St. Francis’ Ritts Wins Connolly Cup
Southwestern’s Wright?Was Finalist For WNY’s Top Football Honor
BLASDELL — Ten of the most accomplished football players in Western New York gathered at Ilio DiPaolo’s Restaurant on Saturday afternoon for the 48th annual Connolly Cup Awards Banquet.
This year the honor, which recognizes the most outstanding high school player during the regular season, was presented to quarterback Jake Ritts of St. Francis.
Ritts led the Red Raiders to a 8-2 record and a Monsignor Martin Large School Championship, completing 149 of 242 passes for 2,431 yards and 28 touchdowns for an average of 16.6 yards per throw and 270 yards per game.
The junior was also named the Monsignor Martin Athletic Association Co-Offensive Player of the year.
Joining Ritts as finalists were teammate Xzavier Janczylik, Anthony McCartney of Amherst, CJ Ozolins of Canisius, D’Jae Perry of Bennett, Keith Jackson of South Park, Marqwan Fluitt of South Park, Joe Carlson of Starpoint and Micah Brown of St. Joseph’s, as well as Tywon Wright of Southwestern.
It is unfortunate that the Connolly Cup only considers regular season play, considering the show that Wright was able to put on during the postseason as the Trojans finished at 11-1 with a loss to Susquehanna Valley in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C West semifinals. The 6-foot-3, 230-pound senior back helped Southwestern steamroll its way to a 54-8 win over Letchworth-Warsaw in Far West Regional action on Nov. 15. That sort of performance came as no surprise after Wright racked up five scores and 356 yards in a 53-21 drubbing of Wilson with the Class C South title on the line, tying a record for points in a game held at New Era Field.
“He had a great year and left it all on the field and there is nothing more you could ask for,” Southwestern interim head coach Jake Burkholder said of Wright. “He’s definitely deserving of being a part of this. He is in my opinion definitely one of the top 10, if not the best player in Western New York. He is one of the best athletes I’ve ever seen play. As the season progressed, from his stats alone, you can see the growth that he had. He almost had 1,000 yards rushing in three games, two and-a-half games because he didn’t play most of the second half in our semifinal game. He had 13 touchdowns I think in three games and he just kept getting strong and stronger and faster and faster.”
Wright’s final statline for the year included 1,675 yards on 146 carries for 27 touchdowns, as well as two receiving touchdowns.
While his accomplishments in the backfield are known to many, Wright was equally effective as a defender for the Trojans. The senior middle linebacker made 56 tackles, including 12 for losses, and finished the year with 3.5 sacks.
“In our first game of the year he chased the quarterback down and knocked the ball loose on a scramble. He was able to do those sorts of things and he just knew where to be,” Burkholder said. “He is a great kid and I wish the best for him.”
With Wright’s nomination as a finalist, Southwestern has continued a tradition of elevating players into contention for the Connolly Cup.
In 2018 the Trojans had both quarterback Cole Snyder and wide receiver Alex Card make the trip to DiPaolo’s, the second such nomination for Snyder.
“The kids, regardless of if they are seventh-graders or on the modified program all the way up to the seniors, are very invested in the program,” Burkholder said. “These kids come in prepared and ready to go and know what the expectations are as Southwestern Trojans and know what they need to do to get the job done.”
Those in attendance were also treated to a guest speech by longtime Lancaster head coach Len Jankiewicz.
NOTES: Wright was also named an All Football Weekly First-Team Running Back, Section VI Class C South Player of the Year, Far West Regional Most Valuable Player and state playoff semifinal Most Valuable Offensive Player.