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FOOTBALL
State champs! or -- State champions!

SYRACUSE — The Skaneateles football team is the state Class C champion.

The Lakers fought off Section II’s Holy Trinity 28-25 Friday at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse to capture the NYSPHSAA Class C title. It’s Skaneateles' first state title in football in school history.

Quarterback Patrick Hackler, who broke the New York state record for touchdown passes in a season, tacked on three more in the victory to finish with 53 on the season. Nick Wamp hauled in two touchdown receptions and running back Areh Boni ran for 176 yards.

Skaneateles led 14-12 at halftime and scored two touchdowns in the third quarter to go ahead by 14. Holy Trinity scored twice in the fourth, including a late touchdown with under a minute remaining to cut the Lakers’ lead to three, but Skaneateles recovered an onside-kick attempt to seal the win.

The win gives Skaneateles High School three state championships over the last calendar year — the girls ice hockey team won the state title during the winter season while girls lacrosse was crowned state champion in the spring.

The Lakers finish the season 12-1.


Local
'Pretty remarkable': Skaneateles fans cheer on their team at the Dome

SYRACUSE — His body leaned forward and his head down, like a coach preparing to give his team a pep talk, 11-year-old Dominic Caraccio asked his friends crowded around him to "Give me an 'L'!

Caraccio then yelled for an "a", "k", "e", "r" and "s", and his compatriots shouted each letter back.

"What's that spell?" Caraccio shouted.

"Lakers!" his friends screamed.

The Carrier Dome in Syracuse was abuzz with fans cheering on the Skaneateles Lakers in the Class C state title game Friday night.

The Skaneateles side of the stadium was alive with spectators, from a woman who playfully hit the people in front of her with her twin foam fingers, to a man who rocked an infant in his arms to the beat of rapper Jay-Z's "Public Service Announcement," which was blaring from the sound system.

The eyes of Bill Marquardt, a lifelong Skaneateles resident and youth hockey coach, were laser-focused on the field, his gaze mostly only turning away to greet people he knew as they walked by. He said he believed the victories the Skaneateles football team accumulated this season spoke to the determination and hard work of the players, coach Joe Sindoni and Sindoni's staff this season.

He remarked on the large crowd on the Skaneateles side of the stadium. He believed the close-knit nature of Skaneateles could be attributed to how many people showed up.

"For a high school football game in upstate high school, I think that's pretty remarkable," Marquardt said.

For many people under the dome, the athletes on the field weren't just players but active members of their community. Madison Rossi, 10, said that player senior Scott Ochsner is her summer camp counselor. Her dad, Steve, described Ochsner as a "gentle giant."

Madison said late in the game that she felt the Lakers were going to take the win.

"I don't think (Holy Trinity) can get as many touchdowns in five minutes," Madison said as Steve laughed at the bluntness of her analysis.

Frank Walczak, a certified athletic trainer at Victory Sports Medicine in Skaneateles, said he wanted to cheer on the team since he has worked with a couple of the players this season. He said he believed they were doing well and that he wanted them to win.

"You don't want to play four months of football and come up short," Walczak said.


Local
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COMMUNITY
24th annual Dickens Christmas kicks off holiday season in Skaneateles

SKANEATELES — It was the best of times in the village of Skaneateles Friday as Charles Dickens helped celebrate the start of the holiday season. 

The 19th century writer paraded through the streets of Skaneateles Friday afternoon for the 24th annual Dickens Christmas. Set in 1842 England, the World's Smallest Christmas Parade introduced many of the key characters from Dickens' classic, "A Christmas Carol," including the Fezziwigs, the Cratchits and Ebenezer Scrooge. 

Following a short parade along Fennell, Jordan and Genesee streets in the village, the cast of characters gathered on the steps of the Hannum House where Queen Victoria asked Dickens to write a Christmas story. There, in front of dozens of 21st century onlookers, Dickens smiled and said yes. 

Rebekah Prasad and her husband, Tosh, brought their three children from Rochester for the festival. Prasad said it was the family's first time seeing Dickens Christmas. 

"We're here to see the little parade and walk around town and enjoy the Christmas events," she said, her 3-year-old son resting on Tosh Prasad's shoulders in the crowd. 

Similarly, the Lopes family also traveled from out of town for the festivities. Originally from Liverpool, Caite Lopes was visiting the village with her husband, Peter, their four children and her parents. 

"It's a great magical way to kick off the Christmas season," Lopes said. "It's our favorite holiday ... and the characters are wonderful." 

Lopes' daughters, Sarah, 7, and Julia, 5, were all smiles following the parade. Sarah had one word to describe her first Dickens Christmas: "Amazing."

After the parade, Dickens and the rest of the Christmas Carol crew took to the streets, visiting several local restaurants and businesses and interacting with passersby. Scrooge could be heard shouting "Bah, Humbug" while carolers sang and characters performed at the Clift Park gazebo. 

But over the next few weeks, Scrooge's "humbugs" should soften as Dickens Christmas continues in the village. The festivities run every Saturday and Sunday through Christmas Eve. 

"I wouldn't miss anything in Skaneateles village," said Kimberly Kasper, who retired to the area this spring. "It's a wonderful way to start the Christmas holiday season. ... Everybody should come to Dickens Christmas." 


Kevin Rivoli, The Citizen 

Ebenezer Scrooge says "Bah, Humbug" during the World's Smallest Christmas parade during the 24th annual Dickens Christmas celebration in Skaneateles.


GAMBLING
Jackpot elusive for 3 new upstate New York casinos

SCHENECTADY — Three new upstate New York casinos have so far failed to generate the big payoffs they projected, meaning less money shared with towns, cities and counties.

Slot machine and table game revenue from casinos in the Finger Lakes, the Southern Tier and Schenectady have fallen short of the rosy revenue projections operators produced when applying for licenses. For instance, Rivers Casino & Resort in Schenectady had gambling revenues of $105 million after nine months, putting it on track to finish short of its minimum $181 million projection.

And that has affected Schenectady, where city officials are bracing to bring in hundreds of thousands dollars less than the $2.75 million they budgeted for this year from the revenue. Councilman Vince Riggi likened the situation to a kid at Christmas getting fewer presents than expected.

"It's a plus, but it's still a disappointment, that's the way I see it," Riggi said. "We were told to expect much more."

State officials and casino owners argue that any revenue from Rivers, del Lago Resort and Casino in the Finger Lakes, and the Southern Tier's Tioga Downs Casino and Resort represents a stream of money for localities that didn't exist before. And they say the casinos have delivered on the state's main goal of creating jobs and new economic activity in struggling areas.

"It's been a huge success. Whatever has been promised from an economic development standpoint has been delivered by the casinos," said Tioga owner Jeff Gural. "The real losers, frankly, are the owners of the three casinos."

The casinos' slots and table games have raised $88.8 million. Eighty percent of the money goes to public schools, which have set levels of aid unaffected by casino revenue fluctuations. The rest is goes to county and municipal governments.

That comes in addition to gambling revenue from horse tracks and five Indian casinos. The Indian casino payments are down steeply this year because the Senecas stopped making payments for their three western New York casinos.

The tribe and the state are headed to arbitration in the dispute over compact terms.

Analysts blame a crowded market for the disappointing new casino revenues. Aside from the five full-scale Indian casinos, New York is home to ten "racino" horse tracks with video lottery terminals. The Oneidas, who operate the Turning Stone casino in central New York, also run a mini-casino casino in a strip mall near Syracuse.

"Obviously there is a pie that is divided up too much," said Alan Woinski, president of Gaming USA Corp., a New Jersey-based gambling consultancy.

A spokesman for the state Gaming Commission said it will be more accurate to analyze third-year revenues, where the casinos are more established.

Del Lago spokesman Steven Greenberg noted that their hotel only opened this summer and that they are confident about growth in 2018.

"They're new entities," he said. "You've got to give this some time to build their businesses."

Del Lago Resort and Casino generated $113 million in gambling revenue in its first nine months, putting it on track to finish short of its projected $263 million.

Woinski said that competition will only increase next year.

A fourth $1.2 billion casino resort selected by state officials is set to open in March in the Catskills, about 90 miles northwest of New York City. Another casino less than an hour from the New York border in Springfield, Massachusetts, is set to open later in 2018. And the Oneidas are set to open a second mini-casino near Syracuse in the spring.

"It's very hard to see a situation where things improve," Woinski said.