Sports predictions for the New Year
As 2007 ends, I wonder what could be in store for the sports world in 2008? As I look into my crystal ball, here are my random thoughts on what could happen at the high school, pro and college level.
Starting with the winter season, look for the Niagara Falls' boys basketball team to bounce back from its loss to Sweet Home in last year's final to win the Section VI Class AA crown. Its opponent in the final won't be Sweet Home but another Town of Amherst school, Williamsville North. Also look for Frontier to challenge for the section crown. Expect Depew to win Class A.
In girls hoops, Jamestown will likely win Class AA but look for Sweet Home to make it to at least the semifinals. Pioneer should easily walk away with the Class A title.
My picks for winners of the Section VI Western New York Varsity Hockey Federation's first small and large school championships will be Bishop Timon-St. Jude and St. Joe's, respectively, leaving Sweet Home and Williamsville North with the top league records to qualify for the New York State playoffs. (Catholic schools have its own state championships and cannot compete for a public school title)
On the wrestling mat, Sweet Home's Nic Stella will get a great match in the section finals from Lancaster's Mark Lewandowski en route to a section title and his first New York State Division I title. Others who should either win a section title or excel at the state qualifier are Sweet Home's Gage Bateman, Williamsville East's Max Cohen and Matt Calleri, Williamsville North's P.J. Abbarno and Matt Aloisio, Cheektowaga's Jared Messina, East Aurora's Matt Peters, Iroquois' Joe Kalinka, Frontier's Troy Malek, Maryvale's Dave Christopher and Amherst's Matt Weber.
Turning to the spring season, my picks for team championships are: Clarence (baseball), Hamburg (boys lacrosse), and Amherst (girls lacrosse). Despite losing a ton of players to graduation, look for the Williamsville South softball team to somehow squeak out its sixth Section VI Class A crown.
In the fall, Williamsville North field hockey will have enough firepower to win the Class A section title but too many losses to graduation will make it hard to repeat as state champions. Eden and Orchard Park will continue its dominance in boys volleyball while Lancaster and Starpoint should be contenders, if not become section champs in girls volleyball. I think the Sweet Home and Orchard Park football teams are locks for section titles. However, like many other years, Section VI will lose all games in the Far West Regionals.
Any optimism I had of the Bills left with a three-game losing streak to end the season. Even if a physical wide receiver is added to the offense, I still see Trent Edwards and the offense struggling under a new offensive coordinator. Another 7-9 season is not out of the realm of possibility.
The Buffalo Sabres will finish the 2007-08 regular season as the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference and lose in the first round. Whichever Sabre is a free agent will head somewhere else for more money.
If Turner Gill stays with the University at Buffalo football team, like I believe he will, I think the Bulls have their best chance to win the Mid-American Conference this coming fall. Gill is a legit Division I coach and seems to have earned his players' respect.