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Friday, Oct. 4, 2019: Section 1 confirms full return to previous hoops venue

   Leading off today: The Westchester County Center will resume hosting all Section 1 boys and girls basketball semifinals and finals in the upcoming season, the section announced Friday.

   It marks the first time all games will be held at the facility since 2017. The WCC had hosted the boys championships since 1933 and the girls championships since 1999 when the section made the controversial decision to move the games to Pace University two years ago.

   The section approved the WCC as host site of the finals in June, but the semifinals site was not officially approved by the sectional Executive Committee until Friday.

   Ex-Batavia athlete cleared: A Genesee County jury found 19-year-old Antwan Odom not guilty of the Aug. 4, 2018, stabbing of Batavia football star Ray Leach.

   Odom had been charged with first-degree assault, which carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison, and criminal possession of a weapon. Jurors deliberated for five hours Thursday and nearly two hours Friday before returning with the verdict.

   Odom put his hands over his face and wept, running to his family for hugs, The Daily News reported.

   "I felt like I've been walking through the dark alone," he said. "It's hard. I don't know how I could move on with life

with this hanging over my head. Sometimes I wanted to kill myself."

   Juror Carol Roberts said the jury found Odom's testimony was credible, in that he was knocked unconscious by Leach and didn't remember what happened.

   Leach, then 17 and a month away from a spectacular senior football season, had confronted Odom on Aug. 4 outside Odom's house, accusing him of stealing $50 in change from his room while Leach was away on vacation. Odom testified than Leach had also accused his teamate of stealing a quantity of marijuana.

   Leach suffered 12 cuts, mostly superficial. Police never recovered a weapon.

   Odom's lawyer argued in his opening and closing statements that authori- ties pursued the case because Leach was the star football player, despite the fact that Leach was the aggressor.

   Shortage getting worse: The Western New York Chapter of the New York State Association of Certified Football Officials'

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manpower shortage is causing Section 6 teams to move games to Thursday nights.

   "We continue to get older, the referees continue to get older," said Dale Mussen, the organization's secretary-treasurer. "But the players are always the same. So we need some new blood in our organization."

   The WNYCFO has around 130 officials in the organization and just 90 of them certified to referee varsity games.

   The shortage of officials has been compounded by more schools adding lights to their fields and moving Saturday afternoon games to an already-heavy Friday schedule.

   This is an issue? Seriously? Here's the lead from a story this week"

   Jon Sgarlata wonders what he and his Weedsport football team are supposed to do.

   The Warriors, who dropped from 11-to eight-man football in 2018 to preserve a program at the school with a proud gridiron history, haven't exactly felt the love since joining Section 3's Eight-man league last fall.

   Weedsport won the section championship in its inaugural season as an eight-man program.

   Rumblings about the size of the Warriors' roster, which grew from 19 to 25 after six youngsters were brought up to dress out for games and stand on the sidelines, began late in the 2018 season as Weedsport cruised to an 8-1 record.

   This year, those rumblings grew louder as Sgarlata's roster ballooned to 35 players at the start of fall practice -- too late, the coach said, to ask Section 3 to return to playing the 11-man game.

   "It's creating the perception that we're not doing things on the up and up," Sgarlata said this week. "I get it, but there's nothing we can do."

   No other eight-man team in the section has more than 25 players on the roster.

   The perception is made worse by Weedsport's 2-0 start to the season, but the facts seem to be on Sgarlata's side. Most significantly, Weedsport had only 22 players committed to football on Feb. 1, the Section 3 cutoff date for picking an option for the upcoming season.

   The number of potential players stood at 24 on Aug. 1, but 11 newcomers showed up at a meeting on the eve of the opening day of practice.

   "We're just not going to turn kids away," the coach said.

    • A pair of Ohio schools are the first onboard to form that state's first eight-man league in hopes that more teams will join in the near future. Toledo Christian and Stryker have agreed to a four-year commitment to the Northern 8 Football Conference.

   Holgate and Danbury high schools have also expressed interest in joining the league, but both need approval from their school boards before they can move ahead.

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