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Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014: Curtis wins five days after teammate's death

   Leading off today: Curtis High opened its PSAL season with a 12-6 victory over Fort Hamilton on Saturday, five days after the death of junior lineman Miles Kirkland during practice at the Staten Island school.

   Curtis scored two touchdowns in the third quarter to take a 12-0 lead, and Fort Hamilton got on the scoreboard on the final play of the game. Afterward, coach Pete Gambardella presented the game ball to the Kirkland family, which received a standing ovation from the crowd and the team before walking off the field, the New York Daily News reported.

   "The guys had a heavy heart, but they were ready to come out and play football," said Gambardella, speaking publicly for the first time this week. "They came out playing with a lot of heart, and I think we have a good football team."

   Teammates carried Kirkland's No. 54 to midfield for the pre-game coin toss. That was followed by a moment of silence, after which players hugged members of Kirkland's family.

   "I appreciated all of that, but I would have rather seen my son in the jersey," Kirkland's father, Jamar Thomas, told the paper. "My son lived for (football). He would've loved this."

   Thomas said he has not yet received autopsy results from the medical examiner.

   How not to do it: In the midst of joyous chaos, Canandaigua lacrosse coach Ed Mulheron looked me in the eye and addressed a question he knew was coming but almost certainly would have preferred to not have to answer.

   Mulheron's team had just won a NYSPHSAA championship in Rochester on that day in 2009, but the happy moment came at the end of five very difficult weeks in the community. In that span of time, a Canandaigua senior killed himself with a shotgun in a school bathroom and, just days before the lacrosse final another student was arrested by authorities who believed he was preparing to attempt a Columbine-like attack.

   Those are not the types of incidents administrators or residents want associated with their school, so it's easy to imagine them avoiding talking about them -- as if that would make the episodes go away.

   Mulheron, though, wasn't one of the sheep. Earlier in the year, the Braves won a contest that brought them $30,000 in new uniforms and equipment in exchange for nearly unlimited access by videographers assembling a weekly online series. Maybe that series helped Mulheron grasp the role of the media, though it's more likely the coach already understood the concept of reporters serving as the conduits that brought information to the public.

   So I asked Mulheron a question that a lot of people would have wanted him to answer: Could he discuss the significance to the people of Canandaigua of closing out the year with a string of victories amidst the frightening off-the-field incidents.

   "The reality is we've had a tough month and a half or so," he told me. "It affected our team, but we found a way and the kids found a way to deal with it. We moved on, and if this brought a little ray of sunshine into peoples' lives that's even better.

   "We've been able to work through it. The group of kids we have care about each other. They care, the community cares about people and we found our way through it."

   Do you see what he did there? He gave a thoughtful, meaningful answer without needing to do more than vaguely allude to suicides or planned massacres. Six quick sentences and he'd tied up his answer in a tidy package that addressed the question and allowed him to move on to the "How does it feel?" inquiries that are a staple of post-game interviews.

   Now, contrast that with what transpired Friday night in Westfield, where the Westfield/Brocton varsity was taking the field for the first time since Brocton student Damon Janes collapsed on the field not quite a year ago and subsequently died from head trauma a few days later.

   In short, it was apparent school officials were hell bent on making it as inconvenient as possible for the media to do its job before and during the game vs. Cattaraugus/Little Valley, which ultimately was suspended by lightning with Westfield/Brocton leading 14-0 early in the second quarter.

   There's this from reporter Miguel Rodriguez of The Buffalo News:

   "They even tried to make it as uncomfortable as possible for the media attending the event, barring use of the press box and limiting the shooting area for photographers," he wrote, "and that happened after they tried to go so far as to deny entry to reporters and photographers."

   Remember the question I asked Mulheron? Rodriguez tried to ask first-year coach Frank Quagliana a comparable question.

  
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   "Talk about the significance of being back and playing a game after all -- ," the reporter managed to get out before the coach cut him off.

   "They were ready to play," Quagliana responded. "They were ready to play."

   Rodriguez said the "interview" was then interrupted by someone he believed to be a district official, and the coach declined to answer any follow-up questions.

   Look, no one was asking Quagliana to be Lincoln at Gettysburg or JFK at the Berlin Wall. Hell, he didn't even have to be as insightful as Dick Vitale in the midst of a 52-4 run by the Duke basketball team against the University of Phoenix. But just say something that acknowledges that the first game back after the death of a teenage player is something other than just another game.

   Adding to the farcical paranoia by people whose salaries are paid by you and me was this:

   About 125 miles to the northeast on Friday, members of the Rochester Police Department were less than 48 hours removed from a stunning incident involving officer Darryl Pierson, a husband and the father of two small children. Pierson and his partner were conducting a traffic stop in one of Rochester's most dangerous neighborhoods when convicted felon Thomas Johnson III pulled a gun and begun firing.

   The first shot felled Pierson. Fellow officers heroically raced Pierson to Rochester General Hospital, where he died a short time later. In the aftermath, we learned Pierson was a respected member of a unit that routinely executed arrests that took illegal guns off the streets, making life that much safer for law-abiding citizens.

   Try juxtaposing that tragedy with the two cops in the tweet above whose job Friday apparently was to keep the sideline safe from the media.

   Pathetic. Simply pathetic.

   Extra points: Syracuse CBA, hit hard by injuries at the tail end of last season, is off to a bad start in that department in the 2014 football season. In the course of the 20-13 loss to Syracuse Henninger on Friday, the Brothers lost senior Kane Alletzhauser for the season. The linebacker/running back, a co-captain, underwent surgery to repair a broken arm and dislocated shoulder, Syracuse.com reported.


  
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