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Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019: Pearl River football player dies in crash

   Leading off today: The 53rd Little Brown Jug rivalry game vs. Nanuet this weekend will be different from all the others as Pearl River deals with the death of defensive lineman Altin Nezaj in an automobile accident Sunday.

   The multi-vehicle crash on Route 304 in Pearl River took the life of Nezaj, 17, and fellow passenger Saniha Cekic, 15. Cekic's cousin, Aisha Radoncic, who was the driver of the vehicle, is hospitalized.

   Orangetown police were investigating the cause of the crash.

   Nezaj's No. 71 will appear on the back of commemorative game T-shirts worn by Pearl River fans at Saturday's game.    In Friday's 34-13 victory over Pleasantville, Nezaj had 15 tackles, teammate Joe Parisi told The Journal News.

   Schools were closed Monday for the Columbus Day holiday, but grief counselors were available starting at 10 a.m. for students and faculty. The district was planning a memorial service.

   Weekend milestone: Leah Monroe had five goals and two assists Saturday in Bolton-Warrensburg's 11-1 girls soccer victory over Old Forge. The goals included the 100th of her career.

   Taking a look at injuries: The New York Post dismantled its high school sports staff a couple of years ago but dipped a toe back into the niche this week with a series of stories including one on the specialization in one sport.

   "It's turning into a nightmare of injuries that we're losing control of," said Dr. Christopher Ahmad, head team physician for the New York Yankees, chief of sports medicine and professor of orthopedic surgery at NYP/Columbia University Irving Medical Center. "They're breaking their developing bodies. It used to be that when I would see patients, I would see college and professional athletes with elbow pain. Now my office is filled much more with high school kids with elbow pain."

   A study involving more than 2,000 athletes ages 12-18 published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine in 2017 found connections between injuries and participants who specialized in one sport. It also found that athletes playing their primary sport for more than eight months during the year were more likely to develop overuse injuries in their arms or legs.

   Ahmad has done research on youth baseball players in New Jersey and discovered that up to 80 percent play with pain in their elbows.

   "When we asked these kids who do it, why play with elbow pain, they feel pressure (from coaches) to play through the pain," he said.

   Eight-man football: I was about 25 paragraphs into a story that only needed to be about 15 paragraphs this morning when I stumbled into a nugget that made hanging in there worth it.

   The story was about the Batavia City School District examining its policy on allowing outside groups to use its facilities, a topic made more relevant after the renovation of Van Detta Stadium was completed over the summer.

   Deep in the story was a piece of news that I had not heard yet.

   "On Nov. 15, we're going to host the eight-man football championship for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association," Athletic Director Mike Bromley said. "Probably one of the teams that may end up there will be Oakfield-(Alabama)/Elba. It's kind of close for them, so it should be a great event.

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   I haven't seen details yet on which sections will be involved in the postseason tournament.

    Eight-man football is also connected to a topic that I thought might be discussed a little bit at last week's NYSPHSAA Executive Committee meeting. As it turns out, that will be a discussion for another day.

   With the eight-man brand of the game growing, we could be just a few years away from having six sections fielding four or more teams, which is the minimum requirement for conducting a full-fledged state tournament. That raises a question as to whether that would constitute a sixth tournament classification for football when only five are currently permitted in a sport.

   Before you brush that aside as a technicality, keep in mind that the Executive Committee earlier this year rejected a proposal to allow some sports to expand to six classifications.

   The more precise question going forward will likely be whether eight-man should fall under the administration of the existing NYSPHSAA football committee or be its own sport. The sentiment for now is to leave eight-man under the direction of the football committee.

    • I mentioned in a recent blog that Weedsport was catching criticism for having a large roster in eight-man football.

   That beef is iffy at best since the team received a sudden uptick in interest on the eve of the start of fall practice and many of the newcomers are inexperienced.

   However, a size concern of a different type cropped up at the most recent NYSPHSAA Championship Philosophy Committee -- and this one may have to be addressed at some point:

   Should there be a limit on the size of schools playing eight-man football, which started three seasons ago as the domain of Class D-sized schools and now includes Class C schools? One Class B school in Section 5 nearly took the plunge a few days into fall practice and one with a Class AA enrollment actually floated the idea last spring.

   Extra points: Short on players once agin due to injuries, Gowanda/Pine Valley is fofeiting its Week 7 football game against Portville.

   The team also forfeited last week against Southwestern.

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