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Sunday, July 14, 2019: Retired Sweet Home football, lacrosse coach Faller dies

   Leading off today: The Western New York scholastic sports community has reacted with shock and sorrow to news of the death of retired Sweet Home football and lacrosse coach John Faller.

   Longtime football assistant and friend Mike Faulks as well as Section 6 football chairman Ken Stoldt confirmed Faller's death in his home Saturday at the age of 70.

   "He was a great teacher, a great man, a good friend, a good family man," Faulks told The Buffalo News.

   Faller, who was also an athletic director, is best known for leading Sweet Home to back-to-back state football championships and unbeaten seasons in football in 2008 and 2009. In total, his Panthers football and boys lacrosse teams combined for 14 Section 6 championships.

   In addition to his 217-84-1 mark in football over 32 seasons, Faller built the school's lacrosse program from scratch despite never having played the sport in an athletic career that included a football scholarship to the University at Buffalo. He rolled up 373 lacrosse victories in 39 seasons, second in Western New York history to Orchard Park's Gene Tundo.

   "He was an amazing individual," said longtime Buffalo-area high school sports observer Dick Gallagher. "He was just an outstanding coach, person, class act. This is devastating for not just his family but all the coaches and players and kids he mentored over the years. His legacy is one of the best

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ever for anyone in Western New York high school sports."

   On a personal note: I don't get outside the Rochester area very often in my role of running the New York State Sportswriters Association website and blogging about news developments around the state, so much of my personal contact with coaches beyond Section 5 comes during the postseason.

   At the height of Sweet Home's success in foot- ball, my dealings with John Faller often consisted of postgame interviews at NYSPHSAA quarterfinals -- often against Aquinas -- and then at the Carrier Dome.

   Faller used to kid me about "our annual con- versation" and playfully poked fun -- win or lose during a time of a great intersectional rivalry -- about me having attended Aquinas. But we also had serious conversations, including our mutual respect for Brockport coach and Section 5 administrator Doug Wescott, a significant influence on Faller.

   Too, I remember how shaken Faller was after Sweet Home football star Deshanaro Morris was left paralyzed below the waist after a Dec. 31, 2008, traffic mishap a month after the Panthers had won a state title.

   Faller made sure that Morris remained included in as much of team's activities that he could handle while continuing his rehabilitation as a senior.

   If it wasn't already in progress, I would guess that a nomination to induct Faller into the NYSPHSAA Hall of Fame would be appropriate and would likely be looked upon quite favorably by the screening committees.

   Following up: It's been just short of a year since an altercation in Batavia left star running back Ray Leach with multiple stab wounds less than a month before the state of a spectacular senior season that earned him a share of the state player of the year award in Class a.

   A teammate was arrested almost immediately afterward, which would typically lead to a relatively quick resolution through the court system.

   In this instance, however, there have been a handful of delays, including suspect Antwan Odom's late decision to turn down a plea deal that some assumed was his best possible outcome.

   Well, The Daily News in Batavia has shed some light on one of the hitches in the process that has kept the case from proceeding and thereby giving us a glimpse at what happened that day.

   The paper reports that Odom's case is one of at least two that have been stalled because a Genesee County Court stenographer used audio recordings of grand jury proceedings -- a big "no-no" in legal jargon -- to assist in the transcription process.

   Judge Charles Zambito is sorting out the situation with prosecutors and several defense lawyers. Consequently, Odom's trial has been pushed back again, this time until at least Sept. 30.

   First reminder: Tryouts have been proceeding in recent weeks for the BCANY Summer Hoops Festival coming up early next month.

   The ninth annual event for star-studded regional boys and girls squads sponsored by the Basketball Coaches Association of New York takes place Aug. 2-4 in Johnson City.


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