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Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014: Aquinas taking eligibility issue to court

   Leading off today: As expected, Aquinas administrators will ask a court to restore the defending state Class AA football champion to the Section 5 semifinals scheduled for this weekend.

   Lawyers for the school will ask a State Supreme Court justice to overturn the Section 5 ruling that disqualified the Little Irish from the playoffs because quarterback Jake Zembiec was ineligible when he played in last weekend's 37-20 win over Pittsford due to an injury that kept him out of five regular-season games.

   Arguments will be heard Friday at 10 a.m. in Rochester. The lawsuit filed Wednesday names Section 5, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, the State Education Department and Section 5 Executive Director Ed Stores and sectional football coordinator Dick Cerone. (See: Court filing PDF)

   Cerone was the athletic director at Aquinas from 1996-2006 and stepped down last summer after a long tenure as the NYSPHSAA football chairman.

   "The bottom line was we went to a competent authority, somebody with almost 40 years of experience as the chairman of state and Section 5 Football, asked for how to do this, was told how to do it and now all of a sudden there is a lack of memory on what he said or what he directed," Aquinas President Michael Daley told the Democrat and Chronicle. "They are using that as a way to hang us, saying we should've known better."

   At the heart of the controversy is the term "eligible participant," which is used in the NYSPHSAA handbook but not explicitly defined. Robert Zayas, executive director of the NYSPHSAA, said the rule was discussed in detail at a mandatory Aug. 26 meeting for Section 5 ADs.

   Zayas added that the state adheres to the National Federation of High School rulebook, too. "You need to be in uniform and ready to play," he said.

   By the way, the court case took its first twist Thursday morning when the justice scheduled to preside, John Ark, recused himself in order to avoid the appearance of impropriety. Ark's wife is a teacher in the Pittsford school district, which will play Rush-Henrietta on Saturday unless Aquinas, ranked seventh in the state this week by the NYSSWA, prevails in court.

   According to reports, Ark will be replaced on the bench Friday by Justice Scott Odorisi ... a graduate of Aquinas arch-rival McQuaid.

   Weekend football schedule: The NYSPHSAA playoffs are mostly down to sectional semifinals this weekend, but there are a few final in the mix. The all-inclusive schedule for the state can be viewed here.

   A No. 1 team ousted: Section 2 has four teams ranked in Class B girls soccer this week by the NYSSWA, and that apparently isn't enough. Unranked Voorheesville sprang a 1-0 upset on No. 1 Schalmont on Thursday to advance to Saturday's final against No. 14 Catholic Central, which downed No. 11 Hoosick Falls.

   Sophomore Julia Voss scored for the 21st time this season with one minute left in the first half and junior goalie Jordan Pettograsso registered the 17-save shutout for Voorheesville, which had lost twice to the Sabres in the regular season.

   "We were not let down, but we were defeated," Voss told The Times Union. "The second one was 2-0 and we had chances. That gave us a feel that we could beat them. We felt like we could do what they do." football site
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       More soccer: Sudden death didn't last very long for the Skaneateles boys, who got a goal by Jack Bailey a mere 29 seconds into the extra period and downed No. 17 Clinton 1-0 in the Section 3 Class B semifinals.

       The ninth-ranked Lakers will play No. 7 Cazenovia in Saturday's final.

       Postponed: As if we needed a reminder that it's not all fun and games out there, a Section 1 playoff contest scheduled for Wednesday had to be postponed due to a brief scare.

       The rematch of the 2013 girls Class B final between Hendrick Hudson and Ardsley was postponed because Hen Hud's campus was placed on lockdown after a threatening phone call was received. The semifinal match was rescheduled for Thursday at Ardsley.

       A state trooper will be posted at every Hendrick Hudson school on Thursday and Friday following the threats that forced lockdowns two days in a row, schools Superintendent Joseph Hochreiter said.

       St. John's benches Thomas: St. John's University has ruled incoming junior basketball forward Keith Thomas academically ineligible for the 2014-15 season, extended the scandal unearthed at Westchester Community College.

       St. John's told The Journal News on Tuesday that it was investigating the transcript of Thomas, a former standout at Yorktown High School and WCC, after the paper's investigation revealed that two former players for the junior college had their NCAA Division I scholarships pulled by Florida A&M.

       "Our athletic compliance office recently became aware of information that triggered an additional review of Thomas' academic credentials at Westchester Community College," Director of Athletics Chris Monasch said in a release issued by St. John's. "Our assessment and decision are in accordance with University and NCAA policies."

       Thomas led all NJCAA Division I players in the nation rebounds per game (15.7) while at Westchester Community College.

       As the scandal's ripples widen, the Westchester Community College team pulled out of a men's tournament in Florida, The Journal News reported. WCC informed Northwest Florida State College the team would not be attending the two-day weekend tournament, but didn't specify a reason, athletic program assistant Drew Bowman said.

       NJCAA Executive Director Mary Ellen Leicht said no sanctions have been imposed that would prohibit WCC from playing.

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