Rolling with the punches

The lake effect snow and bitter cold temperatures that have wreaked havoc on Western New York have been just as unkind to the sports schedules of local high schools.

“This early in the season, you usually have six to eight games played and are getting to the midway point,” Forestville Athletic Director Scott Hazelton said. “And now, the students and coaches are back to square one. The weather has been a big factor in trying to get things going this winter.”

All sports have taken a hit, from bowling and boys’ swimming to wrestling.

“It just puts a real crimp in everything,” Fredonia assistant wrestling coach Ross Conti said. “Wrestling is a sport that requires a lot of skill and it’s real difficult when you have a young team, because practice becomes that much more essential. But what are you going to do?”

Boys and girls basketball may be taking the biggest hit this winter. Not only have several games been canceled, but practices as well.

“With the weather being this bad, it’s going to be a grind to get the season in,” Silver Creek boys basketball coach Rob Genco said. “It’s going to be three games a week. We play Thursday, Saturday and Monday.

“Our girls are four games behind,” Genco continued. “We play a game and then all of our after school activities are canceled. It’s our district policy that we have to go home. I think we’ve had six practices canceled. I don’t think many coaches have ever had to deal with that.”

Fredonia boys basketball coach, Greg Lauer, echoed Genco’s sentiments.

“It’s been extremely difficult,” Lauer said. “We dealt with some school closings and cancellations before the holidays and didn’t get to prepare for the Jamestown tournament like we wanted to. And here we are before the biggest league game of the year and we had two practices canceled. So, not being able to get in the gym is certainly going to affect us.”

With a pair of mild winters the last couple of years, Cassadaga Valley boys’ basketball coach Rich Clifford had a hard time remembering a stretch of bad weather this severe.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve had a winter like this,” Clifford said. “It’s tough on everybody. You get yourself all ready to play and can’t play. In the last week, we prepared for three games and couldn’t play.”

Some teams, like Clifford’s, have had three or more games canceled while Fredonia and Silver Creek are losing practice time to the inclement weather that has gripped the area since mid December.

“You’ve got to value every practice minute you have,” Lauer said. “I sent (the players) home with game film on Silver Creek on Monday thinking there wouldn’t be school on Tuesday. So they have to take it on themselves to do that and get prepared.”

“We’ve had our first three scheduled league games canceled,” Clifford noted. “You get prepared and the kids are all psyched and they can’t play. But that’s the way it is. You just have to roll with the punches.”

Rolling with the punches is what Genco’s Black Knights have had to do all season.

“We’ve finally regrouped and got guys on the same page,” Genco said. “We’ve only had our five starters – at least the five I penciled in as starters at the beginning of the season – play in one game. The chemistry has been getting better and the guys are doing what they are supposed to in the classroom and on the court.

“Other teams have had to cancel games,” Genco continued. “We’ve had to cancel a lot of practices.”

In terms of rescheduling, Hazelton noted it hasn’t been as hard as one might think.

“I’ll tell you what, it’s a good thing the internet and email system have been developed so greatly over the last couple of years,” Hazelton noted. “Thankfully, (other athletic directors are) willing to work with one another and are looking out for the students’ best interests.

“We kind of go as the weather goes,” Hazelton added. “And everybody is easy to work with.”

Whether or not the weather will continue to disrupt the flow of the season with more cancellations, one thing is certain – a premium will be placed on getting in all of the league games, matches and meets.

“They do everything possible to get them in,” Lauer said. “You cancel non-league games and do what ever you can to get the league games in. You have to have those for the power rankings.”

“I don’t think it will have any effect on that,” Clifford added. “We’ll play all our league games. We’re one of three (Class C) teams in the league, so we’re already playing four (Class D) schools. The league alignment has already taken care of (power point rankings).”

However, there are ramifications for teams that do not get all of their league games in.

“League games, if you don’t get through all of them, they count as a loss,” Hazelton noted. “If you get into a crunch at the end (of the season), you would forgo the non-league games to get the league games in.”

On the court, with all the time lost, it’s hard for any of the coaches to say what their teams will look like once the action picks back up.

“We’re just going to go out and play hard and whatever happens, happens,” Clifford said. “We can’t really worry about it. You don’t want to spend too much time on things you can’t control. You just have to be happy to get back playing again.”