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Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014: More changes to postseason football schedule

   Updated, 4:20 p.m.: The Buffalo News is now reporting the CHSAA championship game has yet another new date -- Sunday, Dec. 7. The change from today's first announcement is due to the preceding day being an SAT exam day.

   Leading off today: We've literally waited decades for a game like this to be played. So what's another week, right?

   For the second time this week, the Monsignor Martin Association football final has been rescheduled. This time, it necessitates postponing the inaugural Catholic Hugh School Athletic Association championship game.

   With Western New York still reeling from the week's first storm and now contending with the second wave of substantial snowfall, MMA officials announced Thursday that their championship game between Canisius, the state's top-ranked Class AA team, and Bishop Timon-St. Jude will be played Nov. 29 at All-High Stadium.

   The contest was originally scheduled for tonight at Ralph Wilson Stadium and then pushed back to Monday. But the scale of ongoing recovery operations around the Buffalo area made even a Monday game impractical.

   And with the MMA game moved back again, the CHSAA final pairing between the MMA winner and either Archbishop Stepinac or Iona Prep will move from Thanksgiving weekend to Dec. 6 at a downstate location to be determined.

   Separately, the NYSPHSAA made one more tweak to its semifinals schedule after announcing Wednesday that two games had been postponed. The Class AA semifinal in Rochester between Jamestown and Syracuse Henninger was moved up two hours to a 4 p.m. kickoff on Saturday to shorten the wait after the conclusion of the Class C game between Chenango Forks and Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake -- which starts at noon at Sahlen's Stadium.

   JJEF update: Embattled John Jay East Fishkill guidance counselor and softball coach Bonnie Schilling was fired Monday by the Wappingers Central School District, according to the Hudson Valley Sports Report.

   Schilling's attorney confirmed that a vaguely written item about a termination in school board minutes from Monday's meeting was in regard to his client, the website reported.

   Schilling, who has directed the softball team to a pair of NYSPHSAA championships, was suspended from administrative and coaching duties in March. Media accounts said Schilling was accused by the school district of changing a grade on a transcript for her son.

   Schilling still faces criminal charges in Town of East Fishkill court, the website reported. She was charged with tampering with public records, a Class D felony, earlier this year.

   Unexpected twist: Frank Alfonso was replaced as Highland's boys soccer coach over the summer. Now, he finds himself employed as his alma mater's athletic director.

   "If you would have said in July or August that this would be a possibility in November, I don't think many people would have thought of that," Alfonso told the Poughkeepsie Journal. "I'm going to try my best at it and see where it leads."

   Alfonso, 49, is also the recreation director for the Town of Lloyd and has coached extensively at the youth and high school levels over the years. He's filling the AD role previously held by Pete Watkins, who retired earlier this month, through June.

   Alfonso was a sixth-grade student of Watkins in the late 1970s.

   Retiring: Mike Woods' career as the SUNY Geneseo cross country coach draws to a close Saturday at the NCAA Division III championships in Mason, Ohio. His resume includes 51 SUNYAC team championships and 124 All-America athlete honors, but this may sum up his contribution to the sport better than anything.

   "My assistants and I went to the state high school championships in Canton (this month)," Woods, 67, told the Democrat and Chronicle, "And 20 of the coaches were my former runners. I mean, 20, wow."

   Woods cut his teeth in the sport by starting the York Central School cross country program shortly after starting there as an English teacher in 1969. His first team consisted of six boys but he went on to register records of 219-24 in 21 seasons of cross country and 208-36 in track and field.

   An aside: Woods and I were inducted into the Section 5 track and field hall of fame together in 2006. I can assure you his coaching career outweighs my one season of throwing the shot put in high school by more than just a little.

   In depth, but maybe not enough? The story has been somewhat lost in the shuffle because of the amazing Western New York weather developments, but the Buffalo News devoted more than 3,500 words Sunday to the circumstances surrounding the September 2013 death of high school football player Damon Janes.

   A substantial portion of the story details elements of the tragedy that form much of the basis for the civil suit being brought forth by Janes parents -- most notably, delays in


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  • transporting him first from the Portville football field following his collapse and then from one hospital to another better suited to treat the player's injury.

       The summary of what the paper characterized as a months-long investigation also points to three other areas of concern. Two of them concern the lack of an athletic trainer for the Westfield/Brocton program and the decision to not use baseline concussion testing and assessments (optional under state regulations) for players in contact sports.

       As someone with more than three decades of experience covering high school sports, I found the reporting on those topics straightforward and easy to digest. However, I find myself troubled by the third conclusion:

       "A neurologist, a neurosurgeon and a youth football coach who viewed the game films at The News' request say Westfield/Brocton players might have been at greater risk because they were sorely outmatched in size and performance. While the three saw no "helmet-to-helmet" hit on Janes' final play -- as the tackle was widely described -- they saw many collisions over the two games that likely rattled Janes' brain and worsened an initial injury."

       After reading the full text twice this week, it feels as though the story dips a toe in that aspect a couple of times but is lacking in details that I kept waiting to see in such a lengthy investigation but never materialized. Namely:

        • If Westfield/Brocton players "were sorely outmatched in size and performance," it's left to the reader to guess the degree of the difference in size. Janes is referred to only as a "wiry 5 foot 11" with no reference to his weight and limited perspective on his experience and skill level.

       The average height of players selected to the NYSSWA All-State team in Class D in 2013 -- presumably the best of the best from more than 100 teams across New York -- was only 5-foot-11, the same as Janes. How much bigger -- if at all -- were the players Janes was competing against?

        • Expert analysis on whether it's the size of the players doing the hitting or the number of hits sustained that matters most isn't a black-and-white issue, which I mention because ...

        • The reference to "worsen(ing) an initial injury" relates to the theory in the story that Janes' brain injury may have begun with blows sustained in the season-opening game the previous week. Nothing in the story

    convinces me that Janes exhibited signs of injury between the two games that his family, friends, coaches or -- had one been employed -- an athletic trainer could or should have detected. If the theory that the initial injury happened in the first game is accurate, then no one saw an indicator that would have triggered a comparison to the non-existent baseline test -- almost certainly rendering that subject moot.

       On the other hand, if there were indicatons of trouble earlier in the Portville game, then certainly it's possible an athletic trainer might have made a difference. However, does data exist on how often a trainer removes a player from a game compared to how often coaches on teams without trainers make the same decision?

       More about trainers: Only 55 percent of public-school high school athletes have access to a full-time athletic trainer, according to the National Athletic Trainers' Association.

       A 2012 study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that injury rates at high schools without trainers recorded recurrent injury rates 5.7 times higher among soccer players and almost 3 times higher among basketball players.

       NATA's latest data are part of a study to be published in the Journal of Athletic Training early next year, Huffington Post reported. The association emailed surveys to all U.S. public high schools and followed up with phone calls to those that did not reply.

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