Late October is sectional football time in the Greater Rochester area as the elite Section V teams look to build on their seven game season records and make a run to a sectional title and qualify for the NYSPHSAA state playoffs. As we have passed the midway point of the season, with teams fighting for seeding position, the playoff picture in Section V is taking shape. This season teams will be competing in five sectional classifications AA, A, B, C and D. The Section V CC and DD classifications of years past were eliminated to conform to the state classification playoff system. This will be the 39th Annual Football Playoffs with 68 teams in Section V, 40 tournament positions and the five sectional titles. The 2015 football sectionals start Oct. 23 and run thru championship weekend Nov. 7-8.
At the top of Class AA are Aquinas, Pittsford, Victor and Rush Henrietta. Although the Hilton Cadets under coach Rich Lipani are undefeated at 6-1 and deserve mention they lack the size, depth and balance with a passing game that the other four schools possess. As has been the case for the last seven years, these four schools have separated themselves from the other teams in their class and Aquinas is once again the team to beat, not to mention a strong state championship contender in Class AA.
Coach Jim Battaglia’s Lil’ Irish 2015 edition continues as a state powerhouse and is garnering attention in the USA Today Northeast high school polling. AQs string of eight straight sectional titles ended last year with a court decision as quarterback Jake Zembiec was declared ineligible for the sectionals. Zembiec, who was the Class AA state player of the year in 2013 as a sophomore, returns for his senior year and is surrounded with Division I talent on offense and defense: Wide receiver Ernest Edwards has sprinter speed and is a UB recruit; defensive end Jamir Jones is an impressive 6-foot-4, 235 pounds and signed with Notre Dame; Taylor Riggins, also a defensive end, has committed to Syracuse University. For his part, Zembiec stands out as the top quarterback in NYS and Penn State’s prized quarterback recruit in their 2016 recruiting class.
With 2014 All Greater Rochester senior quarterback Jared Gerbino under center and rushing downfield, Rush Henrietta potentially has the offensive weapons to play with Aquinas. Last year a streak of three sectional final appearances ended with a loss to Pittsford in the sectional semi-finals. In 2013 the Royal Comets lost to Aquinas in the sectional championship game 50-7. A rematch of Zembiec versus Gerbino would showcase the two best high-powered offenses in Section V with the top signal callers under center. RH’s offense is a fast-tempo, spread, read-option attack with receivers Joseph Ortiz (6-foot-0, 185 pounds) and Jashun Smith (6-foot-1, 195 pounds) averaging over 30 points per game.
Both Pittsford and Victor have big, physical, skilled squads as well. All Greater Rochester senior Josh Mack had 2,000 all-purpose yards last season for Pittsford and is the premier RB in Section V. Victor has lacrosse star Jamie Trimboli at quarterback while Pittsford counters with 6-foot-3, 220 pound sophomore Robbie Kleinheimer. All four teams should make the semifinals on Oct. 31 an exciting Halloween weekend of high school football.
Class A is a wide open classification with six teams – Brockport, Greece Arcadia, Greece Athena, Eastridge Spencerport, Canandaigua – with championship aspirations. All six teams have winning records and will qualify for the eight team sectionals, with most of these teams having played at least two of the other teams during the season. Eastridge Lancer junior RB/WR C.J. Turner (6-foot-0, 170 pounds) has college recruiters interested as a multi-skilled athlete. Irondequoit upset the Lancers winning the Class A title last October preventing an Eastridge three-peat. Brockport has been close twice in the last three years, losing to eventual champion Eastridge. Coach John Dowd’s Spencerport Ranger team is an interesting squad with a throwback 1940s single wing offense and two back attack of Brandon Nitti and Tahj Snow plowing through defenses.
The small schools – Class B, C, D – are led by the Batavia Blue Devils. The No. 1 small school in Section V and defending Class B champion, Batavia has eight starters returning on offense and defense. Currently standing at 7-0, the Blue Devils will likely enter the sectionals undefeated. The promotion of sophomores to the varsity squad two years ago – including 2014 All Greater Rochester linebacker Dominick Mogavero – formed the nucleus of this year’s team. Batavia defeated Class A Wilson 34 -28 and Mogavero was the Blue Devils’ leading tackler with 15, including three for a loss. Greg Mruczek, a senior who was second-team all-state in Class B last season, threw five touchdown passes. There doesn’t appear to be one team capabable of stopping the Blue Devils from repeating. A young Penn Yan team should be the opponent in the sectional final. East Rochester/Gananda and Bath are the class of Class C, ranked in the top 5 for small schools. One of them will take the sectional trophy; pencil them in to meet Nov. 7 at Sahlen’s Stadium. The Class D has its own version of the ‘Big 4’with Caledonia-Mumford, Red Jacket, Clyde-Savannah and Avon. Cal-Mumford is looking for a record 15th sectional win.
As in the last 10 years, the semi-finals and championship games will be played at Sahlen’s Stadium in downtown Rochester. The quarterfinals are at the higher team’s home field. Get out and enjoy the fall weather taking in a Section V game.
Top 5 Players in Section V
Jake Zembiec, SR, Aquinas, QB – The No. 1 quarterback in NYS this 2015 high school season and next year will take his talents to the Big Ten at Penn State University.
Jared Gerbino, SR, Rush-Henrietta, QB – Has accounted for over 3,000 yards rushing and passing starting as a sophomore since 2013. Gerbino and the Royal Comets are hoping for a sectional showdown against Aquinas and Jake Zembiec.
Josh Mack, SR, Pittsford, RB – A Leonard Fournette type runner; physical, punishing inside the tackles with a burst into the second level. Attracting late DI interest.
C.J. Turner, JR, Eastridge, RB/WR – Can play multiple skill positions on offense and defense. Could end up in college playing as a ball hawking DB at a mid-major DI program.
Jamir Jones, SR, Aquinas, DE/WR– Will join his brother Jarod, a standout DT, at Notre Dame next year as a linebacker. Showing his versatility for Aquinas, he has caught five touchdowns as a wide receiver.