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Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018: Nichols drops football for upcoming season

   Leading off today: Small-school football got a lot smaller Thursday following a series of developments in the western half of the state.

   In Buffalo, Nichols officials announced they would not be able to field a team this fall due to a lack of players.

   Nichols posted a 1-6 record in 2017. The previous season, the Vikings went 0-7.

   "We worked hard to continue football at the high school level in recent years by combining with other schools, but with so few students from Nichols and our partner schools coming out this year, it is impossible for us to field a team large enough to compete safely," school officials said in a statement.

   Not much more than half an hour to the east, Oakfield-Alabama/Elba officials disclosed that they would be the fourth Section 5 team to shift to eight-man football for the upcoming season. Again, declining numbers was cited as the issue.

   This is the first season of the combined program between O-A and Elba.

   Section 5's other eight-man programs are part of a scheduling agreement with Section 4 this fall, and the O-A/Elba decision likely will require an overhaul of that schedule.

   Earlier this week, Weedsport in Section 3 dropped down to eight-man football. On Thursday, there was a landslide of similar announcements in Central New York.

   Class D schools West Canada Valley and Morrisville-Eaton, and Class C Sherburne-Earlville all announced a switch from 11-man to eight-man football.

   That swells the Section 3 total to 11 teams playing eight-man this fall. With Tupper Lake of Section 10 part of their scheduling alliance. Section 3 will split its teams into a pair of six-team divisions. The 12-team league is suddenly Section 3's third-largest football league -- behind only Class B (16 teams) and C (14).

   Barring a late change, the eight-man season will open Sept. 14-15.


   What's it all mean? We're now up to 29 teams playing eight-man football this season -- with ample time for that number to climb since the eight-man leagues kick off their regular season later than the 11-man leagues.

   The O-A/Elba development means that we're now up to four sections with four or more eight-man teams. As the NYSSWA's Steve Grandin points out, there aren't any real prospects for two more sections to reach four teams in the immediate future, so we're still a ways off from having an official eight-man state championship. On the other hand, it's worth asking whether logistics can be worked out to organize a "regional" championship in the sport in 2019 similar to what girls ice hockey has been doing for a few years.

   And as Grandin also noted, we're down to just five sections with four or more Class D teams in the 11-man version of the sport. I've raised the point before that the legitimacy of the football site

Class D state champ- ionship could be called into question, and working our way out of the problem by changing the classification cutoffs might be easier said than done for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association.

   It's tough to tell how the converging issues might affect the discussion about whether adding a sixth class to some state tournaments is the right direction to go.

   Exit confirmed: Dior Johnson confirmed this week he is transferring to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., putting an end to one of the worst-kept secrets in New York high school sports.

   Though he had quickly retracted the statement, the rising freshman had already said at the end of the Saugerties basketball season that he would be leaving for IMG. Nothing since had given anyone reason to think that the career 1,000-point scorer was staying in-state.

   Johnson averaged 31.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.1 assists in his eighth-grade season.

   He already possesses for than a dozen scholarship offers from Division I colleges.

   Interesting partnership: One of the nation's most successful football programs has reached a deal to stream nine of its 10 regular-season football games via one of the most popular high school sports websites.

   MaxPreps announced this week it has partnered with Concord (Calif.) De La Salle via CBS Sports Digital in a deal covering multiple sports.

   De La Salle set a national high school record with 151 straight football wins from 1992 to 2004 and currently boasts a 290-game unbeaten streak against Northern California opponents.

   The streaming deal starts Friday as De La Salle takes on Folsom (Calif.), which returns 17 starters from a team that went 16-0 last season. Folsom features QB Kaiden Bennett, who accounted for 5,549 yards and 73 touchdowns in 2017.

   Extra points: Ossining's Dan Ricci says this will be his 15th and final season as the head football coach. He will continue to coach the Pride's potent girls basketball team.

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