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Tuesday, November 25, 2014 at 7:02 pm

Hoops Preview: Notre Dame boys team will take scoring where they can create it

post by Howard B. Owens in basketball, high school sports, Notre Dame, sports

This is a first of a series of team previews for boys and girls basketball for the 2014-15 season. We'll get to as many teams as we can for previews before the state of the season.  

The triangle offense. The New York Knicks have been struggling to learn it, Notre Dame Head Coach Mike Rapone reminded his players at a recent practice, and they're a team of full-time, pro-basketball players.

He doesn't expect his kids to master it, but a couple of key fundamentals could help a team that may not have a dominating scorer put a few more points on the board.

"We run just a small version of it," Rapone said. "High school students can't handle a real triangle. We don't have enough time to teach it. We concentrate on ball movement and body movement."

The triangle replaces traditional set plays.  It relies on spacing and movement to create shot opportunities. With players spaced 10, 12, 15 feet apart and constant movement -- passes are preferred to dribbling, and every pass is accompanied by every offensive player changing their location on the floor -- the triangle tends to open holes and open players. (For more on the triangle, here's a recommended video).

Rapone thinks he has the talent on a team without a dominate big man to run a pretty lock-down defense.  The key to winning is going to be transitions and getting open shooters.

"Defensively, we'll be fine, but we've got to make sure we score one more than the other guy, though," Rapone said.

One of Notre Dame's top scorers from last season, Josh Johnson, is back and Rapone hopes there are enough athletes on the team to step up and help distribute the scoring opportunities. 

There are five seniors coming back last season's Section V championship team and 11 juniors.

"Right now, we don't know who's going to start the first game," Rapone said. "Every day it looks like somebody different. We have 15 guys and I can make a case for any one of them."

Peter Daversa, Caleb Nellis, Dylan Fix, James Farmer, Tyler Prospero, C.J. Suozzi, Luca Zambito, Casey Midwick and Dakota Weidman all have the potential to be difference makers on the  squad..

Among them, however, isn't a kid more than 6' 3".

Size could be a problem, no matter who develops into a credible outside shooting threat.

 "We're not going to be able to go inside for a lot of points, I don't think, but I hope I'm wrong, because the key to basketball is balance," Rapone said.  "You want to establish one, then when they take that away, when they take the outside away, you go inside, when they take the inside away you go outside. You really need them both."

What Rapone sees as a tough schedule will include a home again against Le Roy, which will be the first time Mike Rapone has coached against brother and one-time assistant coach Rick Rapone.

"I hope he remembers that's his bench over there beause he's used to being on the otherside," Rapone said smiling.

The Le Roy game is at 6:30 p.m., Jan. 3.  Rapone expects a full house.

The Fighting Irish kick off the season at home Dec. 11 against Oakfield-Alabama. Game time is 7 p.m.

 

Sunday, November 23, 2014 at 5:57 pm

Batavia Bantam Empire Racks Up Another Win

post by Jill Franclemont in GAHA, hockey, sports
Batavia Ramparts (Bantam Empire) vs. Perinton Youth Hockey (Bantam 2)
 
Sunday, November 23, 1:30pm at Paul Lewis Arena, Rochester
 
Final score: 2-1 Batavia
 
Batavia Goals: Shane McClurg, assist Matt Saj; Aidan Franclemont, assist Andrew Freeman
 
Goalie: Chris Klein
 
Team sponsor: Clark Patterson Lee - Design Professionals
Saturday, November 22, 2014 at 3:59 pm

Ramparts Bantam Empire Team Scores Big Over Rochester Youth Hockey

post by Jill Franclemont in GAHA, hockey, sports
Saturday, November 22, 11:30am at Bill Gray's Iceplex (MCC) in Rochester
 
Final score: 9-4 Batavia
 
Batavia Goals: Aidan Franclemont, assist from Shane McClurg; Nick Baumler, assist from Scott Tanner; Aidan Franclemont, assist from Eve Murray and Shane McClurg; Tom Mellon (2); Shane McClurg, assist from Tom Mellon; Nick Baumler, assist from Matt Saj and James Reardon; Aidan Franclemont, assist from Tom Mellon and Shane McClurg; Matt Saj
 
Goalie: Mitchel Pangrazio
 
Team sponsor: Clark Patterson Lee - Design Professionals
Friday, November 21, 2014 at 3:19 pm

Batavia Downs cancels live races tonight and tomorrow night

post by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, harness racing, sports

Press release:

As a direct result of the relentless snowstorm that has crippled most of Western New York, Batavia Downs has announced that it will forgo live racing for the remainder of the week. The programs that were originally scheduled for tonight (Nov. 21) and Saturday (Nov. 22) have been cancelled.

The decision was made jointly on Thursday by Batavia Downs management and the Western New York Harness Horsemen’s Association (WNYHHA) and both parties agreed it was the only thing to do.

Bruce Tubin, president of the WNYHHA said “In view of the devastating storm that has kept our horses from their daily exercise routine, our trainers from leaving their homes, and our blacksmiths and veterinarians from attending to our horses, I have mutually agreed with Batavia Downs management to cancel our Friday and Saturday race cards. There was physically no way for us to properly prepare our horses to race this weekend.”

Todd Haight, director/GM of live racing at Batavia Downs added “It would have been impossible for the equine athletes to compete at the highest level when most haven't been able to leave the barn for days. The decision to cancel this early takes the pressure off all parties involved.

"Our main goal now is get the barn area cleared of snow and the racetrack in the best possible condition for next Wednesday. We regret having to cancel but it was the right thing to do to make sure we didn’t experience any injuries on or off the track.”

Further concerns cited were about horsemen who ship in from areas that have been devastated by the snow and the changing conditions forecast over the next two days taking the weather from cold and snowy to a rapid meltdown and flooding by the weekend.

In light of these cancellations, pending approval from the New York State Gaming Commission, there will be two double-headers carded on the last two Saturdays of the meet. Nov. 29 and Dec. 6 will now offer two complete cards of racing at 12:15 and 6:35. Live racing at the Downs is scheduled to resume on Wednesday, Nov. 26. That leaves eight cards of live racing over six days.

Please note the new draw schedule. The Friday and Saturday afternoon cards will be drawn on Tuesday. The Saturday night cards will be drawn on Wednesday. And the final two Wednesday’s will be drawn on Friday, as always. The box will close at 9 a.m. If you have any questions please contact Race Secretary Joe Zambito at 585-344-6161.

Haight also noted that starting Wednesday, Nov. 26, the purses will increase by 20 percent in an effort to help the horsemen through the cancellations and as they come to the five week winter break at the end of this meet.

Sunday, November 16, 2014 at 4:41 pm

Western Alumni brushes late to score in the Batavia Downs feature

post by Billie Owens in Batavia Downs, harness racing, sports

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

Western Alumni ($11.40) took full advantage of a perfect pocket trip to score in the featured $9,000 Open pace at Batavia Downs on Saturday night (Nov. 15).

Driver Jim McNeight left hard from post seven with Western Alumni and took the lead from rail-rider American Bull (Kevin Cummings) by the eighth pole. But as soon as they crossed over to the pylons, American Bull completed the give-and-go by regaining the lead at the quarter in :28.4. After a more than pedestrian :59.3 half, the outer flow came fast led by Burton Blue Chip (Lee Dahn) first up, but not as fast as American Bull who upped the tempo with a :28.1 third panel. At that point the leader looked solid. But at the head of the stretch when the passing lane opened up, Western Alumni ducked inside and responded to McNeight’s highly animated urging to gain a head victory over a game American Bull in 1:56.3. Just Frank (Rock C Vinci) bested the rest for third.

It was the eighth win of the year for the 6-year-old Western Hanover gelding and the purse raised his 2014 earnings to $67,739 for owners North Creek Racing LLC. Western Alumni is trained by Jerry Nugent Jr.

The Downs leading driver, Kevin Cummings, followed up his five-win Friday night with a four-win effort on Saturday. He tallied with Tymal Torch ($29) and Union Man Hanover ($7) (to complete the $242.50 early double) as well as Flashy Trick ($4.80) and Fast Fool ($8.40). Drew Monti, Jim McNeight and Jack Flanigen all registered driving doubles.

Live racing reconvenes on Wednesday night (Nov. 19) with a 6:35 post time.

Sunday, November 16, 2014 at 11:56 am

Batavia can't overcome rash of red zone turnovers in Class B regional championship game

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia HS, football, high school sports, sports

Six times during Saturday afternoon's regional championship match at Buffalo's All High Stadium the Blue Devils were on the brink of putting six on the scoreboard, and six times Batavia let the opportunity slip away.

The blown opportunities alone represent more points than Cheektowaga managed on their own in the Class B matchup.

"You can't win football games when you do that," Head Coach Brennan Briggs said after the 35-16 loss.

In five of the six times the Blue Devils reached the red zone but failed to score, Cheektowaga got the ball back on turnovers.

"It's disappointing turning the ball over so many times, but that's the game of football, Briggs said.

The other time Batavia came up short -- literally came up short -- was in the closing seconds of the half when Batavia had the ball inside the five with 1st and goal to go.

When fourth down rolled around and less than 10 seconds on the clock, the ball was two inches from the goal line. A Cheektowaga off sides put the ball on the one-inch line.

Batavia couldn't punch it in.

A score there would have made it 21-21 at the half.

Batavia's game plan called for the offensive to use the ground game, grind up precious minutes off the clock and keep Cheetowaga's quick-strike offense off the field as much as possible.

The fewer times the Warriors' Marshawn Gibson touches the ball, the better for any opponent.

Even though Gibson still carried the ball 12 times for 146 yards, plus an 81-yard reception, for four touchdowns, that part of the game plan worked.

On the first drive, Batavia learned that what film study revealed was true: Give the ball to Dominick Mogavero and let him chew up yards and the clock.

Time of possession tilted heavily in Batavia's favor, 33 minutes to 15 minutes, and Mogavero carried the ball 32 times for 160 yards.

"I feel a little bad for Anthony Gallo because he's such a good back, but our style of what we were doing, grinding it out, we saw how well that can work on that first drive, so we stuck with Dom because he's got a little bit more to him," Briggs said. "He just did a great job offensively and defensively."

Batavia made it look easy on the first drive of the game, scoring on a six-yard pass from Greg Mruczek to Gallo, but Cheektowaga struck quickly on its own first drive, as Gibson streaked 74 yards for a touchdown.

With the score 14-7, Briggs once again made a gutsy fourth-down play call. This time, a lateral to Trevor Sherwood who threw the ball cross field to a wide open Ryan Hogan for a 32-yard TD.

Then the wheels started to come off. A fumble, an interception, the failed goal line opportunity, and more fumbles and another interception in the second half just put Batavia in too deep of a hole.

Still, 2014 was an amazing season for the Batavia Devils, going 6-1 in the regular season and winning the program's first Section V title since 1991. The loss doesn't diminish a turnaround season.

"It still hasn't sunk in yet," Briggs said after the game. "We're very disappointed in the loss. We were hoping to keep moving on, but a Class B section V title is something for Batavia to be proud of and I think we can build off of this and do a lot of great things after this."

Mruczek, Gallo, Mogavero, along with Trevor Sherwood, Malachi Chenault, Noah Dobbertin and Danny Williams will all be back next year.

That's the core of any potential winning team right there, plus there are players in the pipeline, either from JV or varsity, ready to contribute.

"This (season) helped the underclassmen of Batavia football realize how important it is to be there in the off season," Briggs said. "Maybe we will get a little bit more commitment this off season from a kid who doesn't want to be there. We have a very good nucleus of kids coming back and I can't wait to get them going."

Top Photo: Gallo with the first score of the game.

Cheektowaga's Hakiem Black with a TD reception in the third quarter.

Dom Mogavero

Mruczek hands off to Mogavero.

Mogavero looks for a hole with Cheektowaga's Dylan Romanczak in pursuit.

Gunner Rapone wraps up Gibson in the backfield in the fourth quarter for one of the star back's rare loss of yardage runs.

Sherwood alone on the bench with his thoughts in the closing minute of Batavia's 35-16 loss to Cheektowaga.

Sunday, November 16, 2014 at 10:01 am

Maple Grove proves too fast for Le Roy in Class C regional championship

post by Howard B. Owens in football, high school sports, Le Roy, sports

It was one of those days for the Le Roy Oatkan Knights. One of those days when nothing goes right.

It didn't go right on the opening kick off, which Maple Grove/Chautauqua Lake's Mitch Padilla returned the ball some 80 yards to set up his team's first play from scrimmage on the Knight's two-yard line.

It didn't go right every time Le Roy had the ball. Not a single drive advanced further than the Dragons' 35 yard line.

For the first time all year, the Knights, who came into the game undefeated and the state's top ranked team in Class C, failed to score. 

As a coach said after the game, "we got beat by a better team. There's no shame in that."

Head Coach Brian Moran conceded his squad just couldn't match up against Maple Grove's speed.

The speed put defensive players in the Knights' backfield to stymie runs and pressure QB Mike McMullen. The speed opened holes for the fast and elusive Ryan Miller, who carried the ball 23 times for 208 yards and four touchdowns.

"That's one of the best Class C teams I've seen in 26 years," Moran said. "They deserve a lot of credit, their coaching staff and their kids, and I wish them all the best."

There was some hope that this talented Le Roy football team could have been the fourth team coached by Moran to reach the state finals, but it's never easy to win games in the post season. The level of competition gets better every week and you don't know how you match up until you play the games.

Moran finishes a 203-win career with a loss, but that isn't what was on his mind during the post game interview.

"I'll think what a pleasure it is to work with the kids," Moran said after being asked to reflect on his time as Le Roy's head coach. "We talk about it all the time, the wins and losses and the sectional titles, but the thing I'll miss the most is the kids."

There were clearly tears welling up behind Moran's Ray Ban sunglasses as he spoke.

Le Roy gained only 95 yards total offense, with 75 through the air as McMullen went 10-26 passing.

Most of McMullen's completions came on swing passes and short routes. The Dragons' defense simply gave him no time to get the ball down field accurately and speedy receiver Ryan McQuillen was double-teamed all afternoon.

"We knew coming in, watching the films, they were going to do that," Moran said.v"We tried to prepare for it, but to be honest with you, we couldn't match up in our preparation with the speed off the corners and their outside linebackers."

Le Roy was held to 20 yards on the ground, with Tom Kelso rushing for 19 on 10 carries.

Maple Grove's attack was entirely ground based. The Dragons' had 371 yards total offense. There wasn't a single yard of offense gained through the air.

The Dragons' advance to the state championship semi-finals with an 11-0 record.

"I'd be surprised to see anybody step up to the speed that they have in the rest of the state," Moran said.

Previously: For Brian Moran, the wins are nice, but boys becoming men is the bigger reward

Top Photo: A.J. Hulton hands off to Ryan Miller and Mitch Padilla runs along side to help disguise the direction of the run play.

Tom Kelso dragged down in the open field after a pass reception.

A Le Roy player with positive yardage late in the game. The ball was marked two yards behind where he's about to go out of bounds.

Mike McMullen pressured during a pass play.

Saturday, November 15, 2014 at 5:58 pm

Blue Devils drop regional game

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, football, high school spprts, sports

Batavia fell to Cheektowaga in the Class B regional championship game at All High Stadium in Buffalo on Saturday 35-18.  

Five red zone turn overs and an inability to punch the ball in from less than a yard out in the closing seconds of the first half doomed the Blue Devils. 

more coverage later. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014 at 2:39 pm

Le Roy High School loses Class C regional football championship

post by Billie Owens in Le Roy, sports

Le Roy High School lost the Class C regional football championship game to Maple Grove, 32 to 0.

Maple Grove's Ryan Miller rushed for 208 yards and scored four touchdowns.

More T/K.

Friday, November 14, 2014 at 3:34 pm

As the Blue Devils advance in the post season, captains help lead the way

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Batavia HS, football, high school sports, sports

Coaches preach it all the time: Do your 1/11th.

There are 11 men on the field and to execute any play correctly, each player must do his part -- plant his feet right, push in the right direction, make the right cut, run the right route, make the right read, find his man.

Winning football is a matter of dedication, detail and focus.

But on any team, there are guys who do a little more than their 1/11th. They are the captains.

"As a coach, you want to have people in the locker room whom you can use as other coaches," said Brennan Briggs, head coach of the Batavia Blue Devils. "They let you know what's going on. You want that kind of relationship. They need to be those guys who have a sense of leadership and want to make the team theirs so they can self regulate what's going on on the field, in the locker room and in practices to help keep guys on task."

For the Blue Devils, selecting captains is a multilevel process. Team members vote who among their peers should be captain. The assistant coaches give Briggs their input, and then the final decision rests with Briggs.

The captains for the Blue Devils this year  -- the three guys who helped lead Batavia to its first sectional title in 23 years and will suit up in those roles again tomorrow in a game to qualify for state playoff rounds -- are Gunner Rapone (lower left in the photo), James Cryer and Devon Koepp.

Gunner Rapone
Senior, Offensive and Defensive Line
6'4", 260 pounds

Rapone is a staple of the program, Briggs said. He's come up through the ranks and grown and matured as a player each step along the way. 

"He's passionate about the game of football and the kids like him," Briggs said. "He's done a good job of stepping up in the leadership role."

Rapone was born and raised in Batavia. He said his father got him started in youth football and was pretty persistent in seeing he stuck with it.

He's grown to love the game.

Leading this team (Cryer and Koepp said much the same thing) hasn't been difficult. Everybody gets along pretty well and there is a focus and confidence that hasn't existed before.

"There is a family mentality with all the guys," Rapone said. "In the past, we haven't really had a tight-knit group of guys to work with, developing as a team. This year, everyone hangs out with everyone and everyone knows each other. It's like a home away from home."

Rapone said he's enjoyed being a captain.

"I really like being one of those people that others can look up to and look to for guidance," Rapone said. "I like to help others. Being a captain is amazing. It's a fun experience. It's an interesting time."

As for his future, there are some decisions to make. He's interested in criminal justice and law and he's set his sights on the University at Buffalo. He would love to play for the Bulls, but realizes Division I football is a high level to reach. While he's looking at other schools, he said he's not daunted by the task of trying to make the team.

"I don't want my career playing this amazing game to end," Rapone said. "Regardless, I'm willing to put in the time and the effort in all the things I need to do to be able to play."

James Cryer
Senior, Wide Receiver, Defensive End
5' 11", 160 pounds

Cryer is not necessarily the most athletic player on the field, and among the captains, he's not even the most vocal, but what he is is invaluable to a winning team.

Cryer leads by example and contributes by coming up with the big players, whether it's the game-opening touchdown catch or the drive-stopping interception.

"James is very, very coachable," Briggs said. "He does an awesome job. He's not the most talented, but he makes up for that with hard work and a willingness to learn. He's generally on the field both offensively and defensively. He's that guy who kids look up to because he gets the job done."

For his part, Cryer said that, yes, he's not vocal. There are different kinds of leadership he said, and he realized early on that he was named a captain because he could lead by example.

"At first, I was surprised (to be named a captain)," Cryer said. "Then I realized, as I thought about it more, he saw that leadership potential in me and that came more into play when I was named captain."

He said he enjoys the role.

"It means a lot to me that the guys trust me," Cryer said.

Born in Buffalo, Cryer also leans toward UB. He's also looking at Alfred State. He wants to learn computer programming and Web development. He also wants to keep playing football and hockey.

Devon Koepp
Senior, Offensive and Defensive Line
6'3" 265 pounds.

Koepp makes no bones about it. He loves football because he loves being the big man on the gridiron.

"I like hitting," Koepp said. "I love it. I've always loved hitting kids. It's a great feeling when you lay somebody out."

Reading that in print might leave the impression that Koepp is a Dick Butkus in the making, but even as he says that it is a great feeling to "lay somebody out," his demeanor is that of a well-mannered teen. 

He'll knock you down, extend a hand and help you up, and on the next snap, lay you out again, just because that's what linemen do.

"He uses his size and strength to his advantage," Briggs said.

Koepp started playing football at a young age, but soon became too big to play in the youth programs. He had to wait until seventh grade to play modified football.

This is his fourth varsity season.

"He brings that experience," Briggs said. "He knows what it's like to be a varsity player. He's a big strong kid and he can be intimidating. We have our goofballs on the team and he knows how to get them quiet, and gets them focused."

As a four-year varsity player, being part of the Blue Devils team that brought home the first sectional title since 1991 is certainly something special, Koepp said.

"It feels amazing," Koepp said. "It really is awesome. All the work all season paid off. We finally showed something, Batavia, our hometown, we finally showed that we can play and win."

Koepp is drawing the interest of universities in the region for both football and track and field, including St. John Fisher, Hobart and Utica, among others.

"It's really awesome to see all that stuff coming in the mail," Koepp said. "It is a great experience. I'm not sure where I'll go yet, but I'll figure it out."

Batavia (9-1) takes on Cheektowaga (9-1) at 3 p.m., tomorrow, at All High Stadium in Buffalo.

Le Roy (10-0), now the #1 ranked Class C team in the state, takes on Maple Grove (10-0) at noon at the same location.

The winners of each game advance to the state semi-finals.

Both games can be heard on WBTA, on WBTAi.com and on WBTA's smartphone apps.

The Batavian will also cover both games.

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