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Friday, Sept. 23, 2016: North Tonawanda parent stages sit-in protest on field

   Leading off today: I'm guessing that whatever plans administrators and school board members at North Tonawanda had for Friday went out the window some time early Thursday evening. They have a situation on their hands that has more than just a slight chance of turning into a national story -- and it isn't pretty -- so they'll be needing to get their ducks in a row ASAP.

   The relatively new website reported Friday on a protest before Thursday's 10-0 boys soccer loss to Grand Island, the state's top-ranked Class A team. Neither the background to the story nor the way a family's concerns got handled reflect well upon North Tonawanda.

   An hour before the game, the mother of a North Tonawanda player staged a sit-in on the field to draw attention to alleged hazing and what she regarded as inaction by school authorities.

   "This has been going on since last year. They turned a blind eye then, I won't let that happen again, Steve Toth, the husband of protestor Jeannette Toth, told the website. "Somebody needs to put a stop to this."

   According to the Toths, their son and other players are being bullied by one or more teammates, and the behavior has included the destruction of personal property. Following the district's protocol didn't get satisfactory results for the family, leading to Jeannette Toth's sit-in at midfield.

   According to the report, that protest drew the school board president to the field for a talk with the Toths and then the coach. At least one player was benched for the game in what seemed to be disciplinary action, and AD Jeff Alger addressed the team later to announce that the team would forfeit its next game if no one stepped forward by 3 p.m. on Friday to take responsibility for the incidents described by the Toths.

   Powerful and meaningful action, right?

   Perhaps. But that depends on who blinks by 3 o'clock. Setting the alarm clock at T-minus 20 or so hours to address a situation that obviously started quite some time ago might not be the best plan of attack.

   Listen to this man: One of the legendary basketball coaches in state history happened to tweet this while I was prepping this blog. He wrote it totally unrelated to the situation outlined above, but his timing was impeccable -- and it applies to the entire chain of command, not just coaches.

   Following up: There's more to yesterday's story that Cato-Meridian is forfeiting tonight's football game to Watertown IHC. Local media reports that the school's manpower shortage is related to disciplinary action.

   "Cato forfeited (Friday's) game due to the suspension of a number of team members for an incident that took place off school grounds," Superintendent Noel Patterson informed The Citizen. "The team will resume its regular schedule on Oct. 1 against Beaver River."

   Section 3 Executive Director John Rathbun told that Cato-Meridian was investigating a hazing incident.

   Girls soccer: Grand Island senior Madisyn Pezzino has become the sixth player in NYSPHSAA history to reach 200 career goals in girls soccer.

   The Florida State commit scored five times on Thursday as Grand Island defeated North Tonawanda 8-1 in a Niagara Frontier League contest.

   With 204 goals, she stands fifth on the all time New York State Public High School Athletic Association list, with Brittany LaPlant (Queensbury, 211), Mikayla Blumenstock (Poland, 209) and Kaitlin Robbins (Watertown IHC, 208) within striking distances.

   Molly Petrucci of Buffalo City Honors set the state goals record last season with 234.


   Thursday Night Football: West Canada Valley quarterback Matt Tobin ran for six touchdowns as the Indians defeated Sauquoit Valley 55-30. The junior's heroics included second-quarter scoring runs of 1, 14 and 28 yards.

   More football: Nichols officials told Marcus Whitman they're forfeiting Saturday's scheduled game due to a lack of players.

    • Here's this weekend's schedule for the state's ranked football teams.

   Administrative news: Executive director positions do not open up in the respective NYSPHSAA sections very often, and now the most recent vacancies are off the board.

   Kathy Hoyt has been selected by Section 5 to replace Ed Stores, who announced late last year his intention to retire. Hoyt, the AD at North Rose-Wolcott, received approval by the Wayne/Finger Lakes BOCES board last week.

   That approval was needed because of a structural change within Section 5 that moved the executive director position to BOCES, similar to what several other sections in the state have done.

   In the North Country, Lake Placid AD Matt Walentuk, 31, is leaving to become inter-scholastic athletics coordinator for Section 7. That position is a new one that merges executive director and treasurer roles.

   The position was created through Champlain Valley Educational Services BOCES after Executive Director Karen Lopez and Treasurer Joe Staves announced their retirements.

   Walentuk previously worked as an AD at Plattsburgh Seton Catholic and coached varsity basketball at Lake Placid.

   Extra points: I didn't get around to mentioning it earlier, but The Journal News did a good piece this week on weekend volleyball tournaments, including how it opens up opportunities to experiment with different lineups.

   I get a few emails a year asking why the NYSSWA doesn't do state rankings in volleyball, and weekend tourneys figure directly into that equation. It's very difficult (impossible thus far, actually) to find anyone both willing and capable of rounding up the traditional league-match results and also be able to interpret the data from tournaments, where pool play results in a lot of matches ending in 1-1 ties.

   Without extremely knowledgeable local sources, like the crews who assist us in sports like football and basketball, it's hard to know which teams were playing at less than full strength in which matches.

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