Section VI football teams and their fans may have to do more than pack a lunch should they reach the state semifinals during the next two years.
An overnight bag might be in order because the New York State Public High School Athletic Association voted to award the western portion of the state football tournament semifinals to Section IV Union-Endicott High School near Binghamton.
The semifinals will be contested the weekend of Nov. 17 and 18 this year and Nov. 16-17 in 2018. Union-Endicott’s Ty Cobb Stadium, a six locker rooms, 6,000-seat facility, won out over Section III’s Cicero-North Syracuse and Section V’s Capelli Sport Stadium, the former Sahlen’s Stadium which is home for professional soccer’s Rochester Rhinos.
The downstate/eastern New York part of the final four will take place the same weekend at Middletown High School. Semifinal winners meet the following weekend at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.
According to proposals posted at NYSPHSAA’s website, Union-Endicott submitted the lowest costing of the three proposals. Cost of hosting a major state event can be offset by various factors – including the willingness of volunteers to work the event for free along with facility and security costs.
The state entertained thoughts of moving the semifinals last year from C-NS to Union-Endicott before the football committee awarded the 2016 semifinals to C-NS.
No wavering this time around, even though Section III and Section V have recently served as semifinal hosts.
Section VI Football Chairman Ken Stoldt understands Union-Endicott has a nice facility but still isn’t happy the semifinals are moving further away from Western New York. The decision puts most area teams at a disadvantage by adding up to an hour of travel time one way, he said.
For example, Orchard Park and Clarence high schools are roughly 3 hours, 5 minutes away from Union-Endicott. It’s nearly a 4-hour trip for Dunkirk, which is looking to build on last year’s state semifinal appearance.
To put that into perspective, Section I’s New Rochelle High School – which is part of the downstate bracket – is 3 hours, 16 minutes away from Ty Cobb Stadium.
“The location is going to put a strain on us,” Stoldt said. “They discussed all the options. It’s not like they left a stone unturned. They looked at all the pros and the cons and they don’t feel any of the negatives outweigh any of the pros.”
Dunkirk coach Mike Sarratori talked to other coaches regarding travel to the state final four prior to last season. While those he spoke with told him to do it the same day as a way of keeping the team’s preparation routine as normal as possible, it’s also not ideal traveling 4 hours and then playing a football game shortly after stepping off the bus.
Should Dunkirk make another run to the final four sometime during the next two years: “It might give me pause to second guess and sleep over,” Sarratori said.
According to Stoldt, the NYSPHSAA does not reimburse schools for overnight lodging during the semifinals.
South Park coach Tim Delaney, whose team made the trek to C-NS two years ago and scored one of the biggest wins in tournament history over Maine-Endwell en route to winning the state title said that he doesn't see the move as being that much of a difference.
"When you're at that point in the playoffs, disrupting a quarter of the school day isn't that big of a deal," he said. "You just plan for the extra hour of travel. ... If the Carrier Dome was an hour further, nobody would complain. It's not the end of the world."