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Tuesday, April 29, 2014: Peekskill, Yonkers schools form football league

   Leading off today: In a long-overdue move, seven Yonkers schools have dropped out of the Section 1 football league alignment and will form their own division along with Peekskill for the upcoming season.

   The formation of the Hudson River Football League, allows the Yonkers programs, decimated by the district's financial problems and low player turnout at some schools, to begin a rebuilding process. Gorton, Lincoln, Saunders, Early College, Yonkers, Palisade Prep, Riverside will not be eligible for the Section 1 playoffs, though the top four teams will advance to an all-Yonkers postseason tournament, The Journal News reported last week. Yonkers Montessori, a Class C school, will still compete in Section 1.

   "Yonkers is one of the biggest cities in the state and we have an opportunity to have our own league," Gorton coach Dan DeMatteo told the paper. "The Yonkers rivalries are pretty intense and special. Because of the way the schools are set up, there are people in the same apartment building that could play each other."

   The seven Yonkers schools making the move were a combined 7-50 last season, and Lincoln's victory against Hendrick Hudson (3-6) was the groups only triumph against teams outside Yonkers.

   Yonkers district AD Jim Rose, contacted Peekskill, his former school, to create an even number of teams for scheduling purposes.

   "We've had trouble finishing the season the last couple of years," Peekskill AD Lou Panzanaro said. "We don't get enough kids to build any cushion for injuries or ineligibility. ... It made sense for us."

   The creation of the HRFL contributes to the reshaping of Class A in Section 1, which will go from 28 teams a year ago to 18 this fall. Several teams that fattened up on Yonkers opponents in recent seasons will suddenly find one or two tough games added to their schedules.

   "To get in the playoffs, you're going to be battle tested," Nyack coach Mike Ramponi told the paper. "I know in past years there was a lot of question marks about who deserved to make the playoffs and who didn't. I don't think there will be any doubt this year."

   Following up: Cheerleading won approval as a competitive sport in New York on Tuesday in a 17-0 vote by the Board of Regents. A day earlier, a regents sub-committee approved the recommendation to make cheerleading an official sport and sent the measure to the full body.

   NYSPHSAA officials said they would turn the transition over to their cheerleading committee to develop a strategy for implementation. Competitive cheerleading teams will be subject to safety standards applied to other high school sports. Those rules include coaching certification, mandatory rest days between competitions and limits on the duration of the season.

   School reacts: Six Buffalo police officers, including a high school football coach, have been placed on paid administrative leave during an internal investigation into the alleged April 19 beating of a suspect, The Buffalo News reported.

   The incident began with an attempted traffic stop that was followed by suspect John T. Willet reportedly ditching the car and fleeing on foot. Police who apprehended Willet said they found heroin, crack cocaine and marijuana on him and subsequently charged him with intent to sell. Before he was booked, Willet was handcuffed and, from the appearance of video captured on a camera phone, was beaten by one police officer while others stood by, The Buffalo News reported.

   The Buffalo Police Department's Internal Affairs Division investigation began Friday after the commissioner and the mayor were emailed copies of the video, the paper reported. One of the officers placed on leave was Dennis Gilbert, varsity football coach at St. Joe's, with the paper reporting later Tuesday that he is likely to be one of at least three officers cleared based upon video evidence.

   In a statement to the paper, school President Robert T. Scott said administrators were aware of the situation.

   "While St. Joe's does not have any information to conclude that Mr. Gilbert acted inappropriately, we are monitoring this situation and will defer any action until the investigation is complete," the statement said.

   Gilbert, a 1984 St. Joe's graduate who was inducted into the school's hall of fame in 2002, is 29-15 in four seasons as the coach there.

   Regrettable re-tweet: An Albany High modified softball coach and substitute teacher was fired Tuesday after posting a derogatory racial comment on social media, The Times Union reported.

   First-year coach Zoe Naylor, 24, admitted to retweeting a post on her Twitter account that contained a version of the N-word, district spokesman Ron Lesko said.

   "We won't tolerate the use of that word in any form," said Lesko, adding he was not aware of another instance in which a social-media post led to a staff member's dismissal.

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   The paper reported a concerned parent brought Naylor's re-tweet to the district's attention Monday.

   Looking ahead: As has already been noted, the NYSPHSAA Executive Committee will consider changes to the transfer rule Friday during its meeting it Troy.

   Also worth keeping an eye on at the meeting:

    • Ken Slentz, deputy commissioner of the New York State Education Department, will be in attendance. With No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, Common Core and literally 20 other contentious issues having put his agency in a perpetual state of siege for the better part of a decade, it's a big deal to have NYSED represented at a NYSPHSAA meeting. For novices to the process, many of the rules in the NYSPHSAA handbook (see the cheerleading story above) originate from the office of the state education commissioner.

    • The girls basketball committee has seen the light and is asking for approval to change the Class D regional alignments so that Sections 1, 9 and 11 -- with their paucity of small schools -- will be grouped with Section 4 so as to assure the tournament will end up with four quarterfinal contests. Last month, Eldred advanced directly to the state semifinals following the conclusion of its regular season -- and despite a losing record -- since Section 9 had no other qualifiers. Making it worse, Moriah and Fort Edward endured a first-round play-in game just to reach the quarterfinals.

    • With the implementation of the 10-second backcourt rule opening some eyes regarding the effect of pressure defense on the offensive flow, the girls committee will also ask approval for a 35-second shot clock to replace the current 30.

    The committee also proposes moving up the start of Sunday's championship doubleheader at Hudson Valley Community College from noon to 10 a.m. in order to get teams and spectators home earlier.

    • At a time when the push is on to restore regular-season contests to the schedule (such as bringing basketball back to 20 games from the current 18), the financials for state championships in fall and winter sports this school year show a net combined P&L decline in the $30,000 range compared to the 2012-13 school year. However, the NYSPHSAA's other financials look healthy and should not distract from the fact that adding games to the regular-season schedule is in essence a local issue to be discussed by more than 600 school districts and then the 11 sections across the state and then (hopefully) approved this summer.

    • The committee will be updated on an apparent $80,500 windfall in the form of a long-lost account that was brought to the NYSPHSAA's attention by Bank of America recently. The account appears to date back to 1987, and no one was able to recall why the account was opened or how it fell off the NYSPHSAA's books.

    • The indoor track committee will ask to add the weight throw to its list of events at the state meet, a move that's long overdue.

    • There could be a vote resolving the issue of whether the NYSPHSAA should abide by National Federation rulebooks in all sports. In some cases, the association now uses NCAA rules or those of other organizations.

   Extra points: Sterling Taplin, The Buffalo News' boys basketball player of the year, will attend prep school next season. The Williamsville North senior was a three-time first-team All-Western New York selection by the paper.

   St. Bonaventure became the 12th Division I school to offer a scholarship to Canisius sophomore basketball standout Howard Washington. Among the other schools offering are Boston College, Dayton, Virginia and Virginia Tech.

   Spring Valley junior guard Rickey McGill decommitted from Manhattan in the aftermath of coach Steve Masiello being placed on leave by the college until he completes work on his four-year degree at Kentucky.

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