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The goal for all high school football teams in Western New York is to reach The Ralph to play for championships, but several teams will begin their quests for crowning glory at the home of the Buffalo Bills this season.
Section VI will host its first Kick-Off Classic at Ralph Wilson Stadium during opening night on Friday, Sept. 5, with hopes it will grow into a two-day, marquee football extravaganza that will involve teams from Syracuse and the Monsignor Martin Association.
The inaugural classic features a tripleheader that begins at 4 p.m. with Class A South rivals Hutch-Tech facing South Park. The middle game has Lockport facing Lancaster at 6:30 in a clash of Class AA teams. The action closes at 9 p.m. with another Class A South tilt, Iroquois against West Seneca East.
"This is a great chance for us to get exposure for our kids and our area," said Ken Stoldt, the Section VI football chairman.
Provided it grows into the big-time event that Stoldt envisions.
For years, there has been chatter about putting together an event that will showcase the area's best football teams - public and private - in Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Formal discussions began with Section III officials in late April, but talking about hosting these types of events is often easier than making them happen. With the potential Classic's status still up in the air at the end of the school year, the Section III schools needed to finalize their upcoming season's schedules.
Section VI received the go-ahead from the Buffalo Bills last Friday to hold the Classic as a one-day event. The stadium isn't available Sept. 6.
"We thought this would be a good time to get it done but unfortunately the first year is always the most difficult to get going," Stoldt said.
"To make it easy for everybody, we took three games from our schedule and moved it to The Ralph. They should all be competitive and fun."
"It's just a way of getting high school football closer to the Bills organization and giving kids a chance to play in a venue that's special for them and just generate a different level of excitement at the start of the football season," said Lockport coach Greg Bronson.
The idea to bring Syracuse teams to the Ralph is something Stoldt and Section III officials have talked about for a couple of years, what with Section VI teams having participated for the past decade in the annual Kickoff Classic at Syracuse University's Carrier Dome.
Should Section III send teams to The Ralph for next year's event, Stoldt said Section VI would also send teams to Syracuse's Classic.
"Syracuse definitely wants to be a part of this," he said. "We're opening this to this whole end of the state. If someone out of Rochester wants to come up and we can accommodate them, we'll accommodate them. We just want to get exposure for this end of the state."
Brian Kiszewski, president of the Monsignor Martin Association, said the private schools would be open to participating in the event but hasn't had any formal talks with the section.
The private schools are responsible for setting up their own schedules and usually have an idea who they will play next season by November. Public schools need to wait until they receive enrollment numbers later in the year to set up their schedules.
Stoldt wants to get the Monsignor Martin schools on board. That means the sides would have to start talking soon if he wants the Classic to become huge.
"People want to see these games," Stoldt said. "It would be nice to bring a lot of these football playing schools into the area in Week One."