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."