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Monday, Nov. 27, 2017: Troy repeats as NYSPHSAA Class AA champion

   Leading off today: Joey Ward's dazzling day on offense -- 300 total yards and four touchdowns -- sparked Troy to a 41-26 win over Lancaster in the NYSPHSAA football finals Sunday, completing the Flying Horses' defense of the Class AA championship.

   Ward rushed 38 times for 233 yards and made five catches for 67 yards in Troy's 26th consecutive victory. Quarterback Joe Casale went 16-for-21 for 239 yards and two touchdowns, and Dev Holmes had eight catches for 107 yards and a touchdown and a key interception.

   Lancaster QB Ryan Mansell hit running back Andrew Hershey on a wheel route for a TD, a Troy drive stalled and Mansell connected with Kyle Backert for a 72-yard touchdown the made it 34-26 with 4:56 left.

   Holmes returned the ensuing kickoff into Legends territory to help set up a Ward 26-yard touchdown run that put the game out of reach.

   "They just refuse to get beat," Troy coach Bob Burns said. "They're such a tough group of kids. We had some tough games throughout but this group here I would never doubt anything they can do. There was no point in the entire season I thought they were going to lose a football game because of the resilience that they have."

   Pleasantville prevails: Junior QB Jack Howe rushed for three touchdowns and the Pleasantville defense forced four turnovers to push the Panthers to a 28-14 victory over Chenango Forks in the NYSPHSAA Class B championship game.

   On the second play from scrimmage, Howe escaped pressure in the backfield and charged down his team's sideline for a 77-yard touchdown. He finished with 151 yards on 12 carries and also went 8-for-12 for 77 through the air. Howe also made a fumble recovery on defense.

   "It definitely lit a match to do that on the second play," Howe said. "I turned around in the end zone and all my boys were jumping on me. It was fun to get the momentum from the start. We were definitely up and down throughout the game, but the end is all that matters."

   Forks' Jeremiah Allen rushed 24 times for 152 yards and two scores, including a 54-yard TD that cut the deficit to 21-14 before Charlie McPhee fought his way to a 26-yard score with 4:26 to go.

   Long Island finals: Justin Zotto's 19-yard interception return late in the fourth quarter wrapped up Lindenhurst's 40-23 win over Oceanside for the school's first Long Island Class I championship.

   Ohio State-bound Jeremy Ruckert had a huge farewell in the win. Ruckert made five catches, scored a TD, kicked a pair of field goals, blocked a field-goal attempt and recorded an interception.

   Oceanside's Tommy Heuer, (43 of 63 for 461 yards and two TDs) cut Lindenhurst's lead to 30-23 by finding Dylan Judd for a 14-yard touchdown pass, but picks by Ruckert and Zotto kept Oceanside from getting on the board again.

   Heuer finished his season with 38 TD passes to tie a Section 8 record set by Lawrence's Joe Capobianco in 2012. Oceanside's Derek Cruz made 17 catches in the final for 166 yards, and Jake Lazzaro made 14 grabs for 180 yards.

    • Westhampton senior Dylan Laube scored six TDs in a 54-26 win over Lawrence in the Class III title contest. He finished with 25 carries for 220 yards.

   The scoring spree gave Laube a Long Island-record 46 TDs, one better than the mark of North Babylon's Jason Gwaltney in 2004. The New Hampshire-bound running back scored four times in the first half to build a 27-7 advantage.

   Section 5 skirmish: In most of the world, NIMBY is an acronym for "not in my back yard." It refers to people trying to quash a project in their neighborhood or community, sometimes out of ignorance or at the expense of the greater good.

   In Section 5, NIMBY has a different meaning: Not in my bracket, y'all.

   The section's boys basketball committee recently removed the 2017-18 classifications breakdown from its website and now we know why. The Democrat and Chronicle reported Sunday that Section 5 officials will meet Wednesday to hear an appeal over which classification Aquinas will play in this season.


   In a twist that qualifies as befuddling, Monroe County's public schools are trying to get private-school nemesis Aquinas moved down a class for the postseason. This comes after the Little Irish were originally slated for Class A-1 and then moved up on Oct. 6 via an 8-1 vote by the sectional classification committee after the Aquinas athletic director volunteered that players coming up from the junior varsity had shown greater promise than previously anticipated, meriting a move to Class AA.

   It's unusual that a private school would willingly move up, but it's also close to unprecedented that the Monroe County Public High School Athletic Conference would seek to stop that school from playing at the highest possible level. In fact, it runs contrary to a common lament of the league's coaches, administrators and fans every time a private school wins a sectional championship in any class.

   Before the classification breakdown was removed from the website, I believe (I'm hedging because I'm not absolutely


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  • sure I downloaded the last version) Class AA consisted of nine MCPHSAC schools, Edison and McQuaid of the Rochester City Athletic Conference placed there on actual enrollment figures, and two non-public schools (Aquinas and Bishop Kearney) that had been moved up.

       On the other hand 10 of the 11 Class A-1 schools were from the MCPHSAC, potentially creating the perception that the league is arguing against the best interests of more of its own members by moving Aquinas down a class.

       "Our league has a lot of 'AA' schools," retired Irondequoit AD Dennis Fries of the MCPHSAC told the paper. "A lot more smaller class schools are ending up in AA and A.

       "On the other side of the coin, let's say you are a school who hasn't been to the semifinals in a number of years, and you feel that next year you have a good chance. Then all of a sudden, there is Bishop Kearney (or another strong team)."

       Aquinas AD Anthony Bianchi said hearing the latest development led him to discuss the team's possible fates with coach John McCauley.

       "Honestly, we don't care," Bianchi said. "We know we're going to have our hands full in either AA or A."

       A few thoughts: The Monroe County schools' strategy is puzzling. If nothing else, Aquinas playing in Class AA would be a gift since it would mean at least two of the three private schools (Aquinas, Kearney and McQuaid) would go trophy-less in that class and that the title in Class A-1 would almost certainly go to one of the MCPHSAC schools.

       I note that in the context of suspicions -- perhaps not unfounded -- that Aquinas and Kearney may have manipulated the system a few years ago by doing their best to stay in different brackets, giving each a somewhat better chance of winning titles.

        • The current situation is more than a little reminiscent of a situation a few years back when Aquinas had started to win the Section 5 Class A football final on a regular basis. If I recall correctly, Aquinas scuttled one of the first attempts merely by showing up at a meeting with a lawyer. A year or two later, it was Monroe County schools who put a bullet in the notion of moving the team into Class AA, where the largest suburban schools played.

        • Perhaps Fries, a longtime acquaintance with whom I worked on the Section 5 football hall of fame committee, did not express himself as succinctly as intended, but his quote in the newspaper subtly hints at a rather socialist attitude that berths in the semifinals are to be rotated among the membership rather than possibly earned by any team placed in the class under sectional rules.

       That would be consistent with the attempt by Monroe County's suburban superintendents in November 2015 to have Section 5 and the NYSPHSAA remove private schools from playoff competition, a case built on a sense of entitlement and dubious data that I eviscerated back then.

        • I can't help but wonder how much a couple of results from the fall sports season motivated the MCPHSAC. Word of the superintendents' bid for removal two years ago conveniently leaked as Aquinas was coming down the homestretch of a state-championship season in football.

       Earlier this month, that school won a Section 5 football championship in Class AA and shared a state title in girls Class B soccer. The latter rubbed more than a few people the wrong way, because Aquinas went all the way to the sectional Class A final against Spencerport the previous season.

       Aquinas should have had more than half its starters back from that 2016 team, but three top juniors dropped out of high school soccer to commit full-time to their club program. Still, the returning roster is just one of numerous criteria the section's classification committee weighs. One could argue that the runner-up finish in 2016 and program history in general might have merited keeping Aquinas in Class A.

        • The latest situation is further evidence that the NYSPHSAA Executive Committee wasn't out of line last month in approving the creation of a classification oversight committee to review the sectional decisions for the placement of non-public and charter schools beginning with the 2018-19 school year.

       There's a feeling out there that the committee will mostly be inclined to ask why certain teams aren't being moved up. But it's a good bet that they will take more than a casual interest in why public schools would try to get a private school moved down.

       As an aside, NYSPHSAA Executive Director Robert Zayas said last week that the organization has been making progress on identifying candidates and could announce the six appointees to the committee before the end of the year.

        • Full disclosure: As I always try to note when writing about issues involving the school, I am a long-ago graduate of Aquinas and currently a member of the school's hall of fame committee. Understandably, some readers may feel that my analysis is affected by that connection.

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