If the Fredonia Hillbillies plan on getting back to Ralph Wilson Stadium for a third-straight shot at a Section 6 football title, they will have to do it in a very talented Class B, as they have moved back up a class after five seasons playing in Class C.
“I’m excited,” Fredonia head coach Mike Marshall said. “I think we needed a little schedule change and more competition. And this will definitely bring it our way.”
The last time the Hillbillies were a member of Class B, they fell to the Lackawanna Steelers in the Sectional final at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The next season, Fredonia moved down to Class C and began a run which saw it go 38-12 and collect one Section 6 and Far West Regional crown, both in 2010, and make it to the Sectional final another two times.
“I really haven’t got too much of a feel from the players themselves,” Marshall said when asked how his players feel about the move. “I think we were two (students) over the limit. They’re definitely not shying away or backing down from it, that’s for sure. We’re just ready to play some football.”
Rather than playing the likes of Southwestern, Salamanca, Silver Creek-Forestville, Gowanda and Allegany-Limestone, the Hillbillies will square off against Eden-North Collins, Pioneer, Springville, East Aurora-Holland and Olean.
“All I’ve heard is they’re power teams,” Marshall said. “They run the double wing and those types of things. They’re not a spread like we are.”
One team that is always on Fredonia’s schedule, Dunkirk, will once again be a league game, adding even more pressure to one of the state’s longest-running rivalries.
“Dunkirk, no matter what happens, the tradition is going to be there whether they’re in our league or not,” Marshall said. “It’s always a big game.”
The move into Class B South is the third time in the last six years that the Hillbillies will have to learn new opponents.
“Nowadays, you don’t have too many coaches stay with a program for too long,” Marshall said. “So no matter what league you’re in, you will have to prepare the guys for anything.”
Although Fredonia avoids traveling to Olean this season, they will have to go on the road to play Pioneer, Eden-North Collins and East Aurora-Holland.
“I moved here in 1995 and one of my sons graduated in 1999 and (his team) had to go play at Wilson, Alden and Olean,” Marshall said. “If you’re in Section 6 and you’re not used to traveling, then you’ve got a problem. Especially when you’re down here in Chautauqua County.”
In the end, no matter how he looks at it, Marshall is not too concerned with how his team will adjust to moving back up into Class B. But that’s not to say he does not have some reservations.
“I think we’ll be able to hold our own in our league,” Marshall said. “My big concern is going to be our (roster) depth and injuries. We had Steve Mignoli have an ankle sprain during the season, and toward the end of the season, we had Cody Smith have an ankle sprain. He was basically a coach on the field and when you take that out of your lineup, that hurts when you get to the big games.”