Leading off today:
The numbers are modest, but eight-man football is back in New York.
And as was suggested here two months ago, Section 3 is leading the charge. Bishop Grimes, South Lewis, New York Mills and Cooperstown have signed up for the region's first eight-man league in at least four decades, and other schools could be added this spring if it becomes apparent they will have trouble fielding a team in the fall.
Schools will play by largely the same rules as 11-man football. Fields this season will be the same dimensions, although some states use a narrower and shorter field, Syracuse.com reported.
"It's what many smaller communities have done," sectional football co-chairman Keith Kempney said, adding that 30 other states have eight-man football. "Basically, the only place that doesn't have it is the Northeast."
The National Football Foundation league for small schools with struggling programs will not return for a fourth season, it was also announced.
More Section 3 football: With just nine available teams, Section 3 will go to an eight-game regular-season in Class A and eliminate the quarterfinal round of the playoffs. Central Square moves back up to Class AA, and Cortland and New Hartford dropped into B based on enrollment drops.
• LaFayette and Tully will field a combined Class C team called Southern Hills.
• Phoenix and South Jefferson, which are Class B programs based on enrollment, will play Class C schedules and give up the opportunity to participate in sectionals.
More football and enrollments: The New York State Public High School Athletic Association has posted BEDS figures for the 2017-18 school year in a PDF format. Those are the numbers that shape the classification of schools.
The New York State Sportswriters Association's Steve Grandin took a quick look at the impact on Section 2 football in 2017 and ran into what is probably a recurring there throughout much of the state -- more teams moving down than up. In fact, two of last season's best Class C schools, Greenwich and Hoosic Valley, have slid down to Class D to challenge traditional contender Cambridge. The smallest of the five classes apparently grows from seven to 12 squads and Class C membership plunges from 18 to 13.
My look at Section 5 turned up surprisingly little movement, though Honeoye Falls-Lima and Penn Yan more down to Class B and C respectively, making each a threat to reach a playoff title game.
What really grabbed my attention is that the BEDS numbers for two schools fell off a cliff. Penn Yan dropped from 426 to 357. University Prep, whose number is doubled to reflect the fact it's an all-male school, slid from 446 to 366.
If that number is accurate, UPrep just barely stays in Class B (the Class C ceiling is 364). That's interesting in the context of the school's appeal last month to the State Education Department to be moved from Class AA to B in basketball.
After I mentioned Penn Yan and UPrep, Steve ran the current BEDS data vs. next season's numbers in a spreadsheet to show the enrollment gains or losses for all NYSPHSAA schools.
That comes with our standard warning: Don't put too much faith in the numbers for public schools in Buffalo and Rochester, which routinely open, close, consolidate and sub-divide schools, creating combined programs in multiple sports that befuddle even savvy observers. As it stands now, Buffalo Bennett -- which was in Class C in 2015, Class A in 2016 and will probably not exist under that name in 2017 -- is headed for Class AA as a combined entity with as many as six other Buffalo City Schools.
Larry Byrne dies: Larry Byrne, the track and field historian whose "Blue Book" has long been the definitive guide to New York high school records in the sport, died Thursday.