The Oatkan Knights won their record-setting 16th sectional title at SUNY Brockport on Saturday with a 27-14 win over Attica/Alexander in Class C.
The Blue Devils opened the scoring in the first quarter with a Joseph Parkhurst 31-yard field goal (one of two FGs for Parkhurst), but Le Roy answered quickly with a Drew Strollo four-yard run for a TD followed by the PAT from Jack Currin. Le Roy held the lead the rest of the way, with Tony Piazza scoring twice and Tommy Condidorio capping things off with a two-yard run.
The final score for AA came in the waning seconds, a 30-yard pass from Trent Woods to Sam Strzelec.
Strollo rushed for 134 yards on 23 carries. Piazza carried 20 times for 88 yards.
On defense, Strollo had five tackles, D.J. O'Geen, five plus a sack, Piazza, four, and Connor Hegeman, four.
The Le Roy Oatkan Knights improved to 3-0 on the season with a 36-16 win over Lyons/Sodus on Friday at Hartwood Park.
Tony Piazza rushed for 152 yards on 20 carries and a TD. Tommy Condidorio was 5-10 passing for 110 yards and a TD. Jackson Fix had four receptions for 86 yards. He also rushed for a pair of touchdowns. Holden Sullivan had two sacks and four tackles.
Also on Friday:
Batavia lost to Honeoye Falls/Lima, 21-14. Bronx Buchholz 11-24 passing for 139 yards, one TD and one interception. Mekhi Fortes had 16 carries for 155 yards and a touchdown. He had six tackles on defense. Cole Grazioplene five catches for 54 yards and a TD.
Attica/Alexander beat East Rochester/Gandada, 21-18.
When the Class of 2023 began its public education journey, Taylor Swift had just released her first #1 album, "Fearless," which would go on to win a Grammy in 2010.
Principal David Russell mentioned Swift during his opening remarks, also noting that when the Class of 2023 began classes at Wolcott Street School, it was the year the Saints won the Super Bowl, Spain won the World Cup, and "Kings Speech" was named best picture.
Now Taylor Swift is as big as ever, celebrating her success on her Eras Tour, and the Class of 2023 has been through some eras, as speakers in Le Roy at the high school graduation noted on Saturday.
"You experienced two presidential elections in 2012 and 2016, and you saw fads like silly bands and the selfie stick become prominent elements in our society," Russell said.
This is a class that grew up with iPads and navigated life during the first pandemic in more than 100 years and now ends one of the most significant eras of their lives and begins new eras as adults.
"When I think about the graduating class of 2023, the word that comes to my mind is perseverance," Russell said. "Perseverance is defined as persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, daily life as you knew it was disrupted substantially. Regents exams were canceled. Extracurricular activities, like sports and musicals, were either canceled or altered substantially. But through all of these difficulties and delays, you persevered, you persevered, and you overcame every obstacle to make the best of the most difficult situation to arrive at this stage today."
School Board President Jackie Whiting also noted the Class of 2023 persevered through COVID-19 and learned important lessons that have helped them deal with life's challenges.
"You learned to adapt to changing environments," Whiting said. "You learned how to cope with adversity, rejection and disappointment. Even this year, you had to deal with a whitewater rafting trip with no water, and a senior trip with such bad air quality you were not allowed outside. But you adapted and thrived. The pandemic provided a humbling teaching point. Do not take any day for granted. The world can be turned upside down very quickly. We don't know if and when it is coming. And there may be nothing we can do about it. But we can appreciate every day while remaining hopeful and productive.
Salutatorian Kathryn Salphine said it does seem like much has changed since she and her classmates first entered Le Roy Jr./Sr. High.
"Seniors, it's hard to believe that we're here today," Salphine said. "I can remember our class as timid seventh graders. I don't know about the rest of you. But I can say for certain that I thought the seniors at the school were big and scary. They were so mature. And I, for one, was convinced that we could never be that. I mean, six years is a long time, and those seniors were just so old. Now, looking back at that time, I'm amazed that I ever thought six years was so long these years have flown by. And now, the last chapter of high school is before us and what seems like the blink of an eye. "
Valedictorian Logan Nickerson called on his classmates to be kind, love unconditionally, avoid selfishness, live in gratitude and joy, forgive, and avoid negative talk.
"Words have the power to give life and to take," Nickerson said. "If there's any confusion over why given words are important, try interacting with people online. An easy trick that I recommend is to just avoid words with negative connotations when speaking. As for curse words, there's no mature excuse to express oneself in a way that imperils both professionality and the impact on those listening."
Regis Pollard, a personal finance teacher, was the faculty member selected by the senior class to address the graduates this year.
He said he had five tips for the graduates.
"I'm not an expert at life, but what I've figured out is that people like to win," Pollard said. "I like to win. These are my five tips if you want to win, not only at your future careers but also at life."
The first, he said, is problem-solving. You need to know how to solve problems for yourself, and employers hire people to solve problems for them. Second, "walk the walk." You've got to take action, not just have ideas, call out problems and suggest solutions. You need to put your words into action. Third, no excuses. Fourth, help other people. And fifth, believe that you can.
"There's got to be these moments in time where you think you can't -- your human body is telling you, I'm uncomfortable, I can't do it, and what I need you to understand that you can," Pollard said. "And so you're gonna listen to a lot of speeches in your life. You're gonna hear a lot of speeches, and my words will fade. But to help you remember this, under your chairs, is the book, "The Little Engine That Could," and on the inside of it are the five things that I think are important for winning. And I don't care if you read it. I'm sure your English teachers do. But what I need you to remember when you get to those critical moments in life, when you have that opportunity to say, 'I can't do it,' I need you to remember that you can."
Rylee Burns started her art journey for fun when she was younger, and she intends to keep it that way. Being an artist is not her career ambition.
After her graduation from Le Roy High School on June 24, she will head to SUNY Geneseo to major in chemistry.
"I really, really enjoy science, and I want to be a forensic scientist after college," Rylee said. "So, in thinking about starting that journey, I decided to start with chemistry."
She still may take an art class or two in college, she said, because she enjoys art, too.
It's not unusual for students, even ones as talented as Rylee, to follow career paths outside of art, said Ieon Koukides, a teacher Rylee said has inspired her to stretch herself artistically.
"Their interests are absolutely different from what they might be doing in the class, from science to music, to sports, or whatever it might be," said Koukides, who himself has interests outside of art -- he's also Le Roy's head baseball coach. "So it's kind of nice that I get to have kids of all different interest levels, and what they go on to do is awesome to me because what I get to do is give them an avenue to appreciate art and hopefully produce some pretty neat stuff while they're in high school."
Rylee was among several seniors who prepared a wall of their paintings and drawings for Le Roy's annual art show on Wednesday, which also featured the work of underclass members.
As an artist, Rylee tends to be detail-oriented, preferring fine brush strokes. As a sophomore, she painted a church door because she liked the detail of it, and in her junior year, Koukides encouraged her to find another church architecture theme, so she concentrated on a stained glass window. To complete the cycle this year, she painted a church door key.
"I'm really fine with my brushes," Rylee said. "I used really tiny brushes for all three of these. I like things to go the way I want them to, so I felt really nice with these because I wanted the detail."
Koukides said he typically picks a project a student did in their sophomore year and encourages them each year to find a new approach to the same or similar subject.
"I knew she could excel at it because she's super confident in what she's doing," Koukides said. "Whether it's painting or colored pencil, it's pretty easy to gear her towards that project and see her excel."
He said Rylee's confidence has "allowed her to soar on any project after she has learned the techniques."
The art show was moved to the auditorium stage this year (instead of the library) and the stage was filled with adults and students appreciating the works on display.
Koukides said he's proud to see the school's art students get the recognition of an appreciative audience.
"I always say people get to see what I see every day," Koukides said. "That's what makes coming to work great for me every day. I know what's here, and I see it every day. But until we put it up like this and have everybody else view it, I don't think everybody truly appreciates what happens here in this small little community, and how talented the kids are."
A lot of students pour through a school district's music program, but only a few of them put in the effort, show dedication and develop the skills necessary to carry on with their music education after graduation.
It's incredibly rewarding when a student follows that path, said Matthew Nordhausen, who teaches 5th and 6th-grade band in the Le Roy Central School District as well as serves as the district's primary percussion instructor.
"We obviously feel some pride in being able to help them build those skills to pass the auditions," Nordhausen said. "It's also incredibly rewarding, in about four years from now, when they graduate, and they go out into the workforce -- especially those that go into music education, because chances are, they'll come back to this area, and they might end up being our colleagues."
That's happened, he said. Nordhausen said he's been teaching long enough -- 20 years -- now that he has former students teaching in Batavia and Monroe County.
On Thursday, Le Roy recognized five graduating seniors who are continuing their music education.
Jackson Cain, SUNY Fredonia for Music Education
Alexiana Clarke, SUNY Fredonia for Music Education
Connor McGee, SUNY Fredonia for Music Education
Evan Williams, Point Park for Music Theater
Nathan Yauchzee, SUNY Potsdam Crane School of Music for Music Business
Le Roy has a reputation in the region for quality music education, and Nordhausen said that comes down to the support the district gives to the Music Department and their ability to hire dedicated and talented teachers.
"The five of us -- Miss (Tasha) Dotts, Miss (Jessa) Dechant, myself, Mr. (Jeffrey) Fisher, and Miss (Jackie) McLean -- we do work tirelessly for these kids, it's a 24/7 life, not a job. We're helping the kids before school, after school, anything they need, we're always accessible."
The district has helped ensure teachers hired are also qualified on instruments to provide individual instructions, and that is something, Nordhausen said, that many districts can't offer.
"It allows somebody like myself, who is primarily at the elementary school, to still be able to come up here (the high school) and teach my primary instrument, percussion, which allows our kids to get private instruction all the way through their senior year. That level of instruction is just unheard of. In another school district, you're going to have to seek out outside-of-school private lessons, but these kids are getting specific instruction on percussion for me and brass from Miss Dechant and woodwinds from Miss Dotts."
Nordhausen is obviously enthusiastic about music education, and he encourages parents to get their children involved in music -- or any of the arts -- even if the parents have no background in music or art on their own.
Music is forever, he noted.
"Whether you have a musical family quote unquote or not, if you find a love of anything, whether that be music or art, then you should follow that passion through," Nordhausen said. "If you get involved in a great school district and a great program and a supportive one then you're going to be able to build those skills. I've often said, of myself, I am not the most talented musician, but I will be one of the hardest working ones. My colleagues are both talented and hardworking. And you can certainly overcome a quote-unquote a lack of talent if you're willing to put in the time and the effort."
The Le Roy football program is a program with a lot of wins, a lot of history, a lot of tradition, and Mike Humphrey has been a part of it.
This week, the Board of Education approved Humphrey's appointment to head coach of the Oatkan Knights, making him the first former player to be named head coach in the program's history.
Humphrey was a wide receiver and defensive back with the Knights through three championship seasons -- 2006, 2007, and 2008. He's been part of the coaching staff, including head JV coach, for a decade, and has worked for the past five years at the elementary school as a physical education instructor.
"I'm excited," Humphrey said. "This is something I've been a part of for a long time, as a player and as a coach.
"This is something that has always kind of been on my mind, and so here we are," he added. "I'm excited to get the process going."
One of his assistants, Jim Bonaquisti, who was also once his coach at Le Roy, said Humphrey clearly has a plan and is already moving forward to get the team ready for the 2023 season.
"He knows what he needs to do," Bonaquisti said. "He knows what it's supposed to look like. He's going to do a great job."
With Humphrey and assistants Pete Green and John Whiting, Bonaquisti will be working alongside three coaches he coached when they were high school players.
"Either I've been here a long time or I'm getting old," Bonaquisti quipped.
But that's all part of the tradition, said Bonaquisti, who serves as the team's historian.
"He was a hell of a player," Bonaquisti said. "He was an all-state player. He was a really good college player at Cortland. He's in the Top 10 among receivers in several categories at Cortland. He's young, and hopefully, he's going to stay a while."
Humphrey replaces Brian Herdlein, who has been head coach since 2015. Herdlein, who previously served as an assistant under Brian Moran, lives in Batavia, and Bonquisti said Herdein's sons are coming of age in Batavia's football program, and he wants to be around to be part of their football careers.
"We all get it," Bonaquisti said. "When I was JV coach, I had to miss one of my son's Little League games, and I said, 'Never again.' We love him. I loved coaching with him, and I understand."
It's been a few years, however, since the Oatkan Knights claimed a sectional title. There was even talk earlier this year, because of declining participation numbers in football, of merging the Le Roy program with Cal-Mum. That isn't going to happen, and Bonaquisti thinks Humphrey has the experience, knowledge, and commitment to return Le Roy to championship football.
"It's time for another title," he said.
Humphrey said he feels good about the program. He coached winning teams at the JV level for five years and said there are players coming up who can help the team win.
"We have a lot of skill position players coming back at the varsity level, and while we lost some on the lines, we've got great players coming," Humphrey said. "I'm confident in their skill and their ability. I've got nothing but confidence and enthusiasm for our kids."
The ideals of courage and love, the life lessons of heartbreak and passion, the resilience of the human spirit, these are the themes that play out in the musical "Les Miserables," said Jacqueline McLean, the artistic director of the Le Roy High School production of the classic Broadway show.
Le Roy will perform a version adopted for high schools next weekend.
"The most important theme, in my opinion, is the importance of standing up for the dignity of the human person," McLean said. "Victor Hugo wrote the novel Les Misérables to exploit and criticize the injustice of 19th century France. This novel transcends time and still speaks of ideals that are important today, such as the rights of women, intergenerational conflict, and conflict with the government. This show is meant to renew the human spirit.
"We hope that this show and these amazing students will help you to reflect on how precious life is and how beautiful it can be even in the darkest of days and nights," she added.
The Le Roy Girls Volleyball team was honored at this past week's Le Roy Central School District board meeting for the team's Section V Class C championship.
It's the ninth straight year under Coach Sue Staba that the team has made the finals.
The Knights were 22-2 on the season.
Their second loss came in the Far West Regional Championship against Portville.
"We can't seem to get past Portville," Staba said. "But it was definitely a huge accomplishment making it."
Staba was named the Class C coach of the year for Girls Volleyball, but she gave all the credit to her team.
"The bond that they have, the friendship they have, was -- I've coached 16 years, and it's definitely one of the best, if not the best, team that I had the privilege of coaching with their maturity, their friendship, the things they did with each other off the court," Staba said. "I mean, they're all together all the time, which I think made them play so much better on the court."
The school's outstanding Cross Country runners also received certificates of recognition, including Aiden Soggs (pictured below).
Soggs finished in the Top 10 at sectionals for the third straight year. He's won four Cross Country patches, three individual and one team patch. He finished first in five regular season meets.
Also recognized was Charlotte Blake, who couldn't attend the meeting. She finished third in sectionals. It is her fourth consecutive Top 3 finish and the first girl in school history to win four Cross Country patches, and the second runner overall to achieve that feat. She's the second girl in school history to win a Genesee Region championship.
The Oatkan Knights edged out Bath/Haverling in their sectional playoff match-up on Friday in Le Roy, 28-20.
Jackson Fix gained 141 yards on the ground in 20 rushes, scoring once. Tony Piazza added another 112 yards on 11 carries and scored twice. Drew Strollo scored on one of his 12 runs in which he gained 52 yards.
Connor Hegeman led the defense with eight tackles. Tony Piazza, Jack Tonzi, and Maverick Cole had five each. Tonzi also recorded a sack.
Photo by Ed Henry. Top photo: Knights are led onto the field by senior Ryan Murphy (75).
Tony Piazza (far right) gives the Bath RB a lift.
Piazza putting the pressure on the Rams’ QB.
Antonio Martinez (17) puts an end to this run.
Jackson Fix (5) leaving the Rams behind.
Jack Tonzi (33) gives the Bath QB nowhere to go in the backfield.
The Bath RB has a line of Knights to deal with.
LeRoy O-line providing a wall of push for QB Drew Strollo (far right).