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Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015: 'I'm thankful for everything I have'

   Leading off today: As any respectable sportswriter (that term's no longer oxymoronic, is it?) will tell you, wins and losses or times and distances are just facts. The details behind those wins and losses or times and distances are what make the story.

   For instance, take Northport distance runner Mike Brannigan. Our Sunday blog delivered the news of his third-place effort in the boys mile at the Millrose Games. On Tuesday, delivered the real story.

   Dyestat editor Doug Binder reported that the enormously talented Northport senior is not unlikely to be able to continue his career at the major college level. It's not for a lack or talent (obviously) or issues with grades or run-ins with the law.

   Rather, Brannigan was diagnosed with autism and faces challenges that his peers typically do not.

   "Mikey takes everything you say as if it's literal," Edie Brannigan said of her son. "If I say it's raining cats and dogs outside, Mikey comes to the window and says 'Really?'"

   That inability to filter/analyze and his impulsiveness make it dicey for Mike, 18, to strike out on his own at college even though he has his share of "wow" moments, too; he was asked to speak at a banquet last fall and prepared and delivered 11 minutes that the story described as riveting.

   You can read Binder's full story here. Meanwhile, here's a thought from the athlete himself:

   Naples escapes: Naples, ranked second in the state in Class C, rallied from 12 points down at the half to beat Bloomfield 80-71 in overtime in boys basketball Monday.

   Zach Dormer led Naples with 17 points, while Noah Gorton and Conrad Rathbun scored 16 apiece.

   New chapter in nickname dispute: The controversy over Lancaster's school nickname re-ignited Tuesday as a "Save The Redskin Tradition" banner -- with a warrior on one end and feathers on the other -- was hung over an intersection in the village business district, The Buffalo News reported.

   The pro-Redskins group said it intends other expressions of support ahead of a March 3 community forum hosted by the district.

   "Ultimately, I think we'll win this battle, but not the war," said former school board member Brenda Christopher, a 1987 graduate who has helped spearhead the pro-Redskins effort.

   Superintendent Michael J. Vallely has already said no decision on the future of the Redskins nickname will be made during the current school year. In recent years, though, school-issued athletic uniforms have been ordered without the Redskins name, and no Redskins mascot has appeared at any sports events since the start of fall sports.

   "The Board of Education will make a decision at some point. Or, maybe not," Board President Kenneth Graber said. "Right now, this is our mascot, our name. We may decide not to do anything, or may decide we should look at it even more."

   Football rules changes: As has typically been the case in recent years, football rules changes approved by the National Federation of High Schools are focused on safety.

   Among the changes OK'd last month, the NFHS football committee expanded the unnecessary roughness rule to include contact with a defenseless player. The revised rule now reads, "No player or non-player shall make any contact

with an opponent, including a defenseless player, which is deemed unnecessary or excessive and which incites roughness."

   Bob Colgate, editor of the NFHS football rules, said an example would be when a defensive player who is not in the vicinity of the ball is blindsided by a blocker.

   You can read about that change and more on the NFHS site.

   Soccer rules changes: If the most recent NFHS soccer rules committee wasn't the least eventful of the century, it was certainly in the running.

   The big rule change to result from last months meeting in Indianapolis was the decision to allow player substitutions during a stoppage in play when bench personnel are yellow- or red-carded.

   You can read about that change and more on the NFHS site.

   Tackling the enrollment issue: Schroon Lake's enrollment figure for the 2005-06 school year was an already-tiny 75 students. When September rolls around, the BEDS number will be down to 53, essentially 18 students per grade level.

   That's barely enough to sustain a basketball program, never mind soccer. And the challenges are growing rapidly, beginning with baseball this spring.

   "The school board has given me permission to find options out there," Athletic Director Lee Silvernail said. "After talking to a lot of schools, though, we have found there are not a lot of options out there. A lot of schools that needed mergers have already done it."

   Schroon Lake graduated 29 seniors last June, but only 14 enrolled in seventh-grade this fall. This June, the school will graduate 22 students while the incoming seventh-grade class will consists of four girls and three boys.

   One sports option is to go a different direction altogether. Silvernail is exploring the idea of starting a club tennis program, something that several other Section 7 schools are already offering.

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