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Monday, Aug. 27, 2018: Stadium security coming into focus as new concern

   Leading off today: Imagine being the site supervisor in charge at a football game attended by 1,900 students and adults when suddenly gunshots are heard, sending spectators -- and the players and coaches -- scurrying for cover and toward the exits.

   Multiply attendance by a factor of 20 and now that supervisor's problems are probably 50 times worse.

   That's what authorities were up against Saturday in Little Rock, Ark., when more than 38,000 fans showed up at War Memorial Stadium for the Salt Bowl contest between Benton and Bryant high schools.

   Bryant was leading 28-14 in the third quarter when what sounded like gunshots caused panic. Authorities determined later that there had been no gunfire. What the attendees had actually heard was the echo of barriers being knocked over in a concourse as spectators fled a fight that had broken out.

   Not surprisingly, there were injuries amidst the chaos and traffic was a mess outside the stadium as people tried to flee.

   Already there have been fatal shootings near a varsity football game in Florida and a JV game in California this month. In that context, The Journal News spoke to local school district officials to see how they go about preparing for crowds at games and all the associated contingencies.

   During a trip this summer to Georgia with his son's baseball team, Spring Valley AD Bill Pilla took note of some athletic facilities. He told the paper there were the typical warning signs against alcohol and trespassing, but there was an unfamiliar addition: "No firearms."

   "This is something I would never even think of in New York, in Section 1," Pilla said. "Being from New York and understanding where we are, we act very quickly. We don't wait for something to happen."

   Updated schedules: We've updated the week-by-week schedules for the high school football season that kicks off Thursday to reflect changes made after several teams dropped the sport or converted to eight-man football last week.

   The biggest development is that Sections 4 and 5 have gone their separate ways in eight-man football. With Oakfield-Alabama/Elba making the late decision to go to eight-man, the four Rochester region schools will settle for home-and-home scheduling against each other and the five Section 4 schools will also revert to closer-to-home scheduling.


   Weekend leftovers: Elmira Notre Dame senior Laurel Vargas scored four goals Saturday in an 11-0 girls soccer win vs. Newfield to reach 102 tallies for her career. The Xavier University recruit, who scored 28 times as a junior, is the fourth player in program history to reach 100 goals. football site

   Following up: The previous blog mentioned that Arizona was the latest state in which the governing body for high schools had embraced esports. The blog also mentioned SUNY Canton's esports team, which competes in the National Association of Collegiate Esport.

   Well, Newsday reported late last week that eight Long Island schools -- Bay Shore, Jericho, Journey Prep, Locust Valley, North Shore, Sachem North, Sayville and St. Anthony's -- are members of the national High School Esports League.

   A little digging turned up approximately two dozen other schools scattered across the state that are affiliated with the HSEL.

   Participation survey: Participation in high school sports increased for the 29th consecutive year in 2017-18, according to the annual survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

   The number of participants last school year reached an all-time record of 7,979,986. The growth was led by the number of girls participating reaching a record 3,415,306 athletes. Boys participation also set a record at 4,564,680.

   With 1,035,942 participants, 11-man football remains the No. 1 boys sport, easily outpacing outdoor track and field (600,097) and basketball (551,373).

   Among girls, outdoor track (488,592), volleyball (446,583) and basketball (412,407) held down the top spots.

   New York remains third behind Texas (824,619) and California (819,625) in the number of athletes participating.

   Transactions: Michael Kelly, who's written quite a few features and enterprise pieces on high school sports there, has taken over as sports editor as The Daily Gazette in Schenectady. He replaces Mark McGuire, who has taken a job outside the industry.

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