Jun 10, 2023
Lockport senior wide receiver Shey Williams hauls in a pass during practice, Aug. 21, at Emmet Belknap Intermediate School in Lockport.
There is plenty of reason for intrigue for the new high school football season in the Greater Niagara Region.
Talented players are returning and there should be some new names on the rise. Medina looks to continue its battle with roster turnover and continue its three-year dominance over Class C North, while Grand Island, Lockport, Starpoint and Wilson attempt to climb from the middle of the pack to the top of the standings.
Meanwhile, Lewiston-Porter, Newfane, Niagara Wheatfield, North Tonawanda and Roy-Hart/Barker hope to take the next step in climbing out of the cellar.
Here are a few names to watch this season:
Ben Dickinson, Sr., Newfane: Dickinson is the perfect weapon for quarterback Nate Snow in Newfane’s wide-open offense, shown by his breakout season as a receiver last year. Dickinson was seventh in Section VI with 51 receptions and 13th with 694 yards receiving, finding the end zone five times. He snatched 10 passes for 106 yards against Medina and torched Wilson for 186 yards and three touchdowns on nine catches in the season finale. Dickinson is also a talented defensive player, making 62 tackles as a safety and his six career interceptions. With another year in Newfane’s system for both Dickinson and Snow, it should be a dangerous combination.
Mike Doctor, Sr., Canisius: The Grand Island resident has been steady over the last two seasons for Canisius and his shown he can be effective catching passes downfield or as a safety valve. Doctor caught 57 passes for 489 yards and six touchdowns a year ago, following a a sophomore campaign in which he made 41 receptions for 736 yards and seven scores. He didn’t have a 100-yard game last season after posting three in 2021, but Doctor had a catch in all 11 games and at least three in 10 contests. Doctor’s best game was a 10-catch, 74-yard, two-touchdown performance against rival St. Joe’s. He announced his commitment to Division I Fordham in March.
Roosevelt Mitchell, Sr., Medina: Mitchell became one of the top offensive linemen in Western New York last season, and with the graduation of standout Chris Johnson, he becomes the anchor on Medina’s offensive and defensive lines. The 6-foot-3, 315-pounder committed to the University of Akron in June after transition from being solely an offensive tackle to playing both sides of the ball. Mitchell made 36 tackles, with nine coming behind the line of scrimmage as a defensive tackle, while also helping the Mustangs compile 396 yards and 39.3 points per game last year. As Medina endures some turnover on the roster, Mitchell should create space for any ball carrier this year.
Shawn Watson, Sr., Niagara Wheatfield: Watson developed into one of the top receiving threats in Western New York last season, despite missing two games with a sprained ankle. The 6-foot-2 high-flyer caught 35 passes for 648 yards and scored eight touchdowns. He’s already tied for the Niagara Wheatfield career record for receptions and is going to be a focal point for opposing defenses this season. Watson, who is receiving interest from colleges and attend a camp for Colgate University, had four 100-yard games last season, including a 146-yard, three-touchdown contest against Jamestown.
Shey Williams, Sr., Lockport: Among the fastest players in Western New York, Williams is also one the top playmakers Section VI. Williams finished third in Section VI with 14 receiving touchdowns last season and was 11th with 716 yards receiving. Despite averaging 18.4 yards per catch, Williams wasn’t just a downfield threat. His most effective use was catching a short pass on an end-around and if he finds open field, it’s hard to run him down, exemplified a four-catch, 122-yard, two-touchdown outing against Niagara Wheatfield, in which all of his touches came on a simple pop-pass behind the line of scrimmage. No matter who plays quarterback, Williams should have a big year if healthy.
One for the road:
Jack Mahar, Sr., Wilson: The wins didn’t add up, but Mahar quietly had a breakout season for Wilson last year. He ran for 881 yards and seven touchdowns on 6.5 yards per carry, while also making 29 tackles as a safety on defense. The Lakemen typically love to pass more than most teams, but Mahar gives them a workhorse back who can help control the clock in close games this season. As Wilson gets acclimated in its second season in Class D, Mahar will be one of the key reasons if the team can improve upon a 4-6 campaign.
Nick Sabato can be reached via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @NickSabatoGNN.
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