Leading off today:
Perennial NYSPHSAA Class D power Maple Grove is making the move
to eight-man football for the upcoming season. Coach Justin Hanft announced the decision to players and parents Wednesday night after notifying Section 6 earlier in the day.
"It's a tough decision, especially given the rich history of football at Maple Grove," Hanft said, "but we're doing the best we can with the situation we've been presented."
After winning sectional crowns while merged with Chautauqua Lake in 2014 and 2015, the Red Dragons made back-to-back trips to the state Class D title game in 2016 and 2017 and played in the sectional final last fall. The program won New York State Public High School Athletic Association titles in 1998 and 2008.
Maple Grove began fall practice to Monday with 19 players and will join Frewsburg in the Section 6 eight-man ranks. Frewsburg was already part of a scheduling arrangement with five Section 5 schools, and it's expected that Maple Grove will follow suit.
The Maple Grove move was telegraphed earlier in the year when the Red Dragons were listed as the Week 8 opponent for Frewsburg.
Section 6 will have to fill holes in the schedules of its remaining Class D teams, a process that could be helped in the coming days if smaller programs in nearby sections also make decisions to drop down to eight-man football.
L.I. district struggling: Wyandanch supporters are barely halfway to meeting the goal that will allow the district to field sports teams for the fall season.
High school principal Paul Sibblies told Newsday he has received $50,267 from six individuals after a summer-long fundraising after the district contingency budget approved last spring did not include funding for sports.
Sibblies said the district needs to reach $100,000 to ensure it can cover football, boys and girls soccer and junior varsity girls volleyball, which start practice next week. An additional $200,000 is needed to cover expenses for the winter and spring sports.
Football coach Josh Shields said uniforms, helmets and pads have not been sent out to be cleaned, repaired and recertified because of the uncertainty surrounding the program. He said other coaches have offered to let them borrow equipment in the meantime.
The contingency budget led to layoffs of 30 teachers as well as dozens of other employees and cancellation of after-school programs. Superintendent Mary Jones was placed on paid administrative leave last week, a decision that new school board president Shirley Baker said was brought on by the district's financial woes.
A future derailed: Former all-state basketball player TeeSean Ayala was sentenced to five years in prison Wednesday for possessing a handgun and stealing from at least eight homes in and around Batavia where he was once welcomed as a friend, The Daily News reported.
Ayala, 20, graduated from Batavia in 2018 and had attracted some Division I interest but was taking a year off before enrolling in college when a traffic stop last November resulted in hi being connected to a stolen gun. His cooperation in front of the grand jury, including identifying others involved in burglaries, bought Ayala some good will. Prosecutors did not push for the maximum 15-year prison sentence and Judge Charles Zambito allowed Ayala to go free to be present for the birth of his child, who was in court Wednesday for the sentencing.