By John Schiano
Brian Rogers, who led Bronxville to a New York State Public High School boys soccer championship en route to earning All-America honors, has been selected the player of the year in Class B by the New York State Sportswriters Association.
Rogers was the only one of the five class honorees to also earn All-America status from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. After setting a school record with 39 goals in 2007, the Harvard-bound striker scored 44 goals as a senior – including two in each of the three state tournament games – and added nine assists.
Also recognized as players of the year by the sportswriters were Joseph Lopez (Brentwood, Class AA), Ngwese Ebangwese (Pittsford Sutherland, A), Eli Vitale (Red Creek, C) and Nathan Steward (Hamilton, D).
All but Ebangwese played for state champions this fall at the National Soccer Hall of Fame complex in Oneonta.
A Blast From The Past
There are impact players in this world and then there are impact players.
And right now there’s no one making a bigger name for himself in the world of mixed-martial arts than a former Niagara-Wheatfield football and wrestling star.
Fighting in the featured match in UFC 92 on Saturday night in Las Vegas, Rashad Evans scored a stoppage win over light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin, setting himself up for a string of lucrative paydays in 2009.
Evans, now 5-foot-11 and 225 pounds, was a fourth-place finisher at 171 pounds in the 1998 NYSPHSAA wrestling tournament and then went on to a successful career at Niagara County Community College and Michigan State. He stayed in Lansing, Mich., after graduation and got involved in mixed-martial arts.
He worked his way up the ladder beginning with a successful stint on “Ultimate Fighter 2,” his pro debut in April 2004 and a shocking throttling of major UFC names Sean Salmon, Jason Lambert and Chuck Liddell (whose two-year reign as champion ended in mid-2007) this year.
Saturday’s fight was the first title defense for Griffin since taking the belt from Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, another big name in the sport, last July. With his win, the 29-year-old Evans is now 13-0-1.
And Evans is not the only Upstate product finding success in the octagon.
With a 6-0 record thus far, former Union-Endicott star athlete Jon Jones, 21, is another rising star on the UFC circuit. Jones, who trains in Cortland, signed a four-fight contract with UFC this year and returns to action Jan, 31 in Las Vegas against veteran Stephan Bonnar, who’s been sidelined since April with a knee injury.
Jones was third in the NYSPHSAA Division 2, 189-pound wrestling tournament as a junior and then won the title in 2005. He was a national junior-college champ for Iowa Central Community College the following year.
Boys Basketball: Asking Too Much From Maple Grove?
Maybe there's a reason why no school has ever won New York State Public High School Athletic Association football and boys basketball championships in the same academic year.
The issue gets raised because Maple Grove suffered a 66-56 loss Friday to Randolph in the first round of the IAABO Tournament small schools division in Olean. Freshman Brady Morrison made all four of his three-pointers in the second half to rally the Cardinals (5-1), ranked 13th in Class C by the New York State Sportswriters Association, after Maple Grove had built a 27-20 lead at the half.
It does have to make one wonder a little whether playing a 13-game football season that only ended on Thanksgiving weekend and then jumping into basketball season – indeed, actually practicing on the hardwood on a limited basis while the football season was still in progress – has taken some spring out of the Red Dragons' legs.
Maple Grove, ranked No. 1 in Class D by the NYSSWA, has also lost to Batavia, which is ranked No. 21 in Class A, and Buffalo St. Joe's, which is also a giant step above Class D in quality, so it's an probably an overreaction to say that a 5-3 record is evidence that the Red Dragons won't be following up their 2008 Class C basketball title with another championship.
Still, NYSPHSAA football champions began this winter 0-for-72 as far as winning state basketball championships go. And if you want to drag out the asterisks and go through the list of Long Island’s football bowl champions since the rest of the state started conducting a football tournament in 1993, only Amityville in 1999-2000 has followed up a Long Island football title with a NYSPHSAA basketball championship.
The deck would seem to be somewhat stacked in Maple Grove’s favor since the basketball team has dropped down a class this season based on enrollment figures, but there are no sure things. If the teams reach Glens Falls, the Class D tournament could mean a confrontation between two reigning NYSSWA players of the year: Maple Grove’s Chris Secky (Class C) and Greenport’s Ryan Creighton (C).
Also Noteworthy This Week
* Mike Adey of New York Mills earned his 400th career victory in boys basketball with a 58-44 win against Poland. He is 176-53 with the Marauders and 400-150 overall in 28 seasons, having previously coached Rome Catholic.
* Croton-Harmon coach Bill Thom earned his 300th boys basketball victory with a 58-49 win over Somers JFK. He is 300-187 in 23 seasons.
* Hempstead senior Charlene Lipsey wired the field in 2:09.47 over 800 meters to post the fastest time in the nation this season at the Marine Corps Holiday Classic. Lipsey, a NYSPHSAA outdoor champ last spring in 2:07.46 after placing second indoors in the 600, is considering college offers from Penn State and LSU, among others.
* Helped by a change in divisions, Clarkstown North has gone from 1-22 last season to 8-0 this winter in boys hockey, scoring at least seven goals in each game.
John Schiano, who has written about high school sports in western and central New York for more than 25 years, covers New York for MaxPreps. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.