All other stories, including the end of the fall sports season, pale next to the still-uncertain fate of winter sports. At some point in the next couple of weeks, Governor Andrew Cuomo is expected to announce whether sports like basketball, hockey and wrestling can take place or whether they are still high risk. Either way, Section III officials will meet late this week to discuss three possible start dates – either the November 29 they previously desired, or moves back to December 14 or January 4. All of it hinges not just on the state’s actions but also the number of COVID-19 cases, which was steadily rising as cold weather set in and a number of schools around the area had gone fully remote to deal with various infections.
Back on the field where soccer teams were heading into their regular-season homestretch, you had a rare showdown of unbeaten teams when 9-0 Fayetteville-Manlius faced 8-0 East Syracuse Minoa last Saturday. And despite the vast quality of all the Spartans had shown so far, it was still no match for the arrays of skills that the Pagano brothers, Ziad Abdul-Malak and others displayed, Abdul-Malak earning three assists to key the attack as the Hornets rolled to a 6-1 victory. All that now stood between F-M and a perfect season is this Friday’s match against West Genesee, whlie ESM is far busier, including two different games against Jamesville-DeWitt, who themselves lost to Cicero-North Syracuse 2-1 last weekend.
Westhill faced a particular challenge to its strong last week when it took on its neighbors from Bishop Ludden, pushed to overtime for the first time all season, but the Warriors pulled it out 3-2 on Danny Carkner’s goal, a big bounce-back after it had lost to Marcellus 2-0 a week earlier, still Westhill’s lone blemish this season as it, like many other teams, had to deal with all kinds of weather-related or COVID-related schedule changes. Among the small-school teams, Poland has put up the best mark, going 8-1 so far, its only defeat coming to Westmoreland/Oriskany in the season opener as it looked forward to face Frankfort-Schuyler late this week. Meanwhile, Westmoreland/Oriskany faces Clinton and VVS this week.
There was a whole lot going on in girls soccer despite the foul weather and COVID scares. Much of it centered around the activites of Baldwinsville and Westhill, who met up late in the week after eventful, up-and-down runs where both teams had lost – the Warriors to unbeaten New Hartford, the Bees to Fayetteville-Manlius 5-1. Yet a day later, B’ville ripped Westhill 4-0, and the big story again was Hannah Mimas, who netted her team’s first three goals and, by doing so, reached 87 for her career. That put Mimas, a senior, past Emma Firenze and established her as B’ville’s all-time leading goal scorer. And she did so just in time, before a big finale Tuesday against Cicero-North Syracuse, a team sporting its own five-game win streak.
Having gone through a stretch where it lost to East Syracuse Minoa and Cicero-North Syracuse, Fayetteville-Manlius girls soccer sure got back on track with that 5-1 romp over Baldwinsville, but as time passes it was clear that was ESM did against the Hornets wasn’t a fluke. The Spartans entered November at 8-0, having handled Cortland 5-0 in its lone game last week as its super freshman, Leah Rehm, added two more goals and one assist to give her 15 goals and 10 assists so far this fall. ESM is set to play twice against Class A’s long-time reigning power, Jamesville-DeWitt, in these last two weeks, though the Red Rams” schedule was mostly ravaged by various pandemic or weather-related schedule changes.
Then there were the two undefeated girls soccer teams from the eastern part of Section III. New Hartford has played nine games and won them all, impressively shutting out Westhill and Central Valley Academy, both of last year’s sectional Class B finalists, last week, and during the season 12 different players have scored goals, none more than Anna Rayhill’s nine. Just as strong are the Poland Tornadoes, the state Class D champions of 2019, knocked off previously unbeaten Holland Patent 3-1 to get to their own 9-0 mark. Poland still has four games left, including a trip this week to Frankfort-Schuyler, with Alexis Bates (10 goals) and Logan Cookinham (nine goals, seven assists) leading the Tornadoes’ attack.
Probably the best girls cross country race of the season is set for this Saturday, when Cicero-North Syracuse challenges the Fayetteville-Manlius empire. Even if the Northstars’ Kate Putman might outrun the Hornets’ Kaercher sisters (Hannah and Grace), the question is whether C-NS’s supporing cast, including Allison Newton and Marissa Navarra, can outrun the Hornets who run behind the Kaerchers. F-M beat Liverpool last week, though Warriors alum Jenna Schulz was a contributor to North Carolina State’s ACC championship season. C-NS’s Allison Newton just announced that she is going into the college ranks next year, officially committing to the University at Buffalo.
On the other hand, in boys cross country Fayetteville-Manlius, for so long untouchable, nearly did get upended by Liverpool in their head-to-head meet. Led by Ryan Hagan, the Warriors snared three of the top five spots in the race, but the Hornets still pulled it out 26-29, and it helped that Peyton Geehrer won the individual race in a swift 16:16. Then there was the dominance of Skaneateles in the Onondaga High School League Liberty division, where the Lakers, led by 2019 state Class C champion Caleb Bender, fell just two points short of a perfect record in all seven of its head-to-head league meets, closing things out last Saturday with easy wins over Marcellus and Weedsport.
It’s pretty clear that Holland Patent and Cicero-North Syracuse were the strongest teams in high school field hockey this fall. The Golden Knights were pushed a bit at the end of October, but salvaged a 0-0 draw with Clinton and then won a tough 1-0 decision over Baldwinsville. Speaking of the Bees, it would get another shot at C-NS on Wednesday night, having lost to them 2-0 the first time they met in October. Since then, the Northstars kept itself unblemished, moving to 9-0 helped by six shutouts and its most recent effort a 3-0 shutout over Camden. Goalie Ally Wagner has earned those shutouts, with a well-balanced attack led by senior Jamie Snyder and freshman Giana Wameling, who each have scored six goals.
Again softball made some news early this week. Perry Novak, who ran the New York State Softball Hall of Fame, resigned that post early this week. part of the fallback from a controversy where Novak would not even put in nomination long-time Cicero-North Syracuse coaching great Kerry Bennett. All that Bennett did in his 30 years at C-NS was win 634 games and four state championships, sending several of his top players to the college ranks, but he was forced out in 2012 over accusations that some players had bullied one of their teammates and he did nothing to stop it. Controversial then, it remains a sore spot and a reason why Bennett wasn’t even nominated, much less chosen for his great career, but this story is far from over.