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Tuesday, May 5, 2015: Columnist calls for better officiating at big games

   Leading off today: It sounds as though lacrosse's steady growth isn't coming without a price in some precincts.

   Mike Dougherty of The Journal News wrote Monday that Section 1 is seeing a shortage -- in quality and quantity -- of officials for boys lacrosse games. Saying he'd been biting his tongue awhile before deciding to write, Dougherty cited a pattern of inconsistent work in some of the region's biggest games.

   The biggest problem is the increased number of inexperienced officials who are being pressed into service on the varsity level," he wrote. "And they lack the working knowledge to stay invisible during big games. We also have a few who are physically struggling to keep up with the game."

   Section 1 has expanded from 39 to 52 varsity teams since 2005. While that's not enormous expansion, it's possible the scheduling is aggravating a shortage of top-tier officials. Dougherty says rather than a steady 10 to 15 contests a day, there have been as many as 22 games scheduled for one day but far fewer the next. When you factor in college game assignments or other work obligations that affect availability of some of the top-notch refs, it's increasingly necessary to use officials who might be in over their head in a sport of both blazing speed and violent collisions.

   You can read the column here.

   Quite a debut: It's all downhill from here, Gavin French.

   French, a Jamesville-DeWitt sophomore, got the most -- literally -- out of his first varsity at-bat last week in a game at Oswego. The back-up catcher stepped into the batters box with the bases loaded and had a brief conversation with himself.

   "I was just thinking, don't strike out," he told

   French took a big cut at a 1-0 pitch , sending the ball over the center-field fence for a grand slam.

   "It went so fast," he said. "I ran to first. I looked at the first base coach and he was smiling. I was like, 'Wow, it must be gone.' And I started a little trot. I was trying to like keep a straight face, but once I hit second, I just started laughing. It was like insane. I was like, 'Wow, no better way to start a season.' Everybody came out and just like mauled me at home.

   "It was pretty cool."    Said "The best part about it was, we don't talk about home runs. These kids love home runs. We talk about line drives. And that was a shot. It was a line drive shot to dead center. It was crazy."

   ESPN takes notice: An ESPN crew was on the scene at the St. Anthony's Invitational over the weekend when Northport senior Mike Brannigan broke the meet record with a time of 1:51.87 in the 800 meters.

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   E:60, the network's TV magazine series, is the latest to take note of Brannigan, whose autism has not kept him from being when of the nation's most accomplished distance runners. NBC Nightly News reported on him in September, and Sports Illustrated named him its high school athlete of the month in February.

   "It's a great honor," Brannigan told Newsday of ESPN's presence.

   New Indiana rule: The Indiana High School Athletic Association's board of directors has passed a rule to keep transfer students from following a non-school coach to a school.

   The "past link" proposal says a transfer student who received instruction from a coach, manager or trainer now in a similar role at the new school in the 12 months prior to the transfer or 90 days following the transfer is ineligible for competition.

   USA Today reported Michigan and Colorado have similar rules.

   Extra points: All-state forward Nate Knight will head to prep school after graduating this spring. The Syracuse Nottingham senior, who led the Bulldogs with 14.1 points and 7.4 rebounds per game, will attend Kimball Union Academy next fall, reported.

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