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Wednesday, July 23, 2014: The New York high school year in review

   Stick around high school sports long enough and you find yourself developing a shorthand for referring to memorable performances of the past.

   Depending upon which sideline you were on, the 2004 NYSPHSAA Class AA football final in which Syracuse CBA defeated New Rochelle 41-35 was either the Greg Paulus or Ray Rice Game. Five years earlier, Harrison used a human battering ram of a running back to win the Sam Maldonado Game at the Carrier Dome. In boys lacrosse in 2009, the Connor English Game saw the Virginia-bound senior strike for nine goals in Manhasset's 16-11 win over LaFayette in the Class C final in Rochester.

   Basketball has had a few of those outlandish performances over the years, and the 2014 NYSPHSAA championships in Glens Falls added to the list. Junior guard Jordan Roland scored 41 points -- including 32 in the first half -- as Westhill steamrolled a very good Olean team 93-55 in the Class B title game.

   It was as good a starting point as any in the New York State Sportswriters Association's recap of the 2013-14 year in high school sports.

   Roland, who after the season verbally committed to George Washington University, went 16-for-21 from the field by repeatedly elevating to a release point far above defenders in the course of making seven of his nine 3-point attempts at the Glens Falls Civic Center.

   "I don't even know how to describe it," Roland told The Post-Standard. "They were all falling. I felt like everything was going in. My teammates were getting the ball to me in the right spots."

   A week later, Roland scored 20 first-half points and 30 overall in the Federation Class B final in Albany as the Warriors downed Regis 65-46 to cap a 27-0 season.

   "I was shocked when I heard he only had 30 because he had 28 (actually 20) at halftime and I'm sure he scored another 20 in the second half," Regis coach Kevin Cullen said.

Triumph turns to sadness

   One of the lessons sports teaches us is that the joy associated with victory can be fleeting, a reality that the Westhill community came to understand all too well. On the same weekend the boys basketball team was completing its perfect season, two-year starting quarterback Reed Derrenbacher was found dead.

   He was a first-team all-league selection as a senior, and more than 300 Westhill students, staff and friends gathered for a Monday night vigil near the football field.

   "It's definitely a very difficult time for everybody," Westhill Superintendent Casey Barduhn told The Post-Standard.

   In the spring, Greenwich junior Jake Pett, a Section 2 football standout, also died. But the Westhill and Greenwich communities were hardly alone in their heartache. At a moment it time when discussion about concussions and head trauma was at its most intense, a Western New York football player died after collapsing on the field three days earlier.

   Brocton junior Damon Janes, 16, collapsed during a Sept. 13 game between Westfield/Brocton and Portville. Original reports said Janes had sustained a hit in a helmet-to-helmet collision, an assertion that could not be substantiated by a review of game film by the Portville coaches.

   Janes' death was the third in three years for New York scholastic athletes either competing in a game or preparing for a meet in a fall sport.

   Ronan Guyer, a 14-year-old Southold freshman, died in November 2012 five days after being placed in a medically induced coma. While scouting the course to be used the following day at the NYSPHSAA cross country championships at Elma Meadows, Guyer slipped on a muddy area and fell on his chest, triggering cardiac arrest. He had been breathing with the assistance of a ventilator while hospitalized.

   In October 2011, Phoenix varsity football player Ridge Barden died following a head injury suffered in a game. He complained of a severe headache following a play and collapsed while trying to stand up. Barden was initially treated at a local hospital and was in an ambulance en route to a Syracuse hospital when his condition deteriorated. Autopsy results showed he died of bleeding in the brain, due to blunt force trauma.

   Following Janes' death, the Westfield school board approved canceling the remained of the team's varsity schedule, a move supported by many members of the team.

   Portville coach Gary Swetland showed the game film to his players two days after the injury -- before Janes died -- to reassure them that no one should feel as though they had done something wrong.

   "I didn't want players thinking that I was involved in something that killed someone," Swetland said, "or 'I did something wrong,' or 'I'm responsible in some way.' It simply isn't the case. No high school player is responsible for what happened to Damon Janes."

   In January, Janes' parents filed a notice of claim, reserving their right to file a civil suit at a later date. The legal notice pointed to potential future litigation centering on a possibly sub-standard helmet, earlier signs Janes may have been injured and a theory that the teen took a serious blow to the head the previous week and was left vulnerable to a life-threatening hit in a later contest.

   The filing also faulted Westfield for failing to examine Janes at the season's start to establish a baseline for his balance and brain function. New York does not mandate such baseline tests but does require that players who are believed to have suffered a concussion immediately sit out and resume play only when symptom-free for at least 24 hours.

Dramatic finishes on the field

   You don't string together 38 wins in football without heart that matches talent. The combination of the two is why Maine-Endwell survived a pair of close calls in its final three games en route to the NYSPHSAA Class B championship.

   The Spartans scored a touchdown and 2-point conversion with four seconds to play, beating Schalmont 22-21 in the final at the Carrier Dome. M-E extended its winning streak to 38 as Kyle Gallagher threw a 5-yard TD pass to Jake Sinicki and then connected with Darnell Woolfork for the conversion.

   "If there's something better that happens the rest of my career in sports, it'll be pretty amazing because this is an absolutely amazing feeling," Gallagher told the Press & Sun-Bulletin.

[Continued on Page 2]

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