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Thursday, March 31, 2016: Timon-St. Jude to play football games in Texas, Georgia

   Leading off today: Harken back to the NFL on CBS pregame shows circa 1980 and imagine the voice of Brent Musburger setting the scene:

   "You're looking live at the Western New York football landscape. We're minutes away from the marquee matchup of the week as 'Friday Night Lights' takes on 'Tuesday Nights Bite If You Care About The Sport At Kenmore East ...'"

   In the span of 24 hours, Buffalo-area media told two distinctly different high school football stories. On Tuesday night, a school board took a superficial step forward that will be of questionable help to a struggling football program in the long-term and no help at all in the near term. On Wednesday, a nearby school announced an ambitious 2016 schedule undoubtedly intended to demonstrate to the New York football world that it intends to take the sport very seriously.

   "I don't think anyone in Western New York has had a schedule like this," Bishop Timon-St. Jude coach Charlie Comerford told The Buffalo News. "It's kind of unique. It's a selling point (to future kids). We're also trying to get to the top of the Monsignor Martin (Association). I wanted to try something different. Hopefully this gets us over the top."

   The schedule looks like this:

  • Sept. 2 at Buford (Atlanta, Ga.)
  • Sept. 9 at Toledo (Ohio) Central Catholic
  • Sept. 15 at Odessa (Texas) Permian
  • Sept. 23 vs. Lancaster St Mary's
  • Oct. 1 at Cardinal O'Hara
  • Oct. 7 vs. Buffalo St Joe's
  • Oct. 15 at Aquinas
  • Oct. 21 vs. Canisius
  • Oct. 28 at St Francis
   Obviously, the first three games (all two-year contracts that will see Timon-St. Jude travel in each instance in 2016 and '17) are the attention-grabbers. Buford just had its string of three state titles ended but saw 12 players earn Division I scholarships last month. Central Catholic lost in the Ohio finals last year after winning Division III in 2014.

   And then there's the trip to play Permian at 17,931-seat Ratliff Stadium, which could be filled to capacity for the interstate game.

   Permian is a two-time national champion that came to widespread attention in the no-holds-barred 1990 book and 2004 movie "Friday Night Lights" by H.G. Bissinger. It followed the team -- and the town's -- run to an appearance in Texas' 1988 state tournament finals. The following season, Permian earned a state title.

   Comerford said Permian and Buford are covering Timon's travel expenses.

   "I really can't wait to play these games," he said. "I don't have any misconceptions that we're one of the best teams in the country. ... But it's a great opportunity for our kids. Our end goal is to get these kids into college. These games could set them up. If they do well, it'll give them an opportunity to be looked at by better schools."

   It's entirely possible Timon-St. Jude will take some lumps in those opening three games, but at least we know they'll show up. The same cannot be said for Kenmore East, whose ongoing litany of problems includes a school board that appears to be in denial.

   A proposal to deal with low player interest in football by allowing students from the Charter School for Applied Technologies to join the Kenmore East was withdrawn at Tuesday's school board meeting. A year ago, matters were so precarious that the varsity opener had to be forfeited due to a lack of available players. The remainder of the season was a week-to-week struggle to round up the minimum 16 players that rated as nearly unprecedented for a school with Class A enrollment.

   Dawn F. Mirand, superintendent of the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District, said district officials felt "unique limitations and challenges were discovered as they pertain to liability and some legal issues."

   Translation: The school board is doing its part to assure that the peeing match between public schools and their charter-school cousins -- perceived as enemies for poaching students (and the lucrative state aid attached to them) -- continues.

   "Mergers with charter schools have been extremely rare," Mirand said. "At least in Section 6, we know this has never been done before."

   Had the district done 10 minutes of real research rather than CYA rationalization building, it would have found mergers between public and private schools -- mortal enemies for decades before charter schools even existed -- are fairly commonplace across the state even though they would seemingly be every bit as contentious. In Section 3, where public schools only use the last 23 letters of the alphabet because C, B and A are so reviled, Jamestown-DeWitt collaborated with Christian Brothers Academy to win the NYSPHSAA Division II championship in boys hockey as recently as 2013.

   Instead, the "solution" at Kenmore East will be to move two football coaches who teach at other schools in the district into the high school next fall.

   In theory, the face time with students during the school day perks up interest in the sport over the long haul. But that does nothing to deal with the short-term issue of assuring that Kenmore East can get current underclassmen who might be on the fence about playing in 2016 into spring/summer conditioning programs, camps and 7-on-7 leagues.

   Even AD Brett Banker warned that a short-term benefit of the coaches' reassignment might not materialize. He said 29 varsity candidates have stepped forward thus far, which is roughly the same figure the program started with before last season.

   Banker said he notified CSAT, which does not play football, on Tuesday that the proposed merger was being scrapped.

   More basketball ahead: If you haven't had your fill of high school basketball this season, your last chance begins today with the Dick's Sporting Goods High School Nationals quarterfinals in New York City.

   A potential rematch of the last two title games could materialize between Mouth of Wilson (Va.) Oak Hill Academy and Montverde Academy from Florida, the three-time defending champion. First-round games will be broadcast by ESPNU, Friday's semis are on ESPN2 and Saturday's championship is scheduled for ESPN.

   Dept. of outlandish stats: The early-season performance of the year in baseball comes out of Dallas, where Jesuit High pitcher Kyle Muller recorded 36 consecutive outs by means of strikeouts over the span of three straight appearances.

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