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Tuesday, July 3, 2018: Elmira Notre Dame going to eight-man football

   Leading off today: The scaled-down version of New York high school football has grown once again.

   Elmira Notre Dame, coming off a 5-2 season last fall, is switching to eight-man football for the upcoming season.

   Notre Dame will join Lansing, Newfield Oxford and Unadilla Valley in Section 4's new league. Combined with Section 5's Marcus Whitman, Holley and C.G. Finney/Northstar, they will have enough teams for a seven-game schedule even without the all-but certain arrival of still more eight-man teams once the reality of small turnouts hits more programs in August.

   More football: The Democrat and Chronicle reported this week that Aquinas and McQuaid remain in a bit of limbo with regard to their playoff classification for the upcoming season.

   Both are requesting to play in Class AA and are awaiting review from the Section 5 Non-Public/Charter School Classification Committee. It's possible that the decision might not be made until mid-August.

   Coupled with the distinct possibility that one or two more Section 5 schools might shift to eight-man football in the next seven weeks, the section has not yet released an official 2018 schedule. That could make for some very messy last-minute changes.

   For instance, if Aquinas and McQuaid somehow land in Class A, it would give the sport the 18 teams necessary to split 'A' into two sectional classes. If eight teams are allowed into each playoff bracket, then the regular season would have to be shortened to six games.

   That in itself creates a boatload of fresh problems, not the least of which is that some of the affected teams currently have Week 7 games scheduled against non-league opponents who would be left scrambling for games. (Personally, I'd pay $10 to watch Aquinas vs. St. Francis in Week 7 than attend a playoff quarterfinal between a 6-0 and a 1-5 team for free.)

   Said Aquinas coach Derek Annechino: "Leave us (in 'AA') because there's no reason to take us out of it. They moved us into AA for a reason. It was for a good reason. We didn't complain about it then. We've been able to hold our own."

   Former star athlete slain: The New York State Trooper shot and killed early Monday after responding to a suicidal man barricaded inside a home in the town of Erwin was a former state wrestling champion who went on to a notable football career at Alfred University.

   Trooper Nicholas Clark was among the responders to a 3:30 a.m. call that sent law enforcement to the community just south of Corning. During the response, Clark, 29, was fatally shot by Bradford Central School District principal Steven Kiley, who was later found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

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   "Nick is one of the all-time greats that has ever worn the Purple & Gold and did so in a way that left a legacy that will never be forgotten," Alfred University AD Paul Vecchio in a statement.

   Clark, who graduated from the New York State Police Academy in 2015, was a four-year letterman with the Saxons and was the first athlete to be selected Empire 8 defensive player of the year twice. He set a Saxons record with 377 career tackles and also recorded 26 touchdowns.

   Before that, Clark wrestled for Canisteo-Greenwood, where

  
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he was the state Division II runner-up at 189 pounds as a junior in 2005 and then the NYSPHSAA champ the next season.

   "He led by example. He was strong, he was the best at everything he did, but you would never know it. He was humble, polite and did everything with class, representing his family, the name of the school on the front of his jersey or the state police on his uniform," said Batavia Daily News Managing Editor John Anderson, who covered Clark in high school and college.

   Said Alfred University President Mark Zupan: "Whenever the Saxons got into a tough situation on the football field, the coaches sent in Nick Clark to get the job done."

   Heading to retirement: The fact that he's named his dog after legendary Kenyan Kip Keino is your first clue that Rich Bernstein coached distance runners.

   The mini goldendoodle, was given to Bernstein by his wife, Judy, after he decided to retire this spring following 36 seasons as a cross country coach at Ithaca High.

   "(My wife) said, 'You know what, you need a project," Bernstein told reporter Andrew Legare. "You need somebody to coach. She said, 'You're not going to coach us.' Go get this dog and you're the primary trainer, which I do a lot of. That was my project."

   Bernstein, 67, became the head coach in 1984 and also handled track and field for two decades at Ithaca, where he was a guidance counselor and more recently a part-time graduation coach for athletics. His cross country teams earned 34 Section 4 boys or girls championships.

   "It was just a good time to leave," he said. "I had maybe a couple of years left. But this year I had a sectional championship with the girls, a very young girls team. We placed at states, went to Federations. I had a state champion in Silas Derfel, who was an All-American at Nike Nationals. It was just a good break. A bunch of seniors graduating, so I'm leaving a good team for the next coach."

    • Derfel, a Syracuse University recruit, is rehabbing after suffering torn ankle ligaments.


  
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