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Thursday, Aug. 14, 2014: Georgia player's death caused by over-hydration?

   Leading off today: A Georgia high school football player died Monday after being removed from life support after apparently over-hydrating after a practice last week, The Associated Press reported.

   Zyrees Oliver, 17, collapsed at his home hours after practice at Douglas County High School, west of Atlanta. Zyrees had medical issues in recent months, including cramping and dehydration, according to family members who said he may have consumed as much as two gallons of water and two gallons of Gatorade after the workout. Doctors at a Marietta, Ga., hospital said the teen suffered massive swelling around his brain.

   Religious controversy: An issue that seems to pop up every five years or so has resurfaced, with an atheist group taking issue with a coach's use of prayer and other religious references.

   The Appignani Humanist Legal Center, the legal arm of the American Humanist Association, claims the activities violate the First Amendment prohibition of the government establishing a religion or favoring one religion over another. The AHLC says football coaches at Chestatee High School in Gainesville, Ga., "regularly led or participated in prayer with students" and included Bible verse references on official team documents and workout sheets.

   An AHA news release said the group is acting on behalf of a concerned citizen.

   Gordon Higgins, spokesman for the Hall County School District, said the district will not decide how to act until it has learned more about the allegations. "We always take matters like this very seriously, and we will investigate and take whatever action is warranted," he said.

   Mahopac picks replacement: Mahopac selected former Pace coach Jim Harter as its new boys basketball coach, The Journal News reported.

   The son of former NBA and college coach Dick Harter was 224-213 at the Division II college before being fired in 2013. He walks into a challenging but not impossible situation in the aftermath of one of the big stories in all of New York high school sports last season.

   Harter will replace Kevin Downes, who resigned in March after racially charged tweets circulated in the wake of the team's Section 1 Class AA semifinal loss to Mount Vernon. In seven seasons, Downes led the Indians to four straight trips to the semifinals, and was hired as the head coach at Yorktown this summer.

   "It was certainly a careful process," Interim superintendent Dr. Brian Monahan told the paper. "The district was not rushing into it. There were other candidates, but I think it's fair to say experience was important here. I think Jim brings that to the table."

   Early decisions: Frequent readers of this blog know I'm not especially wild about this era of having high school freshmen and sophomores making college selections, even if their commitments are non-binding. It's actually standard operating procedure now for the upper tier of boys lacrosse players even if neither they nor their parents are experienced enough to really grasp the implications and potential pitfalls.

   And then, every once in awhile, comes an instance that I can look at and say, "Never mind. That one actually makes a bunch of sense."

   Pittsford district AD Scott Barker tweeted out last week that his son Colby Barker, a rising sophomore midfielder with the Panthers, gave a verbal commitment to play at Ohio State, after he visited recently.

   "As a father, I will tell you that it is difficult to sit down with my 15-year old son, then try and map out a lot of colleges when realistically they don't know what they want to study," Barker told the Democrat and Chronicle.

   The obvious catch to this particular situation is that Barker is an experienced athletic administrator who knows his way around the college process far better than the average parent. Tack on top of that the fact that Brandon

  
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Barker, Colby's older brother, gave a similar commitment to Ohio State last summer before he began his sophomore year.

   If ever there was a family that could feel comfortable with last week's development, then, it would be the Barkers. Still, it's a tough choice to make, even if one that can be reversed upon further review.

   "If you don't take the opportunity right away then you'll end up losing it," Scott Barker said. "The college lacrosse world kind of dictates that a bit."

   Awkward situation: One of the Steubenville, Ohio, students convicted in a high-profile rape last year is back on the football field, multiple outlets reported.

   Receiver Ma'Lik Richmond, 18, who, along with Trent Mays, was convicted of raping a 16-year-old girl, rejoined the roster of the Steubenville team. Richmond was sentenced to a year in a juvenile detention facility and was released in January.

   The case generated national controversy about the ethics of school and law enforcement officials in handling the reporting and prosecution of the case. In addition, the hacker group Anonymous raised ethical issues by making photos and videos from the night girl was raped available online. The images showed two males carrying the inebriated victim by her wrists and ankles and other teens making jokes.

   In May, Steubenville Superintendent Michael McVey was charged with tampering with evidence and obstructing justice, both felonies, and the falsification and obstructing official business in relation to the case. Earlier, volunteer coach Matt Belardine was sentenced to 10 days in jail for one count of making a false statement and one count of enabling underage drinking.

   Sigh: Some Redlands, Calif., high school cheerleaders created community outrage by dressing as gang members in photos that circulated on social media.

   Redlands school district officials are investigating the photo, which shows the girls displaying gang signs and stuffing their shirts to look pregnant.

   Extra points: The respective coaches announced on Twitter this week that PSAL champ Cardozo and state Federation Class AA champion Christ the King of the CHSAA will face each other in non-league boys basketball games the next two seasons.


  
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