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Friday, Oct. 19, 2018: Players, coaches in WNY say they want more games

   Leading off today: The Buffalo News asked 34 Western New York football coaches and 119 players an open-ended question, and a third of the coaches and 20 percent of the players said they wanted a longer season, the paper reported Friday.

   "If there's any coach that's been happy with a seven-game schedule, I haven't met him yet," said Ken Stoldt, the Section 6 football chairman. "And why it hasn't expanded, I haven't been given an answer."

   The issue is only marginally in play at the state level. Although the New York State Public High School Athletic Association is moving toward a vote on changing the master schedule for its sports seasons, the mostly likely scenario is that the discussed move to push back the end of the season by a week would be negated by also starting fall practice and then the regular season a week later.

   Separately, a proposal to restore regular-season games that were axed due to the recession a decade ago could allow teams that do not qualify for sectionals to play additional games.

   Other questions asked by the paper in the unscientific survey resulted in these replies:

    • Favorite NFL team (aside from the hometown Bills): Pittsburgh Steelers.

    • Favorite NFL player: J.J. Watt by a whisker over Antonio Brown.

    • Favorite college team: Ohio State.

   Sec. 5 coach retiring: Bath football coach Wayne Carroll has retired after 27 seasons and five Section 5 championships at the school.

   Carroll's application for early retirement was approved by the school board on Thursday. The move comes weeks after Carroll was put on a leave of absence this season for personal reasons citing medical leave.

   Assistant Mark Recktenwald has been serving as interim head coach.

   Seriously? I mean, seriously? The Rochester City School District's board of education did not have a good night Thursday. A scathing report from auditors uncovered multiple issues with the way the nearly $1 billion annual budget is handled and the superintendent pulled a major surprise after the meeting by announcing her impending retirement to local media shortly before midnight.

   During the meeting, the school board approved a plan under which two School of the Arts students will be able to play ice hockey as part of the suburban Rush-Henrietta team beginning next month. And this is what we got from school board member Cynthia Elliott, per a Democrat and Chronicle reporter.

   Joking or not, it takes a dimly lit bulb -- a specialty for any number of the area's elected officials -- to say that out loud. Then, again, intelligent leadership is so hard to come by in Rochester that the city is one of the few school districts in the state that has to pay people to serve on its school board.

   About streaks: Cuba-Rushford is a long way from my domicile in Rochester, but I've kind of kept track of their girls volleyball team from afar since the day Sally Kus landed there as the head coach in 2009.

   I took notice this morning that the Rebels moved within a match of their second consecutive undefeated regular season courtesy of a 25-18, 25-19, 28-26 win Wednesday vs. Fillmore. Cuba-Rushford plays Houghton on Friday before beginning sectionals.


   This is the first time in more than 40 years that Kus is not coaching in an official capacity in high school or college though she does serve as a volunteer assistant for the varsity on which her granddaughter plays. Some of her previous Cuba-Rushford varsity teams before stepping down were quite good, but none struck fear in opponents like Sweet Home did at the peak of the Panthers' dominance from 1978-87 as they won 292 consecutive matches to set what was then a national high school record for any sport.

   I called Kus recently is anticipation of the Spencerport girls soccer team running its unbeaten streak to 60 games over three seasons last week to set a NYSPHSAA record. football site

   "With all of the winning we were doing we had points in our pocket before matches even started," she told me. "Just because we had 'Sweet Home' on our shirts we were already up 5-0."

   Sweet Home's winning streak came in the era before the NYSPHSAA championship tournament, which in the minds of some created questions about legitimacy. The Panthers answered that criticism by winning the large-school title of the first six NYSPHSAA tournaments beginning in 1990, and Kus left for the college ranks not long afterward with a record of 792 wins against just 29 losses in 23 seasons.

   The girls on those latter teams had it made. They'd lose the occasional regular-season match as a consequence of Kus' decision to upgrade an already rigorous schedule by going outside the state. But they had the luxury of focusing their greatest effort on the postseason without having to also defend a fabled streak that made it into Sports Illustrated and USA Today once Sweet Home eclipsed the national mark of 218 wins by the Baskin, La., girls basketball team from 1947-53.

   "I'd hear from kids after they went off to college and they would say they were so glad theirs wasn't the team that lost," Kus said. "The last year we kept the streak going we graduated a powerhouse of seniors. I always believed in reloading instead of rebuilding, which you do by developing your younger players along the way.

   "We had such a great senior class that Santa Claus could have coached that last group and I didn't play my younger players as much ... I didn't sub as much. Part of it was I didn't want to lose a game because volleyball can be so mental and players are thinking about the last point instead of the next one."

   The Panthers paid the price in the 1987 season with a loss in the final of Eden's tournament to Horseheads, which has been another of the state's elite programs for long stretches of time. It was the setback that Kus had been preparing her girls for by means of the same speech at the beginning of each season, putting aside her own well-known superstitions by addressing the topic head-on.

   "I'd say, 'One match at a time' and tell them there's going to come a time this year or maybe next or sometime that we're going to lose," she said. "I just want to talk to y,u about how we're going to handle it. Be stoic, recognize they beat us. Shake hands afterward. And then go to the locker room and cry your eyes out if you want."

   For the record, the Panthers followed those instructions. The fateful match came Oct. 10, 1987, by a score of 15-8, 14-16, 15-11 after Sweet Home fought off five match points in the second game.

   "Horseheads started to go bonkers and then all of sudden it hit them," Kus recalled of the end of the match. "They were very respectful towards us and handled it very well and with class."

   The proverbial sun came up the next day but did so with fog mixed in as the players and their coach wrestled with disappointment. The next match was an unexpectedly close league win over Frontier, and Kus became concerned.

   "I went to my AD and said they were in depression and I had no idea what to do," she admitted.

   That athletic director, Bob Barczak, is regarded as legendary in Western New York. His solution to the dilemma helps explain why. He told Kus the school should hold a funeral for the streak, and the buy-in for the idea was immediate and widespread.

   "The kids made a coffin and we had a pep assembly making a big production of burying the streak," Kus recalled. "We had a kid in a panther costume in the coffin with volleyballs. All of sudden the panther pops up and starts spiking volleyballs at a horse mascot to represent Horseheads -- we were going to play them again in two weeks -- and it worked. It was just what our team needed."

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