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Tuesday, May 10, 2016: Maple Grove and Chautauqua Lake split up in football

   Leading off today: Maple Grove and Chautauqua Lake have started down the path of breaking up their combined varsity football program after Monday's vote by the Bemus Point Central School District school board to authorize Superintendent Mike Mansfield to do just that.

   In light of a failed appeal to the NYSPHSAA to allow the defending Section 6 champion to remain in Class C, Mansfield and board President Lisa Allenson said Maple Grove residents overwhelmingly supported going it alone and moving back to Class D, The Post-Journal reported.

   Maple Grove is projecting a roster of 21 to 26 players on its varsity next fall. Chautauqua Lake just barely misses the enrollment cutoff for the state's smallest class and is headed for Class C after the breakup, and AD Josh Liddell thinks the school can field a varsity of around 30 players.

   "The numbers still aren't good. I think the JVs are still going to hurt for numbers, even combined," Maple Grove coach Curt Fischer told the paper. "I'm definitely going to have to bring kids up to varsity so that we can have a practice. If a JV player plays one play in a varsity game, he is ineligible to play with the JVs that week."

   The schools had played as a combined team the past three seasons. Section 6 opted to move Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake based upon the team's records -- 7-2 in Class D in 2013, followed by trips to the state Class C semifinals in '14 and quarterfinals last fall.

   "The section, to make a decision like that ... we never won a state championship," Maple Grove coach Curt Fischer said. "How are we dominant? We went to the Far West Regional and got our butts kicked by a huge school. It doesn't make sense to me."

   (Editor's note: In reality, Section 5 representative Bath has a BEDS figure of 350. MG/CL's combined enrollment is 449, though the New York State Public High School Athletic Association formula for dealing with combined programs sets their official number at 295.)

   Maple Grove and Chautauqua Lake will continue to field a combine JV program.

   Pioneering athlete: A recent blog made mention of Harborfields junior Nathan Melnyk becoming what was believed to be New York's first wheelchair athlete to compete against able-bodied students in a varsity tennis match.

   And now he has some company as a trailblazer, courtesy of seventh-grader Jason Robinson at Westmoreland, where he is the first athlete in a wheelchair to compete in interscholastic track and field in New York state according to The Observer-Dispatch. Robinson races on the track and also competes in throws.

   "It's kind of cool to be the first in anything because you're basically making history," said Robinson, who was born with a rare form of spina bifida. "Hopefully more people can do this and I can score in my events."

   Said teammate Griffin Catello: "He's just amazing. It's just amazing to have him on the team with us and to think I'm practicing with one of my friends. Some of us chase after him, which makes us work hard and get faster."

   An interesting aspect of the story is that Robinson is eligible to score points for his team in throws but has "exhibition" status in the races, which means his results do not count towards team scores. It's an interesting issue that reporter Anne Delaney explains expertly.

   "It doesn't mean I can't score for myself, in a way," Robinson said. "I try to beat myself, and I don't think about how I can't score for the team."

   Playing for their teammate: Union Springs/Port Byron's hopes of an undefeated baseball season ended Monday with an 11-4 loss to Lansing. The Wolves had taken an 18-0 mark into the contest.

   The teams meet again Tuesday in a tiebreaker for the IAC North Large School title.

   Union Springs/Port Byron has added an embroidered No. 3 to its hats and hangs that jersey on the fence in front of the dugout during games.

   It's in honor of teammate Xander Morgenthaler, who remains hospitalized after suffered a fractured skull in a fall at his home April 30. Morgenthaler, who also plays football and wrestles, has received visits from teammates and coaches in all three sports.

   "It's hard being in here, but being with everybody has been great," Morgenthaler told The Citizen. "They've helped me with everything I've needed."

   Matt Morgenthaler, Xander's father, said mothers from the teams have organized and cooked meals for his family, a few of the athletes made sure his grass was cut while the family is away, and others have supported the family in numerous ways, whether they're from Union Springs or Port Byron.

   "The school district doesn't matter," he said. "The kids have been awesome."

   He said Xander has made "significant improvement" every day and could be back in school within a few weeks.

   Appointed: Jason Dudzinski, a veteran assistant at Syracuse Henninger and F-M, is the new boys basketball coach at Fayetteville-Manlius, having been approved by the school board Monday. He replaces New York Basketball Hall of Fame member Tom Blackford, who stepped down after 14 seasons at F-M.

   College choice: Canisius senior Stafford Trueheart, selected the NYSSWA's co-player of the year in Class A, will continue his basketball career at James Madison of the Colonial Athletic Association.

   The 6-foot-7 Trueheart averaged 20.8 points and 10.5 rebounds as a senior in helping his team to the Federation Class A semifinals.

   By the way, here's example No. 289,565 of how college coaches will find prospects regardless of honors earned or their team's record. Medgar Evers in Brooklyn only went 6-8 in its PSAL Class AA league schedule and neither player made the all-state team, but Alisicia Machado (Grambling) and Mikala Casimir (Dowling College), who wrestled with limited options because she wanted to pursue a chemical engineering career, are headed off to school in the fall.

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