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Friday, Jan. 3, 2014: Suit alleges intent to injure by Sec. 9 lineman

   Leading off today: A Section 9 football offensive lineman accused last month of intentionally injuring an opponent in 2010 after being instructed by his coach to do so, says the play was a clean hit with no malicious intent, The Times Herald-Record reported Friday.

   A lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court by former Highland defensive lineman Nick Rozzi alleged coach Rich Ward of Marlboro "negligently encouraged, advised and/or instructed members of the Marlboro varsity football team" to injure Highland players, including Rozzi.

   Rozzi sustained a serious right leg and knee injury in the Oct. 1, 2010 game on a play on which he was blocked by Marlboro lineman Nick LaMela.

   "If it gets to court and anyone sees that hit on tape, the case will be thrown out," LaMela, a 2011 graduate, told the newspaper. "It was a big hit, it really was. But it was up high and clean. I hit him like everyone else and it wasn't illegal. No players were targeted by me or coach Ward."

   "I think (Rozzi) is trying to capitalize. It's a BS accusation."

   The newspaper reviewed the play in question and described it as a quarterback keeper play. Rozzi penetrated into the backfield, but LaMela hit him high and hard, sending Rozzi crumbling to the turf. The paper said he got up clutching his leg.

   "I thought it was a great football play," said Ben Cary, who played running back and linebacker for Marlboro. "It wasn't illegal and there were no penalty flags. There shouldn't have been any flags. I think (Rozzi) knows that 100 percent it was a clean hit."

   The paper said Rozzi could not be reached for comment and his lawyer, Stephen Coffey of Albany, did not return a phone call seeking comment. Ward declined comment.

   In a separate suit filed last month, individuals formerly affiliated with the Marlboro program accused Ward of physically and verbally abusing players and instructing them to injure opponents. Ward denied the allegations of the lawsuit filed in a federal district court in Albany.

   Big tourney hit by weather: Citing weather-related concerns, defending champion Wantagh and leading contender Islip will not travel from Long Island this weekend to participate in the 31st annual Union-Endicott Duals.

   Ten of the 13 teams remaining in the field are ranked in the state by the New York State Sportswriters Association, including No. 2 Monroe-Woodbury, No. 3 Minisink Valley and No. 4 Shenendehowa. At last word, No. 16 MacArthur will make the trip from Nassau County to participate.

   The 13 teams in the two-day event will compete in four round-robin divisions Saturday, with division winners advancing to Sunday's semifinals.

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   Wantagh defeated Sachem East 35-27 in the 2013 championship match.

   Much of New York has been slammed with low temperatures and high snowfalls since Wednesday, which has caused many postponements and schedule changes in numerous sports. Section 11 schools postponed nearly the full slate of events scheduled for Friday. Nina Van Erk, the executive director in Section 8, told Newsday on Thursday that she was still was getting updates about Friday and Saturday plans.

   Catching up on football business: NYSSWA football editor Steve Grandin has all but wrapped up compilation of the annual all-state football team. We will announce the all-stars for Classes B, C and D on Tuesday at 2 p.m., followed by the two larger-school classes a week later.

   Canisius tight end Tyrone Wheatley Jr. has landed on the second team of the MaxPreps football junior All-American team.

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