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Friday, Aug. 26, 2016: New Jersey schools will try no-tackle scrimmage

   Leading off today: With a roster just barely large enough to sustain its varsity and JV teams, Blair Academy in New Jersey is going to play by some unique rules for its scheduled football scrimmage with two other schools Saturday.

   The team has long had a policy of no tackling in practice, and that will be extended to the scrimmage with Kittatinny and Belvidere. USA Today reported that it is thought to be the first scrimmage of its kind nationally.

   Blair coach Jim Saylor said the scrimmage will be run at full speed in full pads but play will be whistled down once the ball carrier is wrapped up. Linemen will stay on their feet with contact above the waist.

   "Football is a great game, but our kids are more important," Saylor said. "As a coach, I've had comments from other coaches and players about not changing the integrity of the game and keeping it the way it is. We don't see this as changing the integrity.

   "It's not being soft. It's being safe."

   The no-tackle scrimmage was encouraged by Practice Like Pros, an advocacy group founded by former NFL executive Terry O'Neil that calls for reduced contact in practice as a safety measure. The Ivy League has banned full-contact hitting in practice in the regular season beginning this year.

   The Blair coaches also have been studying the rugby-style tackling techniques implemented by the Seattle Seahawks.

   "Every drill can be done without equipment, and the videos are available free online for any coach to use as a resource," Saylor said. "If it's good enough for the NFL and USC and Dartmouth, it's something that can be done anywhere."

   Heads up: The so-called "bin challenge," which garnered attention for some college soccer teams this week, has trickled down to high schools. The Kenmore East boys team aced the test this week:

   Who knew? The Hudson Valley Sportsdome has seemingly been legislated out of the field hockey business by a rule I hadn't heard about -- and one that could conceivably affect a few other venues.

   According to the Times Herald-Record, the new scholastic rule allows the ball to be played above the shoulders, but officials concerned by the possibility of balls flying out of play are requiring 15 feet of open space between sidelines and spectator areas.

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   Unsurprisingly for an indoor facility, the Sportsdome does not have that sort of space to spare.

   So that took the building out of play for scrimmages this week and for the Section 9 and NYSPHSAA regionals this fall.

   Rye moves on under new coach: With much of the lineup back from a 12-win season, the Rye boys soccer team was looking forward to big things in 2016. Some of the momentum was derailed early this month when coach Sal Curella announced he was leaving to become an assistant principal in his hometown of Queensbury.

   The Garnets may land on their feet just fine. Their new coach is Ernest Harmon, 56, most recently the coach at Woodlands. He's a former player for the Liberian National Team and has coached club teams and at high schools in Section 1.

   "Mr. Curella tried to have a revolution with the whole program -- trying to become a more successful program, and a winning program," junior Carl Friedrich told The Journal News. "He started that, and with (Harmon) coming in, he's going to pick up what Curella started and bring it to a whole other level."

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