ALFRED — The Section V football championships are on the move, and for local programs in Class C and Class D, that could mean the opportunity to play for a title just down the road from home.
Section V football announced this week that its championship games are moving out of Capelli Sport Stadium in downtown Rochester and onto college campuses this fall.
The Class A, AA and B finals will be played at SUNY Brockport, while Alfred University will host the Class C and Class D championships.
The change is aimed to reduce costs for Section V and create a better experience for players and spectators alike. Capelli Sport Stadium — formerly known as PAETEK Park and Sahlen’s Stadium, among a long list of ever-changing monikers — had hosted Section V football games for the last 11 years, earning mixed reviews.
The switch to college campuses should make for a better atmosphere. Alfred University athletic director Paul Vecchio certainly thinks so.
“On a Saturday in the fall walking down to Merrill Field and crossing the bridge — there’s not a whole lot of venues in the Northeast that are a cooler showcase for college or high school football,” Vecchio said. “It’s a great place to watch a football game. We’re happy to have the opportunity. I’m really hoping some our local high schools in this region can make it. That would make it all the more special to have a school within 10, 20, 30 miles of our campus.”
The shift by Section V football mirrors a recent change to the Section V basketball championships, which have moved some classifications from the cavernous (and expensive) Blue Cross Arena into smaller venues on high school and college campuses. Though the maximum capacity goes down, the volume and electricity in the building seem to go up.
Vecchio foresees a similar effect on the gridiron at Alfred University, which has also hosted the Class D basketball championships the past two seasons.
“Merrill Field is the right size for Class C and D,” Vecchio said. “It’s similar to basketball. We can pack Galanis Arena, whereas in the Blue Cross you have 2,800 or 3,000 fans in a 12,000 seat arena. It’s the same with football. It’s the appropriate venue to pack a place and create a great atmosphere.”
Hosting the Section V football championships continues a recent trend for Alfred. In addition to the basketball finals, the university has also hosted the last two editions of the Barkley Showcase, a popular two-day hoops tournament.
Vecchio immediately jumped at another opportunity to show off AU when approached by Section V football coordinator Scott Barker.
“We have a beautiful campus with really nice athletic facilities,” he said. “It’s really nice to showcase them to people who would normally not be in Alfred, New York. It gives them a reason to come here and see what we’re all about. It’s great to be a part of hosting these kind of championships. They’re really exciting moments in the careers of these high school athletes. It’s a memorable event, no matter who is playing. It’s a really good opportunity to showcase our university and facilities as well as be a part of some really great high school competitions.”
Paul Keeley’s Canisteo-Greenwood Redskins are among the Class D programs who will be hoping to visit Merrill Field this fall. A finals berth would be doubly meaningful for Keeley, a former record-setting quarterback at AU.
“With the local proximity to the community, that would be really special if we could ever make it there as a team,” the C-G head coach said. “As an alum, I played there and coached there for two years. Being an alum of that program, it’s great to get anybody on that campus. I’m really excited Section V was able to make that possible for Class C and D.”
Brockport will host the Class B championships Saturday, Nov. 4. That’s where Hornell will play if the Red Raiders return to the Section V finals this fall.
AU hosts the Class C finals Saturday, Nov. 4 at 1 p.m., with the Class D championship following at 4 p.m. Wayland-Cohocton, Wellsville, Dansville and Bath-Haverling are all in Class C this season. Canisteo-Greenwood, Bolivar-Richburg and Cuba-Rushford are once again in Class D.
Brockport will then host the Far West Regional games against Section VI the following weekend. Class D and Class A will play on Friday, followed by Class C, B and AA on Saturday.
The current postseason structure on the Brockport and Alfred campuses is in place for only this season, but there’s no reason to think it won’t take root and continue into the future.
Count Keeley in.
“Thinking back on my experience as a player in high school at Cal-Mum, we played the sectional finals at U of R and I can still remember the aura of it going in there,” Keeley recalled. “From a personal standpoint, the atmosphere of playing on a college campus made me want to pursue the next step and play in college. A number of these kids have never thought of the big picture, and being on a college campus can change their perspective.
“The goal every year for our team and every team in Section V is to not only make sectionals, but make a run to the finals. If we’re fortunate enough to do that, the game being at Alfred so close to home would be the icing on the cake.”