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It's not Christmas yet but we have ties for you

   Dec. 8, 2023: Another New York high school football season is finally in the books following last weekend's championship games played in Syracuse and New York City.

   Championship games are a wonderful thing. Mind you, injuries, weather and other variables sometimes affect outcomes, but the head-to-head matchups generally are a reliable way of sorting out the best of the best. In the New York State Public High School Athletic Association, for instance, regional playoffs began in 1988, finally building to full state tournaments launched in 1993.

   Before then, our New York State Sportswriters Association rankings more or less determined state champions. That was hardly optimal, particularly since we did not factor CHSFL or PSAL schools into the equation as recently as 1982.

   Well, that 1982 season reared its head once again this week in a roundabout way.

   Steve Grandin and I spoke by phone last week before the NYSPHSAA championships at the JMA Wireless Dome in Syracuse to confirm the fear that was percolating in both our minds: We were headed for a multi-team tie for first in the final Class AA rankings.

   Massapequa (12-0), which had already won a Long Island championship the previous weekend to complete a perfect season, was already going to land a piece of No. 1 based upon feedback from helpers in Nassau and Suffolk counties. As per our policy, either Syracuse CBA (14-0) or Carmel was also going to grab a share of the top spot based upon the fact that the NYSPHSAA consists of far more football-playing schools than all the other entities combined.

   When the weekend began, however, Erasmus Hall (PSAL) and Cardinal Hayes (CHSFL) were ranked first and second, respectively, and Steve and I realized they were likely headed toward season-capping victories. In fact, Erasmus Hall (11-3) defeated Tottenville for the PSAL Class 4A title, 28-21, and Cardinal Hayes (12-2) dispatched St. Francis for the state CHSFL crown, 40-22.


   That left us with de facto tri-champions, and a decision to be made about Hayes. After discussions with downstate helpers and a review of that school's results, we also elevated Hayes to No. 1, making it a cumbersome four-way tie.

   Awkward? Yup. A failure to make a tough decision on our part? Perhaps, but even the multi-loss teams has compelling arguments for claiming the top spot.

   The real issue, though, is that there continues to be a lack of interaction on the field between teams from the major organizations. The PSAL and CHSFL pretty much hate each other, and few NYSPHSAA schools want anything to do with either. For its part, the NYSPHSAA isn't even unified in football as Sections 8 and 11 play for Long Island championships rather than for overall titles in their own organization.

   "Erasmus Hall (PSAL), Cardinal Hayes (NYCHSFL), Massapequa (Long Island), and Syracuse CBA (NYSPHSAA) all won their associations' championships," Steve wrote this week, "and, because of New York State's inability to play to a single state championship winner, we feel obligated to include all four highly qualified teams as #1 for 2023."

   All this leads us back to 1982. As previously noted, we did not evaluate PSAL or CHSFL schools in those days. Additionally, we split NYSPHSAA schools into either large- or small-school rankings, which means that schools that would have been divided into Class A or B a decade later in the state playoffs, were lumped together. That season, Shenendehowa, Liverpool, Bellport, and East Islip all ended with 10-0 records and a share of the No. 1 position in the final rankings.

   Neil Kerr, the patron saint of New York scholastic sports reporting, was in charge of the rankings back then, and he wasn't thrilled with his own decision, but he was a realist; a 10-game season in which almost no one traveled outside the section for a meaningful game was bound to cause controversy at the end of the year.

   In fact, Neil took some solace in the fact that he was able to separate that quartet from four others -- Johnson City, Rush-Henrietta Sperry, Levittown Division, and North Rockland -- that had to settle for spots in the top 10. A 9-0-1 Commack squad slipped all the way to 12th among large schools, a virtual impossibility in the modern era.

   So, are we doomed to a future of three- and four-way ties at the top? Not necessarily. For one, I think we're likely to be more discerning in the future when it comes to out-of-state losses like the three on Erasmus Hall's record -- including one played in Europe -- to be certain about the quality of the schedule. For another, Hayes avenged its two regular-season losses with wins in the postseason, an unusual scenario. And, of course, the Long Island champs always merit consideration but might not necessarily come through their schedules unscathed.

   In any case, no, we don't regret ending up with a four-way tie atop Class AA this fall.

   Interesting tech deal: The NYSPHSAA on Friday announced a deal with Armilla Tech, which specializes in electronic play-calling technology that streamlines communication in baseball, softball, and football.

   The significance of the three-year partnership is that the NFHS Baseball Rules Committee is allowing one-way communication between a coach in the dugout and a team's catcher in the upcoming season. Thus, coaches can call for pitches without sign-stealing concerns.

   "Armilla Tech is going to revolutionize the high school game with its best-in-class coach to catcher communication device," Milton Powell, Armilla Tech's VP, said in the NYSPHSAA announcement. "With the click of a button, coaches can securely send pitch calls in milliseconds to their catcher."

   The announcement says NYSPHSAA schools will have the opportunity to be the first with the option to implement the technology.

   The technology, which consists of a "command center" tablet used by the coach and a wrist receiver with a small display screen, isn't cheap, with the items listing for $599 and $299, respectively. The accompanying wristband is $25, and a 10-post USB charger is $69.

   The British Columbia firm's system does not require cellular, wi-fi, or Bluetooth access.

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