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State OKs Eighth Game

Teams Can Add To Schedule Prior To Week 1 This Fall

Quarterback Aidan Kennedy and the Southwestern Trojans may be able to begin their 2020 schedule prior to their Friday, Sept. 11 home date with Fredonia. P-J file photo

If high school football returns this fall, meaningful games will come a week earlier than originally planned.

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s Executive Committee approved a proposal Wednesday morning that would allow teams to play eight regular-season games before the postseason.

The move, once approved by individual sections, will put New York closer in line with neighboring states who were already playing more than seven regular-season games.

“I’m thrilled. When I started this thing 10 or 11 years ago, I can remember being at my first state meeting and asking that question: Can we get a game back and lengthen our season,” Ken Stoldt, Section VI football co-chairman, said Wednesday afternoon. “I’m tired of looking around the country and seeing everybody playing more football than our kids.”

“Football is a year-round sport,” said Jay Sirianni, Section VI football co-chairman. “The kids are hopefully playing other sports too, but they’re in the weight room and doing 7-on-7s, and only get to play seven games. To get that eighth one is fantastic for the kids.”

Jaylen Butera and the Jamestown Red Raiders will likely have a game before their Friday, Sept. 11 matchup with Kenmore West at Strider Field. P-J file photo

In order for Section VI to add an eighth regular-season game to this fall’s football schedule, teams would have to play the weekend of Friday, Sept. 4 and Saturday, Sept. 5. In the past, that initial weekend was reserved for the first scrimmages of the season.

The first official day of practice this fall will be Monday, Aug. 24, which leaves just 10 practice dates available prior to Sept 4. Individual student-athletes would have to practice every one of those days in order to be eligible for a game on that Friday or be allowed to miss just one practice in order to play that Saturday.

“This will actually replace the scrimmages,” Stoldt said. “New York is often overlooked because we only play seven games and don’t have any spring ball. Even though it’s only one football game, it’s a huge step in the right direction.”

“The scrimmage is beneficial, but during the scrimmages we were just hoping we’d get out of there without injuries,” added Sirianni, who won two state championships as Southwestern’s head coach in the late 2000s. “With most teams doing some type of summer workouts, they’re able to play a game that second weekend (of practice).”

The Section VI schedule for the 2020 season has been set for several months, but for Class AA and Class A there is an easy route to an eighth game. In each of those classes, teams have one team in their divisions that they aren’t scheduled to play, so the section would be adding a league game to their schedule right off the bat.

“This year it’s going to be on the individual schools for the most part. In Class AA and Class A if everybody is in agreement, which we were two months ago, it would be another league game,” Stoldt said. “In the other classes, they already play everybody in their league.”

In Class B, Class C and Class D, teams would be looking for nonleague opponents to match up with during that week.

“They don’t have to do this. This is not a forced regular-season game. If they want to scrimmage, they can do that,” Sirianni said. “There is nothing simple about a football schedule. We’ll figure out who wants to play and start matching teams up accordingly. We’ll try to keep the Southern Tier teams playing in the Southern Tier.”

Especially in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and reduced funding to schools next year, there would be a financial component that adds to individual districts’ decisions to add an eight game, but Stoldt doesn’t view that as a problem.

“With everything going on right now, there might be schools out there that won’t do it this year because we haven’t spent time with the kids in the offseason or it might be a financial thing,” he said. “If you are hosting a home game, it’s a chance for revenue … but if you are on the road you are paying for transportation.

“Even if they don’t play a game that weekend, they’ll probably pay officials for a scrimmage,” Stoldt added, “so to me the revenue piece isn’t as big of a piece as people are making it out to be.”

In the end, Stoldt only sees the positives in adding an eighth game.

“Anything we can do for the kids to get more exposure and another game is great,” he said. “As far as for the teams, it helps clean up so many messes. In Class A divisions we had a three-way tie and a four-way tie (last year) between teams who didn’t play each other because we only had seven weeks. This helps clean up issues there for seeding and playoffs. It’s going to be comparing apples to apples.”

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The committee also approved advancing the regional rotations for winter and spring team sports from this past school year into 2021, meaning the boys basketball Far West Regional games will again be held at Buffalo State College while the girls basketball Far West Regional games will be played at Section V sites.

For baseball, the Far West Regionals in Class AA, Class B and Class C were scheduled to be played at Dwyer Stadium in Batavia, which is a Section V site. The Class A Far West Regional was to be played at the Lockport Baseball Annex and the Class D regional was to be played at Allegany-Limestone High School, both Section VI sites.

In softball, the Class C and Class D Far West Regionals were scheduled to be played at a Section V site while the Class AA, Class A and Class B regionals were set to be played at Depew High School.

Championship sites were approved for the sports of boys soccer (Middletown High School, 2021-23), gymnastics (Kenmore High School, 2022-24), boys and girls bowling (AMF Strike ‘N Spare Lanes-Syracuse, 2012-23).

As a result of the cancellation of numerous state championships due to COVID-19, a one-year extension was approved to grant the Cool Insuring Arena (boys basketball) and Hudson Valley Community College (girls basketball) to host NYSPHSAA winter state championships through 2023. A one-year extension was approved to additionally grant Binghamton (baseball through 2022), Mark Twain Golf Course (boys golf through 2023), SUNY Cortland (girls lacrosse through 2023), Hofstra University (boys lacrosse through 2023), Moriches Athletic Complex (softball through 2023) and Cicero North Syracuse High School (outdoor track & field moved to 2024) to host NYSPHSAA spring state championships.

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