Though it may yet be a couple of months away, it's never too early to mark your calendars for the Don Raabe Big 30 Charities Classic.
A number of standout area football players, in fact, have done just that.
Reigning Post-Journal player of the year Jordan Dowiasz, leading rusher of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D state champion Randolph Cardinals; Salamanca's Tanner John; Southwestern's Ryan Schutte; Cattaraugus-Little Valley's Matt Booth; Ellicottville's William Murphy; and Gowanda's Justin Grimm are just the first of more than 40 players that have accepted an invitation to play for the New York squad this summer.
The Classic, now in its 40th year, will be played on August 3 at Bradford's Interstate Parkway Field.
New York has won three of the past four contests, including its 25-15 victory last year.
In that game, Southwestern's Jake Swan hauled in nine catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns, Frewsburg's Dalton Peterson caught a touchdown and another Bear, Preston Wiltsie, connected on 11 of 18 passes for 200 yards.
New York leads the all-time series, 20-17-2.
Headlining this year's group is Dowiasz, who this past season helped lead Randolph - in longtime coach Pat Slater's final season - to the program's third state title.
All together, the 5-foot-11, 170-pound senior gained nearly 2,000 yards (1,828 was the exact tally) and crossed the goal line 29 times, and during the Cardinals' championship run came through with some impressive performances.
Among them were a two-touchdown, 214-yard outing in the Section 6 Class D championship game with Maple Grove at Ralph Wilson Stadium and a three-touchdown, 252-yard showing in the Far West Regional against Avon of Section 5. At the NYSPHSAA title game, he intercepted a pass, rushed for 145 yards with two scores and was later named the Class D player of the year by the New York State Sportswriters Association.
In short, with Dowiasz in the backfield, New York, which was held to minus-25 yards on the ground in last year's game, shouldn't have those problems this time around.
John will be lining up under center. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound quarterback was selected to both the Post-Journal and the Olean Times Herald all-star teams, was a NYSSWA first-team all-state selection and a Class C first-team choice as well. His best showing came in a contest with Southwestern when he completed 18 of 32 passes for 310 yards and a touchdown, and ran for 126 yards on 15 carries for five touchdowns.
John will be the seventh member of his family (his father, two uncles, two cousins and an older brother) to take part in the Classic.
Rounding out the list is Schutte, a 5-6 wide receiver and defensive back from Southwestern; Booth, a 6-1 fullback and linebacker that was not only the football team's Most Valuable Player but also the wrestling team's MVP; Murphy, a 6-foot-5, 270-pound lineman; and Grimm, a 245-pound offensive lineman and linebacker.
Schutte was a Western New York all-academic team selection and was also named to the Class C South second-team, Murphy cleared the way for an Eagles' team that captured the Class DD championship at Ralph Wilson Stadium and Grimm was a Class C first-team selection and the Panthers' Most Valuable Player.
More participants will be announced in the coming weeks.