Pat's Reporter Blog

Sports Editor’s playbook, Oct. 30, 2013

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013
Patrick Newell

Hard to believe time has flown by so quickly, and it seems one sports season blends into another. I was still in the mindset that Norwich varsity tennis players Breanna Cashman and Jennifer Borfitz were still juniors, and had another year to compete for a sectional championship.
I snapped out of it when head coach John Stewart called Monday afternoon as a follow-up to his phone message Sunday. “Those two “seniors” and their impact on the program the past three years is still being felt,” Stewart told me.
Cashman and Borfitz were Johnny-come-latelys to tennis after playing other sports through their freshmen years. In their first year, 2011, they played as Norwich’s top regular season doubles team, and posted a nice winning record on a club that had Class B champions Bryn Loomis and Sophie Stewart.
With graduation comes promotion, and the two netters moved up to second and third singles a season ago. Again, winning records followed, and the duo made a nice run at doubles in 2012 sectional play.
Borfitz and Cashman jumped to first and second singles for all but a handful of matches his year on a team that lost just one match the entire regular season, and one in the STAC playoffs. Norwich won a division championship, and was one point from winning a Class B sectional title. Not a bad finish for a Tornado team led by a pair of seniors who never played competitive tennis until two-plus years ago. “I just wanted to say goodbye to my seniors because they made a big difference in our tennis program,” Stewart said, who added that Norwich may not have been a .500 team without them. “It will be sad to see them go.”

Wrestling, similar to every other sport these days, is a 12-month commitment to attain excellence. Evidence: Norwich junior Tristan Rifanburg. Rifanburg added to his prodigious list of accomplishments winning “The Freak Show” out in Las Vegas this past weekend. Facing many of the best high school wrestlers west of the Mississippi, Rifanburg dominated the competition winning five matches by a combined 36-2 score. Those victories were capped by a 6-0 decision in the 138-pound high school elite finals. The story appears in Wednesday’s sports report. Rifanburg, a state champion as a seventh-grader, was just a few seconds away from a state title this past winter, and he should be considered a favorite this coming season.

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Sports Editor’s Playbook, Oct. 11, 2013

Friday, October 11th, 2013
Patrick Newell

Last weekend Unadilla Valley captured its Kick for the Cure boys soccer tournament beating rival Bainbridge-Guilford in the finals. While the victory was sweet, the premise behind the tournament – recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month – helped raise money for the Danielle House in Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton. UV head coach Ryan Houck was a driving force behind the tournament, and the charity for which the donations will be sent was particularly meaningful to the Storm mentor. Houck’s own mother is a breast cancer survivor who used the Danielle House during her recovery. Houck’s leadership and civic awareness will surely trickle down to his charges, who by the way, have fancied a pretty nice 2013 season. Houck is also happy to report that his mother has recovered nicely, another big win for the UV community.

Winning is the best recruiter
We’ll find out this weekend if the Norwich girls tennis team will add a Class B title to its 2013 STAC division title. The Tornado netters placed juniors Breanna Cashman and Jenni Borfitz in the finals after Thursday’s first round, and freshman Makenzie Maynard is playing for third place. All three came up through the Norwich system playing other sports, but switched to tennis. And why not? Head coach John Stewart has churned out winning season after winning season – for boys and girls – and the hanging of championship banners has become the norm rather than the exception.

Down year for local football?
Seems that way if overall records are an indication. We have documented Sherburne-Earlville’s 5-0 start to the season and a number 15 state ranking in Class C. The other five local football teams have compiled a combined 7-18 mark for a winning percentage of 28 percent. B-G’s and Greene’s respective streaks of winning seasons are in serious jeopardy. One more loss for the Bobcats (1-4) will snap a seven-year skein, while Greene (2-3) needs to win three of its final four games to extend an eight-year streak.

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My streak is over

Friday, October 4th, 2013
Patrick Newell

My streak is over.
For 18-plus years, I have made my way into work each morning, flipped on the computer, and started the design of that day’s sports section. Earlier this week, I had some elective surgery to repair a chronic issue, and missed work on Monday and Tuesday. While Monday’s paper was chock full of sports from the previous weekend, the Tuesday and Wednesday editions were not. In an editor’s note last Friday, Sept. 27, I advised readers of my absence, and I hope everyone was patient in waiting for their sports results to appear. They did, just check out the inside sports pages from Thursday, Oct. 3 .
While in school, I typically received some sort of year-end attendance award for missing less than four days of school. That was my only sterling achievement during high school since awards are not typically given to “B” students. From an early age, my parents instilled the ideals of responsibility and work ethic in me and my three sisters. We were assigned different jobs around the house, and were expected to complete them. When my parents were away, the “mice” did not play.
I have carried that ethic into my working career, and since my college graduation 23 years ago, I have missed just two days of work – and none at the Evening Sun. Yeah, I have battled my share of illnesses, just like everyone else. But missing a day here? Since I am devoid of a backup on the sports desk, my issue has been “who will write the sports?” I suppose my love for the job has something to do with my resolve to show up every day. And so, I embark on my next 18-year perfect attendance streak happy to have a great job, great co-workers, and a desire to do the job right. Heck, where else can you watch a game, scarf down some snacks, and actually get paid to do it?

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Remembering Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001

Friday, September 13th, 2013
Patrick Newell

We’re two days removed from the 12th anniversary of 9/11 attacks, and I retraced my steps to that Tuesday morning – a unremarkable start to my day in every way until all hell broke loose.
Coming off a Monday night of sports, I had my usual array of soccer games to report; moreover, Tuesdays during the fall we publish our weekly football contest, and I typically spent a few hours on Monday evening going through all of the entries, writing up a small article with the results of the contest, and then typing in the picks for our experts to appear in the Tuesday edition. I can’t remember exactly, but I believe we had moved to a two-section paper in 2001, and my deadline to finish the sports section was 8 a.m. Prior to that, I had the same deadline as the front section — 10 a.m. With this new schedule, I would arrive for work in the 6:30 a.m. range (I have picked up a little speed, and now it’s around 6:40 a.m.), to design my three pages for the sports section integrating national news, local news, and complementing that with a standings and statistics page. Following my deadline, I would catch up on paperwork, and go through my schedule for the upcoming evening. Considering I was to return to work around 4 p.m. for a long evening of attending and reporting games, it was my norm to exit the Sun’s premises before 9 a.m. Moments before I was about to leave, word came of a commuter jet striking the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Our publisher, Dick Snyder – whose office was located down the hall from us in the Pennysaver building here in Norwich – stepped into our office to notify our staff of the plane crash. I was off of my deadline, so I (and a few other employees), trekked to Dick’s office for more information. I believe Jeff Genung, our editor, even left his desk for a few moments to take a look at the news on Dick’s television. Rumors were rampant regarding the source of the attack, and as TV reporters were trying to make some sense of it all – and as the burning North Tower was on screen – what looked like a toy airplane crashed into the South Tower. My own speculation after the first plane hit the North Tower was that it was a flight gone awry.. After the second crash, all of us in Dick’s room knew something was terribly wrong. Little did we know how wrong. Three daily papers serve part or all of the Chenango County area, and ours was the only one to have up-to-date reporting of the 9/11 attacks. Such is the benefit of a late-morning/early afternoon newspaper. Watching the tragedy unfold before my eyes – and millions of others – I wonder if this is what TV viewers felt when they saw Jack Ruby step out of a crowd and shoot Lee Harvey Oswald as Oswald was being transported to another jail.

While I was already entrenched in the newspaper business in 2001, our three current reporters were still in school, while current editor Brian Golden was in early 20s and at least seven or eight years away from his first newspaper job. Here are the remembrances of the current staff:

Ashley Biviano: “I was in 8th grade. It happened during math class, but they never told us. I went to English class, and still not a word until the bell rang, when the teacher said, “Oh, the Twin Towers fell down.” In the cafeteria, one kid was running around yelling how someone was going to bomb the school. Then, in Mr. Telesky’s class, we finally got to turn on the TV to see what the heck everyone was talking about. Mr. Telesky was awesome.”

Shawn Magrath: “I was in 10th grade. I watched the second plane strike the South Tower exactly as I walked into my second period Earth Science class.”

Kevin Doonan: “I was in seventh grade Spanish class, in my middle school at Chambers and West Street in Manhattan. I remember the white rain choking the air, the confusion, and the terror. More than anything I remember the quiet calm between explosions and the placid certainty of death.”

Brian Golden (Note- this is an excerpt of a column Brian published regarding the attack): “I remember sitting in the living room of my apartment, drinking coffee, reading a book (probably Tolkien), and waiting for a typical day of carpet installation … power stretchers, staple guns, seam irons, stair tools and tackstrips included.
Hearing my phone ring shortly before 9 a.m. was certainly no warning, in and of itself. Knowing full well it would be either my father (on his way to pick me up for work) or Adam (Bosworth, we typically spoke mornings to discuss all things related to our band), I was completely unprepared for what followed. I received a call from Adam, who had a strange strange note of hysteria in his voice I’d never heard before, immediately related the news that – just moments before – a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Having no cable at the time, I immediately flicked on the radio, just in time to hear, in a strange sort of terrible harmony, Adam and whatever newscaster was on the air at the time begin screaming “NO” and for a pilot unseen to turn the plane. And that’s when United Airlines Flight 175 struck the South Tower. I remember spending the rest of that day in a kind of haze.”
What are your memories of that day? Feel free to share with us.

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First-week gridiron notes

Monday, September 9th, 2013
Patrick Newell

Greene’s Dave Gorton filled in as interim varsity head coach last season directing the Trojans to a win over Whitney Point. Gorton helmed Greene in Tim Paske’s stead, and Paske eventually stepped down as head coach following an eighth straight winning campaign. Gorton inherited a fair number of returning players, but knew a lot of young players – sophomores and even a few freshman – would not only have to fill varsity spots, but likely play prominent roles this season. Knowing you’re the “new guy” directing a winning program, outside scrutiny is a given, but Gorton and his staff have eschewed and perhaps ignored the expectations of outsiders. “The focus, whether you are a first-year head coach or a veteran coach is the kids,” Gorton said. “We want to control what is in our power to control, and that is our preparedness and effort. The entire coaching staff is focused on the players, and any pressure we feel is intrinsic because we want them to have a chance to be successful on every play.” So far, so good for Gorton, his staff, and the collective varsity unit. Greene throttled Bainbridge-Guilford on the road, 37-0, Friday night. The offense had one drive in which it drove 95 yards on 19 plays, it ran 69 plays overall, and held B-G to just two first downs for the game and 18 total plays. Linemen Wyatt VanderBunt, Alex Kozisky, Nick Adams, Phil Nelson and Jeff Pornbeck controlled the game, Gorton said. Third-year quarterback Joe Beckwith was nearly perfect, running back Joel Roselle was his physical self, and first-year defensive coordinator, John Martinson, had the Trojans’ defense well prepared forcing three turnovers and negative total yards until the third quarter.

Oxford’s 32-14 loss to Dryden was not nearly as bad as it looked. From this writer’s perspective, the Blackhawks’ Friday game was a veritable nailbiter as it was the only local grid contest decided by less than three touchdowns. In losing by 18, Oxford had three drives stall inside the Dryden red zone with untimely penalties conspiring against those possessions. Clearly, moving the ball was not much of a problem for Oxford. The Blackhawks ran for 284 yards and passed for 112. Those are numbers that usually end in victories. “We had some guys out there playing their first varsity games, and we were a little wide-eyed and bushy-tailed,” said Oxford coach Ray Dayton. “But I like what I saw and I liked our effort. We played snap to whistle.” Sophomore running backs Nick Neer and Jon Heggie led the Oxford ground game with 105 and 80 yards rushing respectively. Sophomore quarterback Angelo Gonzalez finished with 112 yards passing on 6 of 11 attempts. The Blackhawks square off with the always-tough Walton Warriors Saturday. Walton edged Whitney Point, 18-16, in its first game.

Saturday at the PGA Championship

Monday, August 12th, 2013
Patrick Newell

Thank you to Stacy Gage, who had an extra ticket to the PGA Championship for Saturday’s round at Oak Hill Country Club. Kids were admitted free, so Stacy and his son Alex invited me and my stepson Joseph to come along for the ride.
It was the first major golf championship I attended, and the “rare” sporting event in which I was not working as a reporter. Honestly, I felt a little naked without my notepad and camera, but it was worth the trip. For those who watched the tournament this weekend, if the total sum of your golf viewing experiences has been spent in front of your television, then you’re not coming close to getting the complete picture.
Just imagine yourself striking the ball as well as you can hit it. Okay? Picture its trajectory, its distance, then its accuracy. The ball follows its intended target, and reaches its intended destination. You feel pretty good inside as that experience happens maybe once or twice a round – if you’re lucky!
For the typical PGA golfer – especially those competing in the fourth major championship of the year – that “perfect” shot for us is the norm for them. Our little foursome had the opportunity to watch some professional golfers hit balls from the practice facility before their respective rounds. One ball after another was pounded perfectly, and depending on the club selection, each shot ended a few feet apart at almost the same distance. I was reminded over the weekend: This is their job, and the professional golfer puts in eight-hour days on the golf course as we do at our designated jobs. Considering that – and as much as I love my job – playing golf for a living would not break my heart.
Near the end of the day, we perched ourselves in the amphitheater on the 13th hole (see link below) where thousands of people lined the banks to create an electric atmosphere oohing and ahhing with every putt. A Saturday afternoon at a major championship under perfect weather conditions…it just doesn’t get any better than that.

Link: http://www.twitpic.com/d7zl2m

Follow me on Twitter @evesunpat.

Member-Guest begins with a splash

Friday, August 2nd, 2013
Patrick Newell

Morning round participants at the Canasawacta Country Club Men’s Member-Guest tournament – yours truly included – completed their opening 18 holes under a steady rainfall. No, it never quite reached downpour status, but it was a steady drizzle that had rain gear flying out of players’ bags. As for me, I decided to forgo riding in the paid-for golf cart to avoid the misty pelts of water that soak driver and passenger en route to the next shot. Thanks to a tip from Bob Branham, I hung towels over the spokes (or whatever they are called) within my expanded umbrella, and dried my hands and clubs with dry towels before every shot. Plus, I could angle the umbrella down to avoid oncoming rain. My waterproof shoes proved they are NOT waterproof, but other than that, I stayed dry. Sixty of the 98 teams trudged through the morning round, and nearly a dozen were at level or under par. Seems like we have some good mudders in the field. Leading the way after 18 holes – no surprise – are back-to-back champions Tim Carson and Scott Seiler. Seiler’s younger brother – Todd – along with Bryan Smith share the lead with Carson-Seiler after firing matching 66s. Stay tuned for more tournament coverage this weekend, and follow me on Twitter @evesunpat.

Sports Editor’s Playbook, July 19, 2013

Friday, July 19th, 2013
Patrick Newell

Just a short blog entry today as I head off to Virginia for a vacation. By my records, it’s my first week off in 54 weeks, so the design of the sports pages will rest in the capable hands of our editor, Brian Golden. Unlike our previous editor who admittedly eschewed most things sports related, Brian is indeed a sports fan – when he can actually spare a second or two. If you any urgent sports news, give Brian a shout next week.

I remember clear as a bell holding my son Elijah moments after he was born. He had what looked like a misshapen head, and he was a little yellow (jaundice, the doctor said). Well, that eight-pound, four-ounce newborn is now 18 years old, a high school graduate, and was sworn into the U.S. Air Force. (See Twitpic link below) Thursday afternoon in Syracuse. He is currently waiting for his job to book, then he will take off to San Antonio for basic training. I listened to people tell me how fast kids grow up, and didn’t pay much mind to it. Now I know.

Photo here of Elijah: http://twitpic.com/d3kefs

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Chenango County Amateur First-Round Scores

Saturday, June 15th, 2013
Patrick Newell

AFTON – The following are first-round scores from the Chenango County Amateur Golf Tournament contested Saturday at Afton Golf Club, a par-72 layout. Canasawacta Country Club will host the final round of tournament play Sunday morning.
(Overall scoring irrespective of division)
Bob Branham–71
Bryan Evans–71
Brenon Maynard–71
Dave Riley–71
Rick Ferris–72
Tom McCarthy–73
Edd Jenkins–74
Eric Walling–75
Mark DeMellier–76
Sal Testani–76
Jim Wysor–76
Ryan Johnson–77
Hal Skillin–77
Colin Fraser–78
Joe McBride–78
Patrick Newell–78
Wayne Emmons–80
Jim Johnson–81
Steve Upton–82
Butch Muserallo–84
Cliff Tamsett–85
Ernie Muserallo–86
Lou Guzzetta–88
Mark McLaughlin–93
Rich Latham–WD
Chuck Gardner–WD

Sports Editor’s Playbook, June 4, 2013

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013
Patrick Newell

Public speaking is not my forte. I will admit that, primarily since it something I rarely do. I have always preferred to remain inconspicuous, and leave the spotlight to the athletes, coaches, and teams that I cover.
Last week, Art Rigas, AD for Norwich High School, phoned me with a request. He asked if I would be available to speak at the senior athletics banquet, sponsored by the NHS Student Athletic Council. After reviewing my schedule to make sure I didn’t have another commitment, I emailed Art back and said my evening was clear. Almost immediately, I started writing my speech. Over the past five days, I wrote and rewrote different passages, and even rehearsed it three or four times. Tonight, (Tuesday, June 4), I delivered my first public speech in 10 years. With the exception of two or three extemporaneous remarks, below is the text of my speech to the NHS Class of 2013:

I want to thank the Norwich athletics department for asking me to speak to the Norwich senior athletes from the class of 2013. I know some of you here have probably sat through at least 10 banquets, and have heard dozens of speeches. I promise (really) to keep this brief.
I did a little math when I thought of the year 2013. Subtracting 18 years, my guess is that most of the senior class was born in 1995. Can I get a little nod from the seniors if I have that right? Interesting parallel, at least to me. Guess when I started writing sports for The Evening Sun… yeah, 1995.
In that respect, the Norwich seniors and I have shared a journey together over the past 18 years, and that is one reason why I have a special affinity for this year’s class. The other reason the seniors are special to me is that my son, Elijah, is part of this graduating class.
My son started out playing youth sports 12 or 13 years ago, and that is when I was introduced to many of you for the first time. Hard to believe now, but “I” actually towered over 6-foot-3 Kyle Edwards, and was more solidly built than 200-pound Grant Brightman. Is Levi Lorimer here? I don’t think I was EVER bigger than you.
When I think of the young men and women in this class who played sports, I have visions of a flashback montage in which I see all you swinging a bat, kicking a soccer ball, shooting a basket on the lowered rim at the Y, or grabbing someone’s flag in flag football at Kurt Beyer Park. I see it as clear as day, yet that was at least 10 years ago. Wow, has it been that long?
Little did I know at that time, this group of seniors would help change the perception of Norwich sports. When you hear people around town discuss Norwich sports, the common remark is, “Norwich is a basketball town” or “Norwich is a football town.”
Yes, we Norwichians love our basketball and we love our football, but Norwich sports is much more than that. The tennis teams, the golf team, the swimming teams – all had winning seasons. In just about every sport, you can point to a bright spot, one in which, YOU, the seniors, have made a difference.
In 18 days, your job at Norwich High School will be complete. To many of you, moving on from Norwich cannot happen soon enough. Speaking for the parents and adults here tonight, it feels like time has passed far too quickly.
When you get to my age, you have the benefit of hindsight, and I’d like to share a couple of things I learned after high school and college. First, listen to your mom and dad.
I went to college, got degrees in accounting and business management, and was following that career path. I was working at a local insurance company when my mom passed on a job listing Wanted: Evening Sun Sports Editor. It gave the details of the job and how to apply. At that point, I was in my mid 20s, and although I had been reading the paper for years and years, I NEVER looked at the ads. I was skeptical about the job listing, but my mom encouraged me to give it a shot. She knew sports had always been my passion, and this was my chance to get my foot in the door. If it wasn’t for my mom, I never would have gotten this job. So thank you mom.
The second point I wanted to make goes back to that word – passion. Now that I’ve been a working adult for 20-plus years, I have learned the key distinction between working a job and pursuing a career. My suggestion to all of you, find a career you are passionate about. Do you want a job where you are looking at the clock? Or do you want a career where you don’t wear a watch? By the way, no watch here.
All of you are here tonight because you played sports, and now that got this far, I presume you weren’t doing it to make someone else happy, you were doing it because it made you happy. You probably didn’t notice it, but along the way, you picked up some valuable life skills such as teamwork, setting and achieving goals, self-discipline, and time management. Just by playing playing sports, you have created a great foundation for future success. I wish all of you here the best of luck in whatever you do. Thank you.

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