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Thursday, Sept., 7, 2017: Greece's four schools will merge into one hockey team

   Leading off today: The folks in charge can keep explaining this one until the cows come home, but there's something puzzling about this picture.

   The Greece Central School District, with four high schools and a combined BEDS figure of 2,570, will field just one boys ice hockey team in the upcoming season.

   It's not the first time that has happened, but the district has typically sponsored two teams per year competing in Section 5. One of those two-school teams won a NYSPHSAA Division I championship in 2009, when the combined BEDS for the four high schools was around 3,100.

   The district, one of the five largest suburban districts in the state, cites the lower overall enrollment as a factor in consolidating what used to be known as the Greece Lightning (Olympia and Arcadia) and Greece Thunder (Athena and Odyssey) teams, with the budget also a consideration. Somewhere along the way, though, interest in hockey has plunged -- and may not even have finished bottoming out yet.

   "I think it was necessary," coach Rob Howell told the Democrat and Chronicle. "This has been something that former players and parents wished would've happened three or four years ago. It's been talked about for three or four years."

   Howell said the projected combined player pool if Greece stayed with the two-team format this winter was about 38 varsity athletes, many of whom would have been underclassmen. Some of those younger skaters will now end up playing for the junior varsity.

   "The overall participation in Greece (hockey) has went down for some odd reason," Howell said. "I don't know why. It goes in cycles. This year's senior class will have 12 to 14 kids (in the sport). Last year, I had three seniors. This freshman¬†and sophomore class coming in, the numbers are really low. I'm hoping (the merger is) not a short-term fix, but a long-term solution."

   There are numerous combined hockey teams across the state. In Section 5 alone last season, there was one collaboration of four schools (Geneva, Waterloo, Romulus and Bloomfield) and another of three (Geneseo, Livonia and Avon).

   Milestone: Four-year starter Bryce Schiltz scored the contest's only goal at 12:12 of overtime against Canisius to give East Aurora coach Kevin Beale his 300th win.

   Beale has led the Blue Devils to 10 Section 6 championships since becoming varsity coach in 1997.


   On the move: John Bowne's prospects for success in PSAL boys basketball this season have taken a hit with the decision by 6-foot-8 Kareem Reid to transfer to Putnam Science in Connecticut.

   Reid, who would have been a junior this season, had already accumulated some offers from mid-major colleges, but Rutgers and UMass also recently offered according to He averaged better than 10 points and 12 rebounds a game in the Queens 'AA' league last season.

   Coming up: The inaugural induction class of 18 individuals in the NYSSCOGS New York State High School Girls Soccer Hall of Fame will be enshrined in a ceremony football site

Saturday afternoon at Herkimer County Community College.

   Among those being enshrined are all-time international soccer scorer Abby Wambach of Our Lady of Mercy and current U.S. Women's National Team members Allie Long (Northport) and Crystal Dunn (Rockville Centre South Side).

   The weekend festivities include a busy schedule of games at the college and two high school fields.

   Some of the heavyweights playing will be 2016 NYSPHSAA Class AA finalist Massapequa, reigning state Class B champ Chenango Forks and CHSAA powerhouse St. Anthony's.

   Good reading: Nolan Weidner of came through Thursday with a terrific profile of Tully's Jim Paccia, a three-sport-a-year coach since arriving at the school in 1983.

   Paccia, 61, was a high school wrestler in Massachusetts but found a passion for running while serving in the Air Force at Fort Lee in Virginia.

   Cross country has been Paccia's focus, but he also coached wrestling for 15 years along with indoor and outdoor track. He oversaw all cross country and outdoor track at Tully until Michelle Rauber took over the girls programs there.

   His reputation is that of a master motivater who can push his runners to the maximum in practice in ways that help them forget just how agonizing five miles in 44 degrees and rain can be in late October.

   "Jim's just kind of cut differently," AD Don McClure said. "He is a coach that puts kids way ahead of results. But he gets results because he treats people with respect. He makes the kids feel welcome, and he makes them feel valued -- and they succeed because of that. That's not to say other coaches are doing it wrong, it's just the way he does things."

   Weidner's profile is solid from top to bottom, but it's mandatory reading if you're an Aerosmith fan. Go see for yourself.

    • On the subject of veteran coaches, Gary Tocke is back with the Kenmore East boys volleyball squad.

   Tocke started the school's volleyball program in 1968, coaching for 41 years and winning more than 500 contests before he retired in 2009. He's back after the district had difficulty finding a coach for the new season and reached out to Tocke in July.

   "When I saw they couldn't find anyone to coach, I didn't want to see the program go," he told

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