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Thursday, August 28, 2014 at 12:40 am

Football Preview: Lancers, a year old and a year hungrier

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

It's hard to find a high school football coach who will predict a winning season during an August practice session, and Elba/Byron-Bergen Head Coach Michael Cintorino is no exception.

But clearly, he has a lot to be excited about.

He's got a starting QB coming into his second year leading the varsity squad who's gotten bigger and stronger in the off season and put in the hard work to improve his skills.

He has two proven veterans to run the ball, and both his offensive and defensive lines are stocked with second and third year players.

Last year's 3--5 season was merely a chance to grow and learn for this group of players.

"This year, they're a year old, a year hungrier and they've been extremely competitive in practice and looking forward to the start of the season," Cintorino said.

The offense will be lead by Garrett Chapell, who was shaky at times last year, but Cintorino said is playing now with a whole new level of confidence.

"He looks fantastic this year, Cintorino said. "He put in a ton of work in the off season."

He'll have three first-year receivers, but Cintorino said they look like real weapons for Chapell so far.

The backfield will be bolstered with the experience of Steele Truax and Mike Shanley, who both proved last year they can run for positive yards and put points on the board.

So will this all add up into Ws for the Lancers, maybe a nice post-season run.

Cintorino dosn't want to go that far. Not yet.

"It's tough to say (how good the team will be)," Cintorino said. "Everyone else is probably saying the same things that we are right now, so we have to see what the league is going to look like once the season actually kicks off.  Our goal is obviously to compete for a league championship and make it to sectionals and compete in the Class C sectionals, but there are a lot of good teams putting in the same work we are, so we have to wait and see until we get started."

Thursday, August 28, 2014 at 12:01 am

Football Preview: Young players already experienced in winning move into key roles at Notre Dame

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

 

With each turn of a new generation of football players at Norte Dame, Head Coach Rick Mancuso usually finds a way to mold the young players into a winning unit.

Mancuso, of course, stops short of making any predictions for the Fighting Irish in 2014, but he does say he has a good group of young men who have been working hard and putting in the time to get ready for another season.

"Last year, our JV team had a successful season, so they're coming in and they had a lot of experience last year towards the end," Mancuso said. "We pulled up some kids for sections who got some playing time, which is a big advantage for them. Hopefully, we can keep them motivated and learning every day."

The offense will now be in the hands of junior Connor Logsdon, who lead that JV squad last year to its undefeated season.

It steps into the shoes of record-setting QB Tim McCulley, but Mancuso said Logsdon is now his own man with his own offense to run.

"We're not asking him to fill anybody's shoes," Mancuso said. "We're asking him to execute the offense and do what he can do. Everybody's got to do their 1/11th."

Not much about the offensive scheme will change from recent seasons. Notre Dame will run and it will pass and work at setting up scoring opportunities.

"Unless you've got all the horse up front, you can't run the offense one way or the other," Mancuso said. "We're going to mix it up. We'll pretty much run the offense we've been running right along. We won't be spread as much as we were. We'll be spread sometimes, but we've got the full confidence in this team being able to execute what we put in."

The Irish are coming off a 6-2 season that ended jarringly with a 28-0 loss to Alexander in the first round of Class D sectional play. 

Notre Dame opens the season at home against Oakfield-Alabama on Sept. 6 at 1:30 p.m.

"We've got a great group of guys," Mancuso said. "I think everybody is going to do their best to make the team successful."

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 8:54 pm

Football Preview: Oatkan-Knights have a lot to play for in 2014

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

There's a few story lines we could take with Le Roy football for the 2014 season.

The return of starters Mike McMullen at QB and Ryan McQuillen at receiver. A team coming off a 7-1 season but a need to avenge a disappointing OT loss in the Class C sectional final. The expectations on a team with a storied tradition that has a lot of tools, but will be relying on young offensive and defensive lines.

And then there is the final season of Head Coach Brian Moran, in search of his 200th victory, a possible 14th sectional title and -- dare we say it -- a second state title in 26 years at the helm.

The story line Moran has the least interest in, his final season.

"We don't really worry about the final year," Moran said. "We just come out and prepare these kids as best we can. Whether it's your first year or last year, we just want to focus and coach kids up best we can."

Starting with McMullen and McQuillen, the Oatkan-Knights do have some key starters returning, and all of them are guys that are in their third or fourth years on varsity, such as Jon Pierce, Jake Henry, Tom Kelso, Nick Egeling and Kody Lamkin.

That's a lot of talent on a team that we know will be well coached. Is it unfair to have high expectations?

Moran won't go there.

"Every year you come in, you expect to be successful," Moran said. "That's the first thing. Hopefully, we can get ourselves better and compete for a championship again. That will be interesting to see, but it will be up to how the kids perform and how they work together."

Much will depend on the big men up front.

"We're a little inexperienced up front and you're only as good as you play offensively and defensively on the line," Moran said. "Those kids are going to have to really focus and get themselves ready."

One thing's for sure, if history is any indication, Moran and his staff will do everything they can to prepare this team to compete at a high level. Coach's last year, or not.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014 at 5:22 pm

Football Preview: Blue Devils hunting more Ws in 2014

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

Coming into his third year as Batavia's head football coach, Brennan Briggs said both he and his players approach the 2014 season with some optimism.

There are seven returning starters on both sides of the ball, QB comes into his junior season as a second-year starter and there should be some other weapons on offense to help put points on the board.

"Overall the kids' attitude is very good," Briggs said. "They're excited coming into this season. They know they can win some ball games."

Joining Mruczek in the backfield will be a "committee" of runners.

"We've got some thunder and we've got some lightning back there," Briggs said.

During the off season, Mruczek has put the time in to make himself better, according to Briggs. He's studied film and schemes and really picked his brain to understand what it takes to run the offense.

"He's really been doing a great job for us. Great attitude, great commitment."

The coach said returning players who also seem ready to step up their game include Devon Koepp, Gunner Rapone and James Cryer.

Several sophomores who were part of the varsity last year are ready to assume bigger roles in 2014.

The Blue Devils are coming off of two consecutive 3-5 seasons.

Overall, the Briggs era continues to move forward as he works to shape the program according to his vision. 

"One of biggest things, coming into a program and kind of making it your own is setting that bar, setting the expectations of where you want it to be, so the kids understand exactly what you want  from them," Briggs said. "I think we're getting to that point where the kids understand what's expected of them every single day. They understand what kind of effort I'm asking from them."

The first game is Sept. 5, 7:30 p.m., at Livonia. The first home game is Sept. 12, 7 p.m., against Wellsville.

Sunday, July 20, 2014 at 9:07 am

After a lifetime of success with Le Roy football, Andrew Paladino says its time to retire

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

After 30 years of coaching Le Roy High School football, Andrew Paladino is retiring at the end of the 2014 season.

Paladino was defensive coordinator under Head Coach Brian Moran for 25 years. This season will also be Moran's last, and he and Moran always said they would retire together.

"Also, it's time to go," Paladino said during a party in his honor at the shop of Bill Fox. "We've got three former players on staff now. We're leaving them in good hands. Brian Herdlein is a very capable coach. He'll do fine."

Paladino's Le Roy football career started as a player with junior varsity in 1970. In his junior year, as the only junior on the team, he was the starting center and made the All County Team. The following year he slimmed down and started at full back and line backer and was named to the All Rochester Team, the All State First Team, and was named a Prep All American.

Rather than go to college, Paladino decided to get married, take a job and stay in Le Roy.

His coaching career started a couple of years later when he became a youth football coach (as a kid he couldn't play youth football, he said, because he was too fat).

During the Moran/Paladino years, the Oatkan Knights won a state championship (1995) and more than a dozen sectional titles. 

At the party Saturday was Paladino's high school coach, Don Santini, who joined Paladino for a cigar. Paladino said, "This is the man who started it all right here."

Photo: Santini, Paladino and Ron Plummer.

Sunday, June 15, 2014 at 12:14 am

Notre Dame out of sync in state championship semi-final in Binghamton

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

Things really didn't go Notre Dame's way in what turned out to be the baseball team's final game of the season.

Nobody wanted it to end this way, with a 7-1 loss to Smithtown Christian in the Class D semi-final game for the state championship, but Coach Mike Rapone said he told his players to hold their heads high.

"I tried to joke with them that if I told you the first day of practice that, 'you know what, we're going to lose in the state semi's,' I think you might have signed up for it," Rapone said.

Starting pitcher Alec Covel agreed. Clearly pained by the loss, he said he still recognized the Fighting Irish accomplished a lot this year, more than they might have thought possible at the start of the season.

"It's been fun," Covel said, not at all sounding like it has been fun. "I'm going to tell my kids about it someday. It's something to look back to."

Covel clearly had a reason to be disappointed. The ace of the staff, and a big reason Notre Dame made it this far, Covel struggled with his control all afternoon.

He walked the first two batters he faced. Both would score, because of throwing errors, even as Covel recorded all three outs in the inning on Ks.

"I was battling the whole time, pitching from behind and it showed," Covel said.

After the top of the first, Covel went with a coach into the bullpen to throw more.

"I was working on a drill to get over my front side," Covel said. "The mound was flatter than usual and I couldn't get over my front side and I was leaving pitches up."

Catcher Andrew Mullen said he thought Smithtown's hitters did a good job of not letting Covel establish a rhythm.

"The took their time in there, like any good team would," Mullen said. "I think that shook him up and then after that, things really didn't go our way, so he couldn't get comfortable."

Mullen thought Smithtown's starter, Jack Palma, who threw a complete game, threw harder than pitchers Notre Dame has faced recently, but he wasn't unhittable.

In fact, Notre Dame put a lot of balls into play, just not too many of them were hit hard or turned into hits.

"Anything in the infield they would chew up and it was an out for them," Mullen said. "That definitely helped them."

Rapone said Palma wasn't at all overpowering.

"All he threw was a fastball and a change up, but he was keeping us off balance," Rapone said. "We only hit the ball hard but a few times, so you've got to give him credit. Whatever he was doing was working."

Even though Covel walked four, he struck out six and Rapone said he pitched well enough that Smithtown should not have been able to put seven runs on the board.

"If we made some plays behind him, it's a lot closer game," Rapone said. "But they're a good baseball team. They didn't make too many mistakes. They were patient at the plate. They didn't help us out with anything, and we threw the ball around a little bit, misplayed a ball in the outfield we probably should have caught, and that's what happens. When you get to this level, the team that executes better wins. They executed better, so they won."

A team that has been relaxed all year may have found it a little harder to get loose for such a big game, Rapone said.

"I was surprised that, as loose a group as this has been all year, they were a little tight before the game, and then they started playing that way," Rapone said. "I think if we could have gotten out of the first inning, as we probably should have, without giving up anything, maybe we would have relaxed a little bit."

Mullen agreed with Rapone's assessment.

"We were a little nervous coming into this," Mullen said. "It was a lot of pressure on us. We had been really relaxed to this point, but I think being in the final four finally caught up to us. I think a little bit of nerves got to us, and he (Palma) was a good pitcher."

In the final, Smithtown beat Hancock 7-3 to take the state's Class D title.

We'll have a slideshow of more photos available in the morning.

Notre Dame supporters, reminder, it would be a big help with the expense of this coverage if you joined The Batavian Club.

Friday, June 13, 2014 at 9:06 am

Notre Dame rallies for baseball team as it heads off to play for a state championship

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

Notre Dame High School held a rally this morning in support of its baseball team before the team left for Binghamton and a shot at a state championship.

Tomorrow, in a final four match, the Fighting Irish play Smithtown Christian High School. The winner will play either Hancock or Heuvelton Central. The Batavian will bring you full coverage or ND's run at the title. This is only the second time in the school's history that the baseball team has played for a state championship.

Photos submitted by Joseph Scanlan.

Saturday, June 7, 2014 at 11:48 pm

Notre Dame advances to state champion semi-final behind one-hitter by Covel

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

The lore of the ace is the guy who can take the big game on his shoulders and simply dominate. Once again, Notre Dame's Alec Covel showed he's that kind of guy.

He struck out eight of the first nine batters he faced in today's regional championship game in Jamestown against North Collins. If not for some mental lapses in the 4th -- when the Eagles scored two runs without a hit or even a knock into the outfield -- Covel would have completed the game with a one-hit shutout.

Instead, the Fighting Irish advance to the state championship games at Broome Community College next Saturday with a 9-2 win over the Section VI champs.

"I knew he'd pitch a strong game for us," Head Coach Mike Rapone said. "I didn't know it would be that strong. He was really overpowering.

"He was vintage Covel today, that's for sure," Rapone added. "This is what you expect of a big time player in a big time situation and he came through."

The Eagles looked in over their head against Covel from the start of the game. They couldn't catch up with his fastball, and Covel knew it, and curve after curve caused knees to buckle.

"I was feeling really good (during the first three innings)," Covel said. "Everything was working. They weren't catching them, so I just kept throwing fastballs and blowing it past them."

The fourth inning got a little weird and it became easy to imagine the team that looked so dominate minutes earlier could let things get away from them.

Covel hit the first batter he faced in the 4th. The next hitter drew a walk on four pitches.

Catcher Andrew Mullen tried a pick-off play at first and the ball sailed wide of the bag. First baseman Tyler Stroud snagged the errant throw. The Eagle base runner on second was already half way to third and Stroud tried to make the throw. It skipped past Louis Reynolds and North Collins picked up its first run.

Rapone thought Stroud should have just eaten the ball and let the runner advance.

The second run came on a throwing error by Reynolds (Reynolds did not make the throw) off a grounder from the next North Collins hitter.

"Alec's going to get you out of it," Rapone said. "Instead we threw the ball around and allowed those two guys to score."

With the threat of the wheels coming off and North Collins putting together a big inning, Rapone gathered his team on the mound.

"These guys don't get down, but I was afraid they would get a little rattled," said Rapone, who has more than 600 wins as a basketball coach. "It's a little like a timeout in basketball after the other team goes on a little run. You take a timeout and say 'hey, boys, slow down. We've got this. Relax. Take a deep breath.' "

The team got the message and Mullen ended the inning -- a bit of poetic justice -- with a pick-off at first.

Mullen -- who nearly came out of his shoes trying to hit the ball all the way back to Batavia on his first two swings in his next at bat -- would also help tie the game with a bases loaded single, giving Notre Dame a lead, at 4-2, it wouldn't relinquish.

The Irish were confident they could hit the North Collins starter, who had little velocity. His big side-arm curve was easy to pick up and dropped across the plate in a consistent groove. They hit him hard in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings before driving him from the game.

Cal Tygart sparked the Irish offense, leading off in three separate innings and scoring all three times. He was 3-5.

"Cal's been strong for us all year long," Rapone said. "He kind of gets lost in the shuffle with the other guys that we have, but he's really done well for us."

Tygart said it was all about having fun and backing the ace.

"We just needed to give Covel the room he needed to work," Tygart said. "He was pitching really well so we needed to come out and give it our all and give him the room to work with."

Covel finished with 11 strikeouts and only one hit allowed.

The most unusual stat of the game was the eight hit batters on the Notre Dame side. Stroud was hit four times.

Notre Dame's state semi-final championship game will be against Smithtown Christian, from Long Island. The winner of the 10 a.m. game Saturday will advance to the final at 4 p.m. in Binghampton.

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014 at 8:06 am

Notre Dame downs Whitesville 14-3 to advance to Far West Regional Championship

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

A favorable post-season schedule and a duo of dominant pitchers have certainly helped Notre Dame make a championship run, Coach Mike Rapone said after the Fighting Irish beat Whitesville in a Class D consolidation game 14-3.

In years past, by this time Section V and Section VI would already have played their regional championship game, but for Notre Dame, that game won't come until Saturday in Jamestown.

The spread schedule has allowed Rapone's pair of aces -- Alec Covel and Tyler Stroud -- to get plenty of rest between starts.

"They've been dominate all year," Rapone said. "Teams are hitting .100 or less against both of them. Covel's ERA is under one and Tyler's is a little over. You come to expect, I mean, I hate to say it, but you come to expect that you're going to get a well-pitched game. You just hope our defense and hitting keeps up."

Stroud took the mound in Dansville yesterday and gave a command performance through five innings. He struck out seven through five and didn't give up a hit until the fifth, when a Whitesville runner reached base on a close call at first.

"Really, I try not to think about it (the no-hitter), but it's there a little bit," Stroud said. "It's in the back of your head, so of course when I give it up, it's like, ah."

That squib of a hit put two runners on (Stroud had hit the prior batter).

Whitesville's first solid knock would come two batters later when their hitting machine, Cole Tracy, would lace a line drive to right field.

Stroud surrendered two runs in the fifth.

It helped, Stroud said, to have his offense jump to an early lead. The Irish scored a run in the first and then six in the second. 

Covel lead the offense with four hits and three RBIs. Andrew Mullen added two hits and knocked in three runs. Jarrod Wall also had two hits.

Mullen, the team's catcher, now hits clean-up for the Fighting Irish and over the course of the season has become an offensive force. He's playing more relaxed, he said, which has improved his approach at the plate.

"I've realized finally now, it's just a game," Mullen said. "It's fun. After this, it's probably over for me playing baseball, so it's fun to be with the team for three years now and it's all fun from here."

Notre Dame doesn't know yet who its opponent will be Saturday in Jamestown, but Rapone said he's confident the team is ready for the challenge.

"We've played good all year," Rapone said. "We've lost 3-2, 6-4 and 2-0, so we've been in every ball game. You just hope to continue to keep playing and see what happens."

For Notre Dame, all of the seniors are now high school graduates. That means no more classes, no more regular routine, the potential to lose focus.

"That's something you worry about," Rapone said. "It's not the same routine. They used to get up, go to school, then go to practice or a game. Now they're home. Who knows what time they're getting up. Some of them have jobs, so they're already working. That's always a concern this time of year."

How do you keep them focused?

"I just tell them to get up," Rapone said. "Get out of bed. But I'm not there to make sure they do it."

Mullen said that as a graduate, you know this is the last hurrah and that's what keeps you on task.

"It's a little scary to see how fast it flew by, so that's one thing that keeps you focused," Mullen said. "You realize the end is near, so just getting up every day and doing the normal routine, not sleeping in until 3 o'clock, and going straight to the game."

This is a team, Mullen said, that will get the job done.

"We're pretty relaxed," Mullen said. "The team camaraderie is pretty good. We can mess around together. We can get serious together. We always keep each other on task or focused and when it comes to game time, we have all the same goal in mind."

Whitesville's first hit. Ruled safe at first.

As white fluffies fell on the field, Stroud was lifted in the sixth after giving up two hits. Stroud was having a little bit of hip pain, which affected his control and velocity. Even so, Stroud was unhappy about coming out of the game. "I don't like to watch," Stroud said. "I like to be out there."

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014 at 9:38 am

Batavia girls, Le Roy boys pick up Section V titles in track

post by Howard B. Owens in batavia, high school sports, Le Roy, sports, track and field

Batavia High School girls track team won the Section V Class B championship in a meet in Lyons on Saturday.

With 97.50 points, BHS topped Honeoye Falls-Lima at 82.50 and Wayne Central at 76 in a field with 14 teams competing.

Event winners include:

  • Marissa Dispenza, 100 meter hurdles, 15.87
  • Kaylee Cassidy, Alexis Kindig, Emma Eastridge and Claire Zickl, 4x800 relay, 10:02
  • Krystyn Mott, pole vault, 2.81m
  • Celia Flynn, shot put, 9.30m

Le Roy boys won the Class CC championship, with 94 points, topping Williamson Central at 88 and Wellsville at 85.

Event winners include:

  • Rubin Owens, high jump, 1.98m
  • Rubin Owens, long jump, 7.14m
  • Rubin Owens, triple jump, 14.75m
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