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FOR MOST OF THE COUNTRY, THE HIGH SCHOOL GAMES PLAYED ON

While most high schools across the country continued their athletic activities the past week, there were many places where the games did not go on.

Most states -- including New York -- did not cancel sports activities but emphasized that their schools were free to cancel or postpone any events. Games were understandably called off in the areas where the impact of Tuesday's terrorist attacks hit hardest.

In a joint decision Thursday, Long Island's Nassau (Section VIII) and Suffolk (XI) counties postponed their games through Wednesday, with teams able to practice if they chose to, and pushed their football championships back a week (Long Island does not participate in the state football tournament).

New York City's Public Schools Athletic League and Catholic High School Football League both canceled weekend football games. Like the Buffalo Public Schools, the PSAL's other sports are not scheduled to start until next week.

In Westchester (Section I), decisions were left to individual schools. One game -- Irvington at Westlake High in Thornwood, about 35 miles north of New York City -- was moved from night to afternoon because the portable floodlights Westlake rented were being used to assist rescue operations in Manhattan.

Most games went on as scheduled in New Jersey, but Hudson County, across the river from Manhattan, had all but two schools postpone their football contests. Connecticut and Pennsylvania also left the decision to their schools.

That was the case with most other states, with some exceptions.

The Georgia High School Association took that stance until Friday, which President Bush declared a National Day of Prayer and Remembrance. The NFL's decision Thursday to postpone its weekend prompted colleges to cancel their games, and Friday so many Georgia schools were canceling their contests that the state association postponed them all.

In Florida, 20 counties postponed games to Monday due to Friday's national day of mourning, as well as the weekend visit of Tropical Storm Gabrielle.

Across New York State, games went on as planned. In Rochester, Binghamton, Syracuse and Albany all games were played. A game at Guilderland in the Albany area was canceled due to a bomb threat.

Locally, Section VI played a similar role to the NFL. Just as other sports decided to postpone events after the NFL's cancellation of its games, Western New York's other organizations looked to Section VI to help make their decisions.

Following the lead from the state that games should be played, Section VI officials decided to carry on -- with individual schools having the right to postpone games if they saw fit. Once the Msgr. Martin Association and the Buffalo Public Schools' Harvard Cup football league saw that Section VI's games would go on, they decided their games also would be played.

Some were upset that the games were being played. One large-school public school football coach said "it sickens me" that games were going on. But most coaches, administrators and athletes sought solace in the playing field.

"What happens if we canceled sports?" asked Canisius athletics director Mark DiFillipo. "The kids would go home at 2 p.m. and sit in front of the TV (watching the news coverage). We wanted things to be as normal as possible. For us, athletics is an extension of the school day. If school is on, athletics is on."

Topsy-turvy touchdown weekend

A wild weekend in football saw giants fall among large schools (Jamestown), small schools (Lackawanna) and the Harvard Cup (McKinley).

The Steelers hadn't fallen to a Western New York team since losing to Grand Island, 36-24, in the 1997 season opener, while the defending Class AA state champion Red Raiders (14) and two-time Harvard Cup champion Macks (nine) had winning streaks that were among the 10 longest in the state.

Lancaster beat Jamestown, 13-7; Springville followed its win over Pioneer with a 20-0 victory over Lackawanna; and Burgard stopped McKinley, 14-6.

St. Francis was a giant-killer as well, upending perennial Pennsylvania power Cathedral Prep, 29-21. The Red Raiders did it despite the absence of suspended standout senior receiver Kyle Smith, who had to sit out the game after being ejected from a season-opening win over Victor.

Around the schools

Kenmore East's Paul DeSantis, commenting on playing Williamsville North on Saturday in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks: "America's coming together, and you could see it. We were talking to each other on the field. (North's Chris) McDuffie and I said we're getting our anger out right here. There's nothing but love out there." . . . You got to be in it to win it: The 50-50 split winner at the Niagara Falls at North Tonawanda game Friday took home $503.
e-mail: kmcshea@buffnews.com

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