a sophomore in high school and only after some coaches noticed him in the hallway.

“We saw him in the hallways and said, ‘Hey, you should play football.’ He said OK, so we got him out there and he’s a big, strong kid so he was perfect for the offensive line,” Fatta said. “He had all the physical tools and no bad habits, because he had never played before. He’s the kind of kid who gives everything he has. He has had success because of that.”

The Warriors have had no shortage of talented skill players over the past three seasons, but success on offense starts with the line. And success on the line started with Whittaker. He used his frame and strength to open up holes in the run game and was the leader of that unit.

“He’s someone you want to run behind,” Fatta said. “He’s a big, aggressive kid. He’s certainly the leader of that group. He plays hard and does everything you ask him to do.

“He’s truly a leader of not just those guys up front, but the whole team. He’s someone they all look to for leadership. He’s a hard-working kid who is reliable. He’s pretty vocal with the guys. He’s somebody we’re going to miss. He seems like he’s been there forever.”

Jacob Calo — Offensive line


The Legends run game has been absolutely dominant this season, and Jacob Calo is a significant reason behind that. The two-year starter is the leader up front, which opened up enormous holes for talented backs to run through. This formula has resulted in more than 2,300 rushing yards and 40 touchdowns on the ground.

“They’ve done a huge job,” Rupp said. “It all starts up front. Jacob and the rest of the offensive line group have done a pretty good job against a bunch of great defenses.”

Calo is a quiet leader who shows up and works hard every day in practice. He’s the total package as a student-athlete and someone who will be difficult to replace next season.

“Jacob is just a great kid. He doesn’t say a lot, but he’s an extremely hard worker,” Rupp said. “He’s a high-character kid. He’s a big part of our offensive line. He protects Ryan’s blind side. He’s done a tremendous job for us the past two years.

“I think his work ethic sets him apart. He comes in every day and he gives you everything he’s got. He never complains. He’s just a great young man of high character and high academic average. He’s everything you would want from a football player.”

Brian Strybel — Kicker

Orchard Park

Brian Strybel did not make many mistakes. The senior kicker did not miss any extra points all season and 31 of his 42 of his kickoffs resulted in touchbacks, consistently putting the defense in a good position. He also made five field goals, averaged more than 40 yards per punt and had better range than nearly any kicker in Section VI.

“The first thing is most football games are won in the kicking game,” Orchard Park coach Gene Tundo said. “If you start at your 20-yard, there’s not a very good chance you’ll score. He put the ball in the end zone every time. That field position advantage is crucial in a football game. He was money this year on that. I think he put around 90 to 95 percent of the kickoffs in the end zone. I think he made almost all of his extra points. We tried longer field goals this year than we ever have. He did a good job, he was real close on a couple 50-yarders. He just missed a couple.”

Strybel has been on varsity since the end of his sophomore year, and he’s worked to perfect his craft that entire time. He even took over as punter this season and excelled in that area as well.

“He was a tireless worker,” Tundo said. “He loves the game, he loves every aspect of it. You don’t get guys like that. You don’t get guys who practice kicking all year long. Then he became our full-time punter this year too and he did a great job at that too. As far as special teams goes, Brian’s been one of the best kickers we’ve had in a long time.”

Strybel has not yet made a decision on college, but is looking at several major football schools.

email: tnigrelli@beenews.com

Return to top

Clarence Special Events 2018
Click for schedule