A chronological look at the Press’ top sports stories of 2020: a year of stops, starts, achievements and losses:
Haskell sets WNY girls scoring record
With the previous record holder in attendance, Franklinville senior Dani Haskell became the all-time leading scorer in Western New York girls basketball on Jan. 31.
Haskell had 38 points in a 75-66 win over Randolph, surpassing former Cardinals star Mckenna Maycock’s record. Maycock, who went on to a four-year Division I career at St. Bonaventure, was in the gym that night and saw her record fall.
Haskell finished her career with 3,227 points over six seasons. She is currently a freshman on the Canisius College women’s team.
ECS brings home more state ski medals
Sisters Logan and Hayly Fredrickson, both then-juniors at Ellicottville Central School, finished first and second in the state at the NYSPHSAA giant slalom championships Tuesday, Feb. 25, at Bristol Mountain.
Logan Fredrickson, who last year won both the slalom and giant slalom, took first in the GS with a combined time of 1:56.54, running times of :55.69 and :57.85. Hayly Fredrickson was close behind with a time of 1:59.49 (:59.44, 1:00.04). Senior Adrian DeOrbe was 30th in the boys’ slalom.
HS sports halt
The COVID-19 pandemic’s early months brought an end to the final stages of the winter high school sports season and the cancelation of the spring season.
In the last games area teams before the shutdown, Section 6 held boys basketball crossover finals March 10. But by that weekend, winter regionals had been postponed indefinitely.
May 1 marked the end for schools’ hopes to play spring sports, as the NYSPHSAA canceled the season.
All-state honors for hoop stars
Randolph senior Tyler Hind won the New York state Class C Player of the Year award after a record-breaking final high school season.
Hind led the Cardinals their third sectional title in four years and finished his career with 2,224 points and exactly 400 three-pointers.
Franklinville senior Dani Haskell, the new Western New York scoring title holder, was a Class C first-team girls basketball all-state selection, while Randolph junior Sydney Hvizdzak made the fourth team.
Summer sports fall by the wayside
Many of the sure signs of summer in the sports world had to take a year off in 2020. For the first time since its inception in 1974, the Big 30 Charities Classic was not played. The Big 30 Committee made its decision the night before a June 25 announcement.
Several youth sports could not play official seasons either, including Little League in the summer and midget and peewee football in the fall.
Some exceptions included the New York/Pennsylvania Corporate Cup Soccer Showcase, which finally played after an 11-week delay on Aug. 2 at Olean’s Bradner Stadium, and golf leagues, including the Penn-York Junior Golf League, which played its usual schedule over the summer.
Salamanca native Brown signs 2-year deal with Bandits
Growing up as a lacrosse-loving child in Salamanca, Frank Brown dreamed of playing for the Buffalo Bandits.
Now, a new two-year contract signed by Brown on Friday formalized that dream coming true. In his third season in the National Lacrosse League, Brown, a 26-year-old transition player, played two games for Buffalo last season after a trade from Rochester. While the pandemic cut short his first season in Buffalo, when the NLL postponed and later canceled the remainder of the season, Brown’s new contract kept him where he always wanted to be.
“I think the whole point of my career was to end up here,” he said. “I even go back to like the last championship that the Bandits won, I was probably 13 years old and I was at that game. I grew up going to Bandits games. Everything I had in mind was to get me to Buffalo to play for the Bandits and to win a championship for the city. So (I'm) excited to say the least.”
New Vets Park takes shape in Salamanca
With multiple new turf fields, bright lights and a record-size scoreboard, the next Salamanca High School home football game should look much different.
Last season, 2019, marked the Warriors’ last on the old grass field at Veterans Memorial Park, as construction on a new facility began with demolition in April. By August, the football turf had been laid down and a video scoreboard — the largest in the state for high school sports — installed. Two new box lacrosse practice fields and a baseball field followed in the fall. The school is planning a ribbon-cutting for April.
Football plans pushed to March
After waiting all summer for some clarity for New York state, high school football teams got a date to plan for, though not the one they may have wanted.
On Sept. 9, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) postponed the season for three fall sports considered a “high risk” for spreading infectious diseases — football, volleyball and competitive cheerleading — to March 1, delaying spring sports practices from March 15 to April 19 to make room in a crammed 2021 schedule.
“The bad part is we're just so used to playing football in the fall,” Salamanca coach Chad Bartoszek said at the time. “It's very strange to be around it, watching it on TV and hearing about other states doing it and we're just not playing.
“But the good side of all this is that we do now have a focal point. We have a date, something that we can get prepared for.”
Low-risk sports mark return of NY HS athletics
After a delay of nearly seven months, high school athletics returned to New York state in mid-fall, as low-and-moderate risk fall sports took the field to practice in late September and begin games in October.
Sports taking the field included soccer, cross country, girls tennis and girls swimming. The abbreviated season lasted into November through sectional championships, with state regionals and championships canceled.
Salamanca sports legend Chuck Crist dies
Salamanca lost one of the most accomplished athletes in area history, as Chuck Crist passed away at age 69 on Oct. 28, 2020.
Crist, a four-sport star athlete at Salamanca High School, went on to play basketball at Penn State before moving into pro football with no college experience. He played seven seasons in the NFL as a defensive back for the Giants, Saints and 49ers.
“Everybody loved what he could do on the field,” Salamanca native Fred Saradin told The Press, recalling Crist’s high school career. “There are great artists, people are born to sing or paint, and I believe Chuck was one in a million that just had that natural ability where it came to a ball, he was just fantastic.’”
ECS soccer stars make Big 30 All-Star team
The Ellicottville boys and girls soccer teams had two individuals each who earned Big 30 All-Star recognition, as the Olean Times Herald announced its postseason soccer honors on Saturday, Dec. 19.
The Ellicottville boys, who went 8-5-1, were represented by seniors Bryce Butler and Noah Steinbroner, making up two of the 15 all-star spots comprising players from the New York and Pennsylvania sides of the Big 30 area. Meanwhile, the Ellicottville girls (14-1) had two of the 15 all-star spots: junior Mandy Hurlburt and senior Logan Fredrickson.
Winter HS season delayed
The start date for winter high school sports moved back again in mid-December, as Section 6 followed delays from the state and NYSPHSAA by pushing all sports to at least Jan. 18.
Presently the state allows low and moderate-risk sports (bowling, boys swimming and diving, alpine skiing and rifle), while sports considered high-risk by the state Department of Health (basketball, wrestling, ice hockey, competitive cheerleading) are postponed until further guidance is issued.