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Friday, November 7, 2014 at 8:00 am

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

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

Sports talk in Ron Rossi's barber shop flows as freely as hair tonic and Barbasol.

From the folding seats along the north wall, facing the green leather, chrome-trimmed chair that is nearly always occupied by a customer, you could probably sit all day if you liked talking sports.

Rossi bleeds pinstripes, and the Yankee logo with its red, white and blue top hat hoisted on a bomber’s bat adorns all three walls on a pennant, banner and poster, but the Yankees are not the only sports team dear to Rossi’s heart.

Once a Knight always a Knight, and Rossi is among that fraternity who have donned black and red. It may have been more than four decades ago, but Rossi follows his alma mater the way Sooners stick with Oklahoma and Tigers hold tight to Clemson.

So it’s no surprise that one afternoon years ago, with a few loyal Le Roy fans in the shop, the talk soon turned to the Oatkan Knights and their new rookie coach.

He came from Livonia. This was the kid’s first head coaching job. Could he handle it? What did he know about football? Could he motivate the kids? Was he tough enough? Would he deliver championships?

The way Jim Rudgers remembers it, he was sitting in that barber chair with this banter going about. He happened to know the new head coach, and as a former Knight and an up-and-coming coach himself, he thought maybe the new guy was getting a bum rap.

“They were complaining about this new, young football coach,” Rudgers recalled. “Some of them said he didn’t know what he was doing. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Brian Moran walking down Mill Street. Now, I still have a towel wrapped around my neck, but I get out of the seat and go out and grab him. I knew Brian because his dad used to sell sporting equipment. I say, ‘Brian, come on in here, these guys don’t think you know what you’re doing.’ ”

Moran, tall, sandy-haired and built like a defensive end, entered the shop and Rudgers said, “Come on guys, here he is. Tell him he’s an idiot and that he doesn’t know what he’s doing. They were like, ‘uh, uh, uh.’ ”

Rudgers thinks that 26 years later, after more than 200 wins, 13 Section V titles and a state championship, the record has been set straight.

Brian Moran knows what he’s doing.

Development of a coach
There wasn’t a time in Brian Moran’s life that he wasn’t passionate about sports. With two older brothers, he had plenty of opportunity to play, compete and try to keep up. Football, basketball, baseball were all staples of young Brian’s life.

After high school, Moran attended Bridgton Academy in Maine, with its motto, “The Year that Makes a Difference.” It was a chance to continue his athletic pursuits in football and baseball as well as prepare for the rigors of college.

Though a prep academy, the football program exposed Brian to some top-notch competition. In an eight-game schedule, Bridgton played the freshman teams from the University of Boston, Umass and Norwich.

In 1983, he entered the University at Cortland as a physical education major. He also earned his teaching degree.

He played football all four years at Cortland, knowing that when his collegiate career was over, he wanted to coach high school kids.

“I really enjoyed being around athletics,” Moran said. “I really did. My career goal was to be a coach and in education just because I enjoyed being around that atmosphere so much.”

His first job out of college was teaching at St. Joe’s in Penfield, then he got a call from the University of Rochester to be an assistant under U of R’s legendary Pat Stark.

The next three years, he worked as an assistant coach at Livonia, his alma mater. In his third year, he was the head coach for JV.

His next job was as a driving education instructor at Wayland-Cohocton, where he also coached baseball.

Then in the Fall of 1989, just weeks before the school year was to start, he heard Le Roy was looking for a new head coach. He got an interview, then a second interview, then he was hired as head coach and athletic director.

“I grew up in a community similar to Le Roy and I knew the reputation Le Roy had as a football community,” Moran said. “It’s a privilege to coach, but as I said, I’m very lucky to have been hired and given the opportunity to coach in Le Roy.”

Talk with anybody about Le Roy football and sooner, always sooner rather than later, the word “tough” is dropped into the conversation.

To play Le Roy football, you’ve got to be tough.

It’s not enough to run fast, throw lasers down the field or stand tall and strong on the line. You’ve got to be tough.

Football is a mental and emotional game, and physical ability will only get a player so far.

If the players need to be tough, the coaches need to be tougher.

“We have high expectations for our football team,” Rossi said.

The skepticism Rossi’s customers felt that autumn day in 1989 was real, but it was nothing personal. Nobody knew anything about Brian Moran. Here was this young guy coming into the community to coach their football team and his only prior experience was as an assistant and a head JV coach.

Was he tough enough?

“When you come into a program like this that has always pretty much been successful,” Rossi said, “and you’re a new guy and nobody knows a lot about you, there’s going to be apprehension as to whether he can handle the situation.”

Moran was replacing Jim Laemlein, the coach who brought Le Roy its first sectional title and first 10-win season (1984, the last year in the sectional era ((and before there were state titles)) that Le Roy went undefeated).

“He had big shoes to fill coming in after a guy like Laemlein,” Rossi said.

Taking over a storied program
That first year, Moran says he was blessed to come into a program poised to win. The Knights went 8-2 in 1988, losing a sectional title game.

“I was very fortunate,” Moran said. “We had the nucleus of a good team, a team that lost by a touchdown the year before to Clyde-Savannah. It was a great situation to be in. We were 8-2 and we played Livonia in the sectional finals. It was bittersweet to coach for a title against my old school, but we were a pretty good football team in 1989.”

The 26-12 win brought home the first Section V trophy for a Moran-coached team.

Then Le Roy hit a rut, going 1-7 in 1990, then 4-4 in 91.

That ’91 team, though, is one Moran believes to this day could have won it all if they had back then the playoff format used today.

“That third year, I thought we had a great football team,” Moran said. “If they had let eight teams in (to the playoffs), that team would have won it all. That’s how good we got by the end of the season.”

As if to prove it, the Knights went 7-1-2 the next season and cinched Moran’s second Section V title.

Through Moran’s first six seasons, the Knights were 33-21-2 with three Section V titles.

There were few people left in Le Roy who questioned whether Moran could uphold the Oatkan Knights' tradition of winning football, but the best was yet to come.

Moran says, “we went on a little bit of a run.”

From 1995 through 2008, Le Roy did not suffer a losing season. The team’s record through the 13-season span was 136-20. There was a state championship in 1995, appearances in '96 and 2004, and 10 sectional titles. Le Roy has only played for a sectional title twice since, in 2012 and 2013, losing both championship games.

Developing champions
Winning a state championship is a big deal. There’s nothing easy about navigating through the post season. The waters are choppy for even very good football teams as they advance through each round.

The best teams are always much better than nearly all of their regular season opponents. You’re only going to lose to bad luck or to that one team you might meet during the year that is also on a championship romp through the league. When post season arrives, Class B teams are no longer piling up wins against Class C and D teams in league play and the C teams are no longer playing D teams.

The class system — based on school size — is used throughout New York State.

There are no playoffs to determine conference champions. The post season is strictly a matter of the best teams playing the top teams in each class. On any given Friday or Saturday, a top-seeded school can find its season terminated by a last second score.

(more after the jump)

The difference between winning and losing isn’t ruled by the action on the field. It’s a matter of players staying focused and motivated and coaches developing successful game plans.

As Moran often says, games are won and lost in practice the week before. The practice is based on the plan, and the plan is developed by the coach and his staff.

How much of Moran’s life is turned over to football during the season?

“All day, every day,” Moran said, “just ask my wife. I’m constantly watching film early in the week, trying to watch teams a week ahead. Then I start thinking about what we’re going to do offensively and defensively. Constantly. It’s not like I’m sitting down constantly and writing things down, and I’m not watching film constantly, but it’s a thorough process that really takes up your time. You really have to think to be successful.”

Linemen might refine their footwork, receivers their cuts, quarterbacks their time. Practice is about fine-tuning the skills needed in the game.

Teams learn the schemes and plays coaches think will work best against the coming opponent.

“One week at a time” is every successful team’s mantra.

One thing Moran excels at, according to former players, is motivation.

“It was about teamwork,” said Brian Fulmer, a senior tight end in 1995. “He was motivational. We all had buy-in. It was just the way he carried himself. Everybody just bought into teamwork.”

Fulmer skipped football his sophomore year to play in basketball tournaments, a decision he now says he regrets, even though he went on to play basketball at a Division I university, Cornell.

It’s a basketball memory that Fulmer used to illustrate Moran’s ability to motivate his players. There were a couple of game periods where Le Roy’s basketball coach was away and Moran was the substitute head coach.

Before one game, going over the game plan, Moran really got into Fulmer’s head.

“ ‘There’s no reason you shouldn’t dominate this entire game,’ ” Fulmer remembers Moran telling him. “He was like, ‘yeah, you’re going to go out and kill this guy.’ I thought, ‘yeah, you’re right.’ He knew how to push the right buttons. He cared about us.”

Family is also important to Head Coach Brian Moran.

He and his second wife, Wendy, married for 16 years together for 20, enjoy their home in a well-wooded lot near Nunda. He likes to tinker in the garage when he isn’t watching game film or playing golf.

His children are all grown. Brendon, 31, played for the Knights in 2001 and was part of the team that won the 100th game for Moran and was defensive player of the year for Section V. Casey, 29, also played for the Knights. Shane, 26, works for a landscaping company and attended Livonia, and his daughter, Kaitlin, 23, also attended Livonia and just earned her teaching degree.

Moran is also proud of his brothers. Tom is a State Supreme Court judge. Sean lives near Conesus Lake. Patrick lives in St. Louis and works for General Motors.

Perhaps the proudest person in the Moran family is the coach’s mother, who still attends most of her son’s games at age 82.

“She’s a big supporter of all of us,” Moran said.

1995
In the late Summer of 1995, it was starting to look like the unthinkable might happen: there would be no football season.

Mired in budget woes, the school board was considering drastic cuts in spending.

Coming off an 8-3 season that ended in a regional playoff loss, the players and coaches thought they might have a pretty good team, but they also wanted to play.

“The board was considering a real austerity budget,” Fulmer said. “We didn’t even know if we were going to have any sports that year. We had a great group of guys, a talented, talented group. A lot of us went on and played sports in college. A lot of us probably would have gone down the road and played at a different school if they cancelled the season.”

Players, parents, fans all packed a critical board meeting. The board heard the pleas to save sports and voted against the cuts.

“We promised the fans we will bring home a state championship,” said Adam Higgins, a member of the 1994 and 1995 teams. “If not for them, we would never have had a chance to play.”

Moran had no premonition of a state championship. The season, as they all do, unfolded one game, one week at a time. The way they should, in coachspeak.

“I always say weeks four, five and six are really crucial, because it gets to the point where if you’re not getting better, you’re almost getting worse,” Moran said. “If you don’t practice well, by the time you get the end, you may not have reached your peak. You want to get to that peak performance by the end of the season.”

Moran’s praise for the 1995 team: “They got better every week through very hard work. I like the way they practiced.”

Team chemistry was a big reason the team performed so well, Fulmer said. The players didn’t just play and practice together, they had meals to together, they hung out together and they supported each other.

They didn’t put their individual issues ahead of the team.

Higgins said Moran instilled the team-first attitude through hard work and discipline. It shows, he said, by the way Le Roy teams enter the field before before games. Two silent lines, like a military platoon, walking onto the field.

“Walk, don’t talk,” was the rule, Higgins said.

It was the same procession players are expected to take leaving the practice field, and after one hot August pre-season practice, when the team thought they were out of earshot of Moran, a couple of players started cutting up. The team — the whole team — spent an extended practice running laps.

“You do everything as a team,” Higgins said. “If one messes up, all mess up. He and Andrew (Paladino, defensive coordinator) just really instilled that in us and it showed.”

Higgins was the starting QB throughout his junior year, helping the team to a sectional title in 1994, and started the season at the top of the depth chart as the field general, but before the third game of the year — which turned out to be the only loss of the season, to archival Cal-Mum — Higgins lost his starting job to a sophomore.

“It was a big, traumatic event,” Fulmer said, but how Higgins handled it really set an example of team before self, he said.

“To his credit, he didn’t externally show a lot of emotion,” Fulmer said. “He was an awesome defensive player and he just went out and played great defense. I know he was hurting inside and I hurt for him, but he shut his mouth and went out and played great defense the rest of the year.”

It was a big deal, said Higgins, who is now a high school coach himself. He spent 10 years as an assistant at Letchworth and now coaches girls swimming. To this day, he counts Brian Moran as among his best friends. They talk frequently. He’s known Moran pretty much his entire life. His best friend from elementary school is the son of Moran’s wife, Wendy.

“He brought me into his office and I could tell he was upset,” Higgins recalled of the meeting where he learned he had lost the starting QB job. “It was hard for him to tell me. I looked at him and said, ‘I’ll do whatever I can for this team.’ ”

Quarterback controversy settled, the Knights started to gel. They won their next six regular season games, then crushed East Rochester 19-0 for the Section V Class C title. They beat Eden 19-0 for the Far West Regional title, won 12-0 over Dogelville in the state qualifier and faced Saranac Lake for the state championship.

The promise to the fans who saved the team was fulfilled by a final score of 37-27.

Love
The 2014 season, Moran’s 26th and last as head coach, has been another great run for the Oatkan Knights. All but one game has been a blowout, and that game, in the end, wasn’t really very close. It’s the year in which Moran became the fourth head coach in Section V history with 200 career wins.

After each victory, Moran gathers the team around them and shares the same message that makes these points.

“I’m proud of you.”

“Get your rest, stay hydrated.”

“We have another game next week. Stay focused. Come to practice Monday ready to work.”

“Enjoy the victory, but don’t do anything stupid.”

“Do the right thing in school.”

“I love you guys.”

The precise words may change each week, but the message remains consistent.

The idea that Moran loves the kids on his team isn’t just morale-building rhetoric. It’s not hokum to con a bunch of kids into conformity. Moran gets a little misty eyed when he talks about his players, and the lifelong bonds that develop, the mutual loyalty, the commitment and devotion that develops, are strong evidence that Moran’s heart is what leads his head.

Moran doesn’t take a lot of credit for his 201 wins. He credits the kids and the community, but it’s not even the most important thing, he says.

“This is high school athletics,” Moran said. “The wins are nice, but we need to be sure we’re teaching them the things they’ll need to know to be successful in life.”

The great thing about athletics is it teaches kids that discipline and success go hand-in-hand. The lessons that lead to winning championships also carry over into careers and families.

More important to Moran than trophies are the kids who come back to the school year after year and can proudly recite for him their successes in life.

At the start of this season, five members of the 1995 championship team came to a pep rally at the school, some flying from as far away as Minnesota and Texas, to cheer on and encourage the 2014 team.

To a man, they shared how much they learned from Moran and how playing for him changed their lives.

“The things I learned from coach that helped me is don’t cut corners in your work,” Fulmer said. “It’s all about teamwork. Show respect. Don’t ever disrespect somebody in public. Certainly, my Dad’s a big influence, too, but that’s the kind of stuff I learned with Coach Moran. He showed me the best example of teamwork I’ve ever been a part of and that carries with me to this day.”

Hundreds of kids have passed through Moran’s programs at Le Roy — not just football, and not just winning teams — and many can tell similar stories.

Tim Spezzano was part of the 1-7 squad in 1990. He later coached at Le Roy, starting with seventh-graders and eventually working four years as head basketball coach for boys varsity. He now works for Tompkins Insurance and holds Moran in the highest regard.

“He was always very well prepared in his approach to coaching and that’s certainly something I take from him,” Spezzano said. “One of the things he preached at great length is do the little things well. If you do the little things well, big things will happen for you. Generally, I think of myself as somebody who is properly prepared. I think a large part of why people are successful is they are prepared.”

Life lessons, thought, don’t come wrapped in brightly colored paper with pretty bows tied on top. They come through hard work, persistence and reinforcement.

In other words, the teacher dolling out the gifts needs a firm hand and a loud mouth.

Moran knows how to get in a kid’s face when he needs to.

“What’s most important to Brian is what happens to these kids 10 years from now,” said defensive coordinator Jim Bonacquisti. “Are they better men, are they better husbands, are they successful? That all comes from Brian demanding the best from them. It’s not a touchy-feely world. It’s not about everybody getting ribbons, everybody getting an award. It’s about making yourself better.”

The one thing, though, you’ll never see Brian Moran do, says Bonacquisti, is embarrass a kid during a game or in front of his parents.

“I can recall once when I got after a kid during a game,” Bonacquisti said. “The kid was a sophomore, and Brian turned me and said, ‘we’re going to need this kid the next two years. Let’s not beat this kid down. Stay positive.’ That’s what he always reiterated, ’stay positive.’ "

Andrew Paladino, the defensive coordinator who was coaching at Le Roy five years before Moran became head coach, will also retire at the end of this season. He said Moran has always treated him well and given him the freedom to run his own squad.

Paladino said he’s sure the love and appreciation players have for Moran is genuine, honest and hard won.

“He can be a hard-ass sometimes, but he truly likes the kids and he cares about the kids,” Paladino said. “A lot of people don’t understand that, a lot of times it’s tough love but when it’s all said and done I think the kids appreciate it.”

They do, said both former team members Brian Fulmer and Adam Higgins.

Fulmer, who played Division I basketball, said Moran was the best coach he ever played for at any level.

“I won Athlete of the Year my senior year and Brian spoke at the awards ceremony,” Fulmer said. “He spoke about how hard I worked and how I was always the first guy on the field and the last guy off the field. He got a little emotional about it. I never forgot how he got a little emotional about what I did. It was the coolest moment in my life. I’d run through a wall for that guy.”

It was also the moment that an award was handed out that is a deeply imprinted memory of Moran for Higgins as well.

“I was named Best Defensive Player for the Section V championship and I was standing right next to coach when they announced the award,” said Higgins, the kid who earlier that year lost his starting QB job to a sophomore. “He looked right at me and said, ‘I was hoping and praying that you would win that award.’ That was just the bond we had.”

Moran doesn’t remember the wins nearly as much as he remembers the individual players and their big moments: Fulmer knocking down a pass in the end zone during the championship game; Justin Ausher with a key two-point conversion in that game, beating people to the goal line; Joe Miller in a title game against East Rochester running a fullback trap 53 yards for a touchdown; Tony Mason with a seven-yard run in another game against East Rochester that combined with a PAT by Kevin Price gave Le Roy a 7-6 victory.

“There are so many great memories of kids making plays that even surprised me sometimes at how well they performed,” Moran said.

The coach also remembers the non-starters, the kids who just wanted to be part of the team. He remembers the kid with Asperger's syndrome who made the team and the kid with autism who became the team manager for a couple of years.

Moran has always had a soft spot for the kids who might have some disadvantage, Bonacquisti said, whether it’s something like Asperger's or autism, or they just don’t have any money or a lot of social grace.

That comes from being picked on as a kid. Moran said he had two older brothers who always gave him a hard time.

“That’s the way life was then,” Moran said. “Nobody worried about bullying. I was always trying to keep up with them.

Every kid deserves a chance to succeed, Moran said.

“When you look at our kids here today, you don’t know where they come from sometimes,” Moran said. “You don’t know what their home life is, and really, when they come to school, it might be the brightest part of their day.”

Working with the kids who might have disadvantages is also a powerful lesson for the rest of the kids, Moran said.

“It helps them understand the issues in society,” Moran said. “Not everybody is born perfect. Some kids struggle with whatever they have. I have a granddaughter who is very handicapped and it’s tough. I want these kids to understand that they have a lot of benefits that they don’t even think about.”

The fact Moran is so inclusive is part of the reason the football program has been so successful, Spezzano said.

“It’s evident in the numbers of participants in the program,” Spezzano said. “Look at the number of the kids on the sideline. “That doesn’t happen if the focus is only on the top 11 or top 12 players.”

Yeah, Moran may be a hard-ass at times, practices may be rough, but he thinks the community and the parents understand what the larger goals are, and that it isn’t necessarily to win championships. Winning is something that is an outcome of turning boys into men.

“I’m fortunate to work in this community,” Moran said. “I get after our kids pretty good sometimes, and in other places, I don’t think they would be as accepting as we are now. When you work in a place for 26 years, I think people understand you have their kids' best interest at heart.”

Thursday, November 6, 2014 at 3:30 pm

Driver Jake Baumeister injured in Batavia Downs spill

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

By Tom Bojarski for Batavia Downs

Jacob "Jake" Baumeister, a 24-year-old provisional reinsman, was released from the United Memorial Medical Center in Batavia late Wednesday night (Nov. 5) after being involved in a racing accident at Batavia Downs.

Baumeister, driving 99-1 shot Vital Speed, appeared to hit the wheel of early leader (53-1) Call Her Quick with Jack Flanigen at the controls, as the field of winners of one but not more than three pacers were heading to the three-quarters.

Call Her Quick got rough gaited and went off stride. Baumeister and Vital Speed were directly behind and couldn’t avoid the breaker and went down. Baumeister was catapulted from the race bike.

Also involved in the accident was Justrollwithit and driver Truman Gale. They appeared to hook the wheel of the sulky of Vital Speed. Gale, a Vernon Downs regular, was also catapulted from the sulky.

Jacob Baumeister, the son of longtime Western New York trainer/driver Mike Baumeister and grandson of Ronald, who also raced at Batavia and Buffalo Raceway, suffered a concussion and facial lacerations. Gale walked off under his own power.

Vital Speed suffered minor abrasions and walked back to the paddock while Justrollwithit, who ran loose after unseating Gale, was apprehended by paddock personnel with no apparent injuries.

“We were definitely lucky that involved parties will be okay,” said Todd Haight, director/GM of live racing. “That was a very nasty spill. Jake is the nicest young man you’re ever going to meet and we all wish him a speedy recovery.”

Thursday, November 6, 2014 at 7:17 am

Bazooka Terror tallies her 10th triumph at Batavia Downs; Three horses involved in 8th race accident

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

Bazooka Terror with driver Kevin Cummings

By Tim Bojarski for Batavia Downs

Bazooka Terror is known for her explosive come-from-behind finishes and there is nothing that makes her driver Kevin Cummings happier than to see a speed duel in front of him early. That's exactly what happened in the $9,500 Open mares pacing feature at Batavia Downs on Wednesday night (Nov. 5) and it provided the classy 5-year-old the perfect recipe for success en route to scoring her tenth victory of the year.

As the race unfolded, Mondatta (Dave McNeight III) and Itstimeformetofly (Drew Monti) refused to play nice on the front end. Mondatta would not let Itstimeformetofly go and Itstimeformetofly would not take a seat behind Mondatta. As a result, the two battled through fractions of :26.4 and :55.4 before Itstimeformetofly finally took the front and crossed over to the pylons. Heading up the backside it became apparent that the early pace was taking its toll and Cummings didn't waste any time pulling the trigger. He tipped the big mare three-deep from sixth and circled the entire field past the three-quarter pole. From there Bazooka Terror just paced away to score a decisive six-length victory in 1:55. Mondatta came back on to be second and Itstimeformetofly hung in for third.

Besides pushing Bazooka Terror's win total to double digits, the victory also boosted her annual earnings to $79,269 for owner Leonard Segall. Bazooka Terror is trained by James Clouser Jr.

The eighth race was marred by an unfortunate accident when the leader Call Her Quick (Jack Flanigen) made a break that caused Vital Speed (Jake Baumeister) and Justrollwithit (Truman Gale) to pile into her as she altered her speed. This sent both trailing drivers to the track. Fortunately when it happened, the two were at the back of the pack and there were no other horses behind them. Driver Truman Gale was alright and got right up. Jake Baumeister was assisted up and taken to the hospital for treatment of a possible head injury. The downed horse got up, the loose horse was caught and both suffered only minor abrasions.

Driver Drew Monti scored a driving triple with Donegal Jim ($2.80), Feets of Magic ($3.90) and Rashabec ($10.80) while the meet's leading driver Kevin Cummings steered home two winners.

Racing resumes at Batavia Downs on Friday (Nov. 7) with a 6:35 post time.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014 at 8:56 am

Lady Irish advance in regional volleyball tournament

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

Photos and story by Bare Antolos.

The Notre Dame Girls Volleyball Team, powered by the support of their fans, came out and proved to be too much for previously undefeated Hammondsport, 3-1 (25-15, 25-12, 18-25 and 25-13) to move onto play against Honeoye Falls-Lima on Thursday at Cal-Mum in the regional finals.

The Lady Irish are the Class DDD champions for Section V.

Throughout the match, the Hammondsport girls seemed to be overwhelmed by the Notre Dame attack and unnerved by the vocal Notre Dame student body cheering section.

Despite not having a strong service match, the Notre Dame girls used a balance attack to mix up their sets and win rather easily. Notre Dame Coach Rhonda DiCasolo said that her team "played really, really well and is very proud" of the effort and is "really excited about Thursday at Cal-Mum."

Shea Norton led the way for the Lady Irish with 19 kills. Lindsay Bender had a strong match, finishing with 30 assists and 10 service points, including finishing out the match on a run of five serves to send Hammondsport home.

The Lady Irish received strong contributions from Mary Bernadette Bochicchio who set the tone early in the first game, running out a string of five service points (nine total for the match) to open up a lead that Hammondsport could not recover from. Rebecca Krenzer lead the way with 15 service points with Olivia Marchese contributing 12 digs and Emma Francis, who seemed to be involved in all parts of the match, finished with 10 digs and 12 service points in the all around team effort.

Thursday's match against Honeoye Falls-Lima should be another difficult match for the Lady Irish and provide the Notre Dame students another opportunity to be help lift their team to victory!

More photos after the jump:

Tuesday, November 4, 2014 at 3:14 pm

Muckdogs announce 2015 schedule

post by Billie Owens in baseball, muckdogs, sports

Press release:

The Batavia Muckdogs, Class A affiliate of the Miami Marlins, have announced their schedule for the 2015 season. Batavia will open the 2015 season at home on Friday, June 19th, when the Auburn Doubledays visit Dwyer Stadium.

The Muckdogs will host their annual Independence Day celebration on July 3rd this year, as they are not home on July 4th. The Muckdogs also have a home game scheduled for Father's Day (June 21) this season. In addition to their Pinckney Division rivals, the Muckdogs will welcome the Boston Red Sox (Lowell), Detroit Tigers (Connecticut), Houston Astros (Tri-City) and Oakland A’s (Vermont) farm teams to Dwyer Stadium in 2015.

Here is a month-by-month and day-by-day breakdown of Batavia’s 2015 home schedule:

Month    Home Games    Day         Home Games
June                6               Sunday            5
July                13              Monday           4
Aug.               17              Tuesday          5
Sept.                2              Wednesday    7
                                        Thursday         5
                                         Friday             7
                                         Saturday       5

Season tickets, coupon books and ticket packages for the 2015 season are all on sale now. They can be purchased by calling 585-343-5454 or in person at Dwyer Stadium, Monday thru Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For a complete schedule, visit www.muckdogs.com.

Sunday, November 2, 2014 at 5:45 pm

Tri-Town Varsity wins NOFA Championship

post by Rick D. Franclemont in alexander, football, sports, youth

The Tri-Town Varsity Trojans football team defeated the Oakfield/Elba Titans yesterday 39-37 to claim the Niagara Orleans Football Association championship. This was the Trojans first championship team in 36 years.

Sunday, November 2, 2014 at 12:48 pm

Mini Titans win championship

post by Howard B. Owens in elba, football, Oakfield, sports, youth sports

The Oakfield/Elba Titans in the Mini Division won their league's championship today, beating Albion 27-19.

Photo and info provided by Kevin Zito.

Sunday, November 2, 2014 at 10:47 am

Batavia, the team that shouldn't be here, has shot at sectional title after 35-12 win in semi-final

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

By all rights, at the end of the first half Saturday night, Batavia should have been down to Penn Yan by a score more along the lines of 28-7.

The game should have been over in every manner except the time clock.

Three turnovers, a trio of 15-yard penalties, enemy receivers allowed to roam free and the repeated gifts of good field position didn't doom the Batavia effort.

It would be fair to say the Mustangs didn't cash in on all of these gold-plated errors, but that would be only half the story.

The Blue Devils hung tough. The line stepped up and stopped the run. Rushers put enough pressure on the passing game that completions were hard to come by.

With two minutes left in the first half, instead being down 20 or 28 to 7, Batavia trailed by only five points, 12-7.

Then the magic happened.

Greg Mruczek engineered a 70-yard drive in less than two minutes that ended with a five-yard pass in the end zone to a wide open -- open as in "alone on a Kansas prairie" open -- Malachi Chenault.

A two-point conversion later and Batavia headed into the locker room with a 15-12 lead and a level of confidence that makes Floyd Mayweather look shy.

"That was huge," said Head Coach Brennan Briggs. "I would like to say that was the game right there because that just gave us the momentum to get back into it. I think if we'd gone into half time down, I think our kids really would have been in a little bit of a hole. But they've been grinding and fighting all year and that's what they did."

Briggs said he went into the locker room at half and told the team it was their game to lose.

He told them, he said, " 'we've done everything we could do wrong and we're still leading this game by three points. That says something.' "

"I said," he added, " 'we've got 24 minutes left. All the time, all the effort you've put in come down to these final 24 minutes. Do you guys want to pack it in or do you guys want to go out and dominate like we can?' "

Batavia scored 20 unanswered points in the second half and never really allowed the Mustangs to get a drive going. The win, in the end, was a blowout, 35-12.

The unsung heroes of this semi-final game -- as they often are in football -- are the offensive and defensive lines. 

Against a team that featured two heavyweights tipping the scales at more than 320 pounds each, and with a degree of athleticism, the Batavia line on both sides of the ball simply outplayed the other team's big men.

The Blue Devils feature two young men up front who are pretty hefty themselves. Seniors Gunner Rapone and Devon Koepp, who are 6' 4", 260 pounds, and 6' 3", 265 pounds.

Rapone said the men up front for Batavia are not intimidated by anybody.

"We've faced big kids before," Rapone said. "An example is Bath. Bath has a lot of big guys. We knew what we were in for. We've been practicing all week about moving our feet and driving guys down the field and opening holes up for our backs and that's what we did the second half."

One of the beneficiaries of this offensive line largess was Anthony Gallo, a quick, slashing back with a knack for making defensive players miss.

"The linemen were making huge holes and I have good vision," said Gallo, who gained 110 yards on 14 carries. "I just see where I've gotta go and I just run."

It was another big game for junior QB Greg Mruczek, who was six for 13 for 161 yards, tossing three TDs and scoring one himself on the ground.

"Going into halftime, we thought we had the better team, you know," Mruczek said. "We came out and just played tough, despite the weather conditions. We've both got to play in it so you've got to keep playing tough. We thought we did a good job coming out in the second half and just playing hard."

If game balls were given out, surely one went to Jerrett Laskett, who had a 40-yard TD reception, but more importantly, snagged two key interceptions, including the pick just before the two-minute mark of the first half that set up Batavia's game-winning scoring drive.

It was Laskett's first game ever at corner back. 

"He did an unbelievable job," Briggs said. "You know, he's come a long ways this year and I can't say just how proud I am of the kid. We just put him at defensive back this week and he gets two picks."

Chenault had two receptions for 38 yards and the TD. Dominick Mogavero had 21 rushes for 84 yards and a TD. Ryan Hogan had two catches for 50 yards. Trevor Rittersback and Koepp had five tackles each.

The win gives Batavia a shot at a sectional title for the first time since 1998. The Blue Devils haven't won a title since 1991, the program's only title since sectional play began.

This is a program that was going nowhere before Briggs took it over four years ago and Briggs and the players have talked all year about how nobody gives the team the respect of a potential champion, that winning wasn't part of the pre-season projections of pundits.

There's a sense now that those critics, whomever they are, are proven wrong.

"It's crazy," Mruczek said. "It's an amazing feeling. It just turns some heads, you know. I don't think anyone would have thought we'd be in the sectional finals this year, honestly. It's just an incredible feeling and we're all happy to be here right now." 

Mruczek gives a lot of the credit to Briggs.

"He worked very hard with us all off season, with lifting and passing with me and the receivers," Mruczek said. "He's put in a lot of time and effort. He deserves to be in this position."

For players like Rapone, who has been dreaming of being part of a winning Blue Devils program since at least middle school, said it's an unbelievable feeling to get to this point in the season.

"It's unreal to me, to be honest with you," Rapone said. "It's a strange feeling because everyone is so used to looking down on this program and it being this year, my final year, and a lot of our guys final year, and we have the opportunity that we have this year, is unreal and unbelievable."

There's another Rapone, Max, coming up the sports ranks in Batavia and Gunner thinks he and his teammates have set an example of hard work and dedication for the next generation.

"I hope Max and all of his teammates look up to what we are and want to strive to be what we have done and know they can do it," Rapone said. "I've got a good feeling they can do it."

Now the focus shifts to Livonia, as if that isn't where the focus has been all along.

The Blue Devils are 8-1. That one loss was handed to Batavia in the final seconds of a thunder-interrupted game opening week when Livonia managed a last-ditch touchdown.

Players and coaches all seem to think it was a game Batavia should have won, could have won, but didn't. Hardly a week has gone buy since where the loss to Livonia didn't figure in the conversation at some point.

It's the game that has fueled Batavia's resilience and swagger, two words Briggs has attached to his players all season.

"After losing to a good team like that, we knew we had a good team and we could compete this year for a sectional title," Mruczek said. "We came out with some confidence after that game. We almost beat Livonia, supposedly the top of Class B."

Now, as one player said, it's time for revenge. 

"We're happy we're getting a shot at the sectional title, but there's really nobody else our guys would want to have it against," Briggs said. "If you wrote up a storybook ending, you know, you really couldn't write it up any better than that."

Well, it's not quite a storybook ending. Not yet. A win against Livonia would be a storybook ending.

Go get 'em, boys.

Top Photo: Malachi Chenault.celebrates his first-half touchdown that proved the turning point of the game.

Jerrett Laskett with a key first half interception.

Jerrett Laskett with a TD reception. 

Anthony Gallo finding another big hole.

Trevor Sherwood with a long reception just ahead of the goal line, setting up another Batavia score in the second half.

Dominick Mogavero got most of his 84 rushing in the 4th quarter as the Blue Devils chewed up the clock and kept the Mustangs' offense off the field.

Mogavero gets a handle on Mustangs' QB Austin Fingar. Fingar pulled free and gained another four or five yards.

At times during the game, the icy rain and sleet came down heavy.

Fans weathered the chill and the damp.

Gunner Rapone after the win.

Post-game celebration.

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Sunday, November 2, 2014 at 8:37 am

Le Roy will play for 15th sectional title after crushing Dansville in semi-final

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

It was a game that was essentially over before it barely began.

Inside of the first four minutes, the Le Roy Oatkan Knights had a three-touchdown lead over Dansville in the Class C Section V semi-final game played at Webster Thomas.

Going into the second quarter, Le Roy was up 29-0 on its way to a 54-0 win and a chance to play for a Section V title Friday at Sahlen's Stadium in Rochester.

"I just thought everybody played well today," Head Coach Brian Moran said. "They prepared well. There's no secret, you win games in practice and I thought our kids practiced extremely well top to bottom."

Mike McMullen and Tom Kelso helped lead the offensive attack. McMullen was eight for 12 passing for 124 yards and two TDs. Kelso rushed 15 times for 117 yards and three touchdowns.

Ryan McQuillen sparked the offensive onslaught with a 75-yard punt return after Dansville was stymied on its first drive to open the game. Less than two minutes later on the game clock, McQuillen struck again, hauling in a McMullen pass for a 32-yard touchdown.

"He just makes great plays," Moran said of McQuillen. "With his speed, it's obviously something you can't duplicate in practice. I don't think people realize how fast he really is, and he can scoot."

The game, of course, wasn't all about offense. The Knights held the #4 seed, a 5-3 team coming into the came, scoreless through four quarters. Dansville's star running back, a husky Evan Dieter, was held to 91 yards on 24 carries. Even the second team, entering the game in the third quarter, held Dansville down.

"That shows how good our coaching staff is," Moran said. "I think our assistant coaches did a great job in preperation and that's important. Sometimes you forget about them and I'm very proud of them, too."

Le Roy's opponent Friday (game time is 5 p.m.) will be Bath, who beat East Rochester 51-19.

"It wil be very tough," Moran said before Bath and ER faced off. "Any sectional final game is going to be a tough football game. Bath and East Rochester are great football teams with great traditions and we'll just have to prepare themselves for who comes on top."

It will be the 18th time a Moran-coached team played for a section title game in the past 26 seasons. Le Roy has won 14 of those games. (See correction below)

"We're feeling good about things right now," Kelso said. "We've just got to keep doing what we're doing."

It will be Kelso's third chance at a sectional title, and as he noted, he hasn't been there himself. The same could be said for several members of the Knights.

Moran said those previous disappointments have taught his team what it takes win a sectional title.

"I think the kids understand that you really have to get yourself focused," Moran said. "You can't just assume that you're going to walk in and everything will fall your way. You've got to prepare yourself through hard work and dedication so you can put yourself in a position with a chance to win a sectional title."

CORRECTION: This will be the 18th time a Moran-coached team has played for a sectional title. Moran's teams have won 13 times. The first sectional title was won 1984 when Jim Laemlein was head coach. The 14 titles won by Le Roy, according to Ed Henry, is a Section V record held along with Cal-Mum and Clyde-Savannah.  Clyde plays a title game today against Avon, giving the program a shot at its 15th title.

UPDATE: Clyde-Savannah lost to Avon, giving Le Roy a shot at becoming the sole record holder at 15 for sectional titles.

Top Photo: Mike Shepard and another Le Roy defender get their hands up to block a pass from Dansville's Matt Martuciello.

Kelso scoring Le Roy's second touchdown of the first quarter.

Kody Lamkin walloped Dansville's Gage Koch on a kickoff return in the first quarter.

Tom Kelso evades a tackle attempt.

Jake Henry with a reception. Henry caught three passes for 33 yards and a TD.

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Saturday, November 1, 2014 at 6:00 pm

Batavia wins Section V Class B semi-final 35-12

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

The Batavia Blue Devils will get a chance to play for the school's first sectional title since 1991 in football next week after beating Penn Yan this evening, 35-12.

Above, Malachi Chenault in the end zone near the close of the first half. The score, making it 15-12, gave Batavia a lead it never relinquished.

The Blue Devils will face Livonia in the Class B final next week. Batavia's only defeat of the season came against Livonia on a last-second touchdown in the first game of the season.

We'll have complete coverage posted tomorrow.

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