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Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015: Section 2 hockey coaches innovate to keep players

   Leading off today: They shoot, they score!

   That's my early take on what some Section 2 hockey coaches have done to help address one of the significant problems their sport faces: the defection of top talent to elite (or perceived elite) travel teams.

   As reported by The Daily Gazette, Juan de la Rocha (Shenendehowa) and Dean Williams (Queensbury) have spearheaded the drive to develop "wraparound teams" based out of the Adirondack Youth Hockey Association, Saratoga Youth Hockey and the Schenectady Youth Hockey Association.

   At the heart of the effort are four travel teams -- two under-16s and two under-18s -- that will play schedules built around the high school schedule rather than during it. They'll play games from now to November and then pick up again in the later winter. They started last weekend with the Empire State Summer Championships in Clifton Park and Loudonville.

   "This is all pro-high school," Steve Hudak, a former coach at Shaker/Colonie who is coaching the Saratoga Springs-based Blue Knights under-18 squad, told the paper. "During the high school season, (the players are) going to focus on their high school teams. We're a developmental program."

   Said Williams: "Players want more games and to get more exposure."

   It's why high school starts defect to leagues and organizations outside the high school structure, and it's why this idea has a shot at encouraging some top talent to stay.

   Early start: Millbrook's football team was among a handful of sports squads around the state that began practice for the fall season at 12:01 a.m. Monday.

   While it was somewhat symbolic and at least a bit cooler than the afternoon heat, Hudson Valley Sports Report noted it was all business.

   "We are here to work!" assistant coach Jim Fedigan yelled. "Stretch good! Your body is not used to playing at this hour."

   Football stuff: I started plowing into updates to the reference section Sunday night. There's lots of work left to do, but you may want to start checking it out. Among the additions near the top of the page is a PDF containing the list of returning all-state players.

   On an unrelated note, did a four-part series last week on New Jersey's ongoing issue of the disparity between public and some non-public schools on the playing field. There's nothing earth-shattering in there, but it's a good way for you to get up to speed on that state's hottest scholastic sports topic.

   Early commit: When I made a passing reference to him Sunday, I had no idea Noah DeHond intended to announce his college decision the following day.

   On Monday, DeHond, an all-state honorable mention for McQuaid last year and on his way to prep school in New

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Jersey where he'll reclassify to the Class of 2017, said he will continue his football career at Clemson. He's already a top offensive line prospect and could have doubled or tripled the number of offers had he kept his recruitment open.

   "I didn't think it would be this quick but as soon as I visited Clemson, I knew it was the place," DeHond told the Democrat and Chronicle. "It was a family atmosphere that coach (Dabo) Swinney has."

   Those who can, do ... then they teach: A couple of new football head coaches profiled in recent days certainly bring impressive credentials to the table.

   At General Brown in Section 3, Doug Black has stepped in for the retired Steve Fisher after seven years as an assistant. Last month, Brown was inducted into the American Football Association Hall of Fame for his 11-year career as quarterback for the Watertown Red and Black.

   Black played for Fisher as the Lions' QB before graduating in 1991. In 11 years of semi-pro ball, he quarterbacked his teams to a 92-39-1 record and threw for 17,989 yards and 197 touchdowns.

   At Southwestern in Section 6, NYSSWA 2002 Class D player of the year Jehuu Caulcrick is the new head coach. The former Clymer star, who went on to play at Michigan State and in the NFL after escaping from strife-torn Liberia, he inherits a team that went 7-3 last fall for Jay Sirianni.

   A no-trophy zone: This story from Sunday grew legs on social media and talk radio before I got a chance to mention it, but kudos to James Harrison for saying what a lot of us have been thinking for a long time: Few people deserve trophies for working hard and no one deserves hardware just for showing up.

   "I came home to find out that my boys received two trophies for nothing, participation trophies!" Harrison wrote. "While I am very proud of my boys for everything they do and will encourage them till the day I die, these trophies will be given back until they EARN a real trophy. I'm sorry I'm not sorry for believing that everything in life should be earned and I'm not about to raise to boys to be men by making them believe that they are entitled to something just because they tried their best."

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