The longer schools stay closed – into mid-April, possibly until the end of April – the less likely a spring sports season would even take place. As of now, Section III has not made a decision either way, but if a season somehow does get pulled out, there will not be the normal weeks of practice leading up to the regular season, and the season itself will be truncated, perhaps four to six weeks of nothing but league contests and an open Section III tournament for the team sports such as lacrosse, baseball and softball. That’s the contingency plan, but it might not matter unless (1) COVID-19 cases dwindle down and (2) the virus stays contained for another two weeks after, which would finally allow a lot of things to re-open.
One story we might never get to tell is about how LaFayette defends its state championship in Class D boys lacrosse. The Lancers had a memorable run through 2019, catching fire late in the regular season and, in the sectional playoffs, knocking off state no. 1-ranked Skaneateles in the semifinals (the last game for long-time Lakers head coach Ron Doctor) and then shutting out Marcellus in the sectional final. Then LaFayette knocked off Chenango Forks and Penn Yan and, in the state final at St. John Fisher College, knocked off Briarcliff in overtime. And all of that came a couple of weeks after a LaFayette alum, Lars Tiffany, coached the Virginia Cavaliers to the NCAA Division I men’s championship.
As always, it was expected to be a competitive, intense regular season in Class A boys lacrosse. Baldwinsville was defending the sectional title after it reached the state semifinals and nearly went further before Fairport denied the Bees a spot in the title game in an overtime classic. Of course West Genesee was expected to challenge, as would Liverpool (a recent champion) and C-NS, led by a new head coach in Nick Gatto. And if the numbers were right, F-M, who easily won Class B a year ago, would be back in Class A too and would instantly implant itself as a favorite, the Hornets having held their own against all of its rivals in SCAC regular-season play before a sectional title and a regional championship game defeat to Vestal.
Another boys lacrosse team that always carried high expectations going into 2020 was J-D. With all of the sectional and state titles in its history, the Red Rams found 2019 a particularly special season because, in the sectional tournament, it survived a tense game against ESM in the semifinals and then, in the championship game, knocked off its neighbors from CBA, who won a state crown back in 2017. J-D kept it going, too, handling St. Lawrence, Owego and East Aurora by a combined 50-9 margin before finally getting stopped in the state championship game by Shoreham-Wading River in a 12-7 decision. J-D, CBA, ESM and Westhill all expected to vie for Class C honors this spring.
What was easily the biggest story in high school girls lacrosse in Section III for 2020 was the sheer volume of new head coaches in high-profile positions. There was Leah Tuck taking over at F-M, who had gone all the way to the state Class B final a season ago. There was Pat Britton taking over at CBA after Doug Sedgwick’s great run that included state titles in three different classes. This goes along with coaching changes at C-NS and West Genesee in recent years, which indicates a general changing of the guard that already worked at Baldwinsville, where Megan Collins helped push the Bees to the 2019 state Class A title game before a narrow defeat to Northport, who kept the championship on Long Island.
The switch to four classes in girls lacrosse a couple of years ago brought more championship opportunities. J-D took advantage of this to win back-to-back sectional titles in Class C and twice reach the state semifinals. A large returning cast in 2020 again was going to make the Red Rams a favorite, though Fulton has given them some good battles in recent years. It’s even stronger in Class D, where Skaneateles, dating back to its Class C days, has a long and imposing record of sectional and state titles, fighting off the likes of Marcellus and Westhill, and this year would have looked to improve on reaching the state semifinals in 2019, where Bronxville stopped the Lakers, avenging a defeat in the state title game two years earlier.
All the snow had melted this time and area high school baseball teams were ready to take the field in 2020 before COVID-19 struck. If they ever do have a season, a whole lot of attention will focus on Baldwinsville senior Jason Savocool, who has drawn attention from Major League scouts, is committed to attend Maryland next fall and pitched last September for Team USA in an international tournament in South Korea. Yet the Bees would look to take the sectional title away from F-M, who made a shocking run from a no. 7 seed to the championship a season ago by knocking off the top three seeds, B’ville included, but then saw coach Jason Rutkey step down, replaced by former Le Moyne College star Cory Nelson.
It took epic games for Whitesboro baseball to turn back J-D (in 11 innings) and for Skaneateles to outlast Westhill (in 14 innings) to earn Section III championships a season ago – the Warriors in Class A, the Lakers in Class B. Expecting that kind of excitement may have proved too much to ask, with the likes of ESM and CBA eager to challenge in Class A and Solvay, Oneida, VVS and Bishop Grimes expected to battle in Class B. As for the Class C ranks, Cooperstown, fittingly, is the one to catch after making a run all the way to the state championship game a season ago, the best of any Section III side. In Class D, it’s the McGraw Eagles who are trying to defend the sectional title.
If we ever get to a softball season in Central New York, once again a huge focus will be on C-NS. A dynastic power for more than three decades with multiple state championships, the Northstars nearly added to that total in 2019, going deep into extra innings of the state championship game before Corning topped them 4-3 in 11. None of the returning Northstars have forgotten that game and burn for another chance, even if they don’t get one. Just as familiar in Class A softball is J-D, who has done everything but win a state title over the course of the last 20 years, and had plenty of returning talent on hand for 2020 after getting tripped up by Ballston Spa in last June’s regional finals.
Among the stories we hoped to follow in high school softball this fall was whether Oneida could repeat its incredible journey of 2019, when the Indians not only won the sectional Class B title, but made it all the way to the state championship game before getting stopped by Ardsley, from Section I. While Sandy Creek has long been the most powerful area softball team in Class C, the Comets ceded that crown to Pulaski a season ago and the Blue Devils were eager to see if it could roll again. And we all witnessed the way LaFargeville barged its way to the Section III Class D title a season ago, huge crowds watching them advance to the state semifinals. Will the Red Knights get a chance to do something similar again?