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Friday, Sept. 2, 2016: State Ed commissioner intervenes in eligibility case

   Leading off today: It's one of those days when at least four stories are worthy of the headline in the blog. In no particular order, here's what we have to kick off the Labor Day weekend:

   OK to play for now: Jacob Kohler, the fifth-year Orchard Park senior who was ruled ineligible for football, will be allowed to play while his appeal is processed by State Education Commissioner MaryEllen Elia.

   Elia announced Thursday she granted a stay pending Kohler's appeal -- a process that could extend far beyond the end of the season based upon State Education Department policies and procedures. Orchard Park opens its season Friday vs. Pittsford.

   The appeal by Kohler, who played sparingly at wide receiver last fall, has attracted attention across the state. State Sen. Tim Kennedy of Buffalo wrote to Elia on Kohler's behalf and his office created a to support the youth. More than 2,300 people signed the petition in less than a week, The Buffalo News reported.

   Kohler, 18, had been ruled ineligible to play in July and lost an appeal to Section 6 last month on the grounds that Stated Education Department regulations only allow participation for four years once a student begins ninth grade. Kohler and the school appealed on the grounds that Kohler's autism prevented him from being physically and mentally ready to play sports during his freshman year.

   The family learned of Elia's decision as Kohler was leaving practice Thursday.

   "He was doing verbal cartwheels," Scott Kohler said of his son. "It's absolutely amazing. He was incredibly happy. He was in the car coming home. He got out of the car and ran back into the fieldhouse to tell his teammates."

   Coach suspended: Parents and supporters of Bruce Eugene plan to hold a rally Friday at the New York City Education Department offices in Manhattan to protest his suspension as the football coach at defending PSAL champion Grand Street Campus.

   The Brooklyn Daily reported Eugene was suspended without pay because he and the administration have been at loggerheads over funding.

   "All the principal sees is dollar signs," Eugene said.

   The specifics of his complaint were not immediately clear, and school administrators did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

   While successful -- he took the program from a 1-7 record in 2012 to the PSAL crown last fall -- Eugene is controversial. He began last season under a three-game PSAL suspension (later reduced to two) for an improper preseason scrimmage at Rutgers. He was also highly criticized for letting running back Rahmel Ashby continue playing following arrests on two sets of serious charges. Ashby went on to gain 116 yards in the championship game at Yankee Stadium.

   Speaking of coaches: I suspect we'll hear more about this, but tweets from local media indicated that Horace Greeley has reversed course and reinstated Dave Fernandes for a 25th season as boys basketball coach.

   In an almost unfathomable decision earlier this summer, the widely respected Fernandes had been told he was not being brought back for the 2016-17 season.

   Victor knocks off Aquinas: Chris Varone scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 14-yard run midway through the third quarter and Victor intercepted three second-half passes to defeat Aquinas 13-7 on the opening night of the 2016 football season Thursday. football site

   The Blue Devils snapped the defending NYSPHSAA Class AA champions' 13-game winning streak.

   The game at Victor raised more than $10,000 for Camp Good Days and Special Times.

   "It was a great victory; Aquinas is a great opponent," Victor junior defensive end/tight end Mike Novitsky told the Democrat and Chronicle. "We knew we had to stick with them for four quarters, and we knew it was going to be a fight. And it was.

   "The celebration, it was just kind of relief that it was over, that we held them, because that is a great team right there."

    • Westhill forced eight turnovers but still had to rally to defeat Marcellus 34-28 at the Carrier Dome. Zavion Barrot threw three touchdown passes and ran for another, and sophomore Marcus Welch rushed 20 times for 155 yards and a touchdown.

   Marcellus turned the ball over five consecutive possessions to open the game. Casey Rogers recovered three fumbles, including one in the final seconds that sealed the win.

   Milestone: The Cazenovia girls volleyball team's 25-15, 25-23, 21-25, 25-23 win over Oswego to open its season was triumph No. 300 for coach Brian Ellithorpe, who is in his 21st season.

   "(The team) kind of knew I was stuck at 299 coming into the season. I do try and downplay it a little bit, try and focus on the game and not the personal milestone," he told

   More over the weekend: I'll hold off on some less newsy but nevertheless interesting tidbits until later this week.

   Enjoy your holiday weekend and be safe.

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