I was pretty excited when former Syracuse football coach Dick MacPherson spoke at the Oneonta High School Football Booster Club's annual dinner.

Growing up in the '80s in upstate New York, the head coach of the Orangemen was a household name. On a field trip to an event in the Syracuse area, my junior high school class took a brief side trip to an empty Carrier Dome just to go inside and see the stadium.

MacPherson, who retired from coaching in 1992, was in a jovial mood at the event at the Holiday Inn in Oneonta, which was attended by more than 200 players, coaches, family members and their friends.

I had a chance to spend a few minutes with him and asked him how, from a coaching perspective, the game has changed in the last two decades.

"I think football on most levels is a changing game all the time," MacPherson said.

And what gains favor at the highest levels of the game trickles down to the lower levels, he said.

"It's an ever-changing game," he said.

But MacPherson said there will always be a tremendous need for players who excel at the fundamentals _ players who can block, tackle and run.

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It could be some time before the roughly $16 million Southside highway reconstruction project actually gets started. The state Department of Transportation this week announced budget cuts have placed the project on the back burner, with no funding dedicated for it until at least 2015.

But several people at a public hearing still spoke out in favor or against various aspects of the plan.

The opposition to the proposal was mainly directed at the roundabouts in the DOT's preferred option. Three roundabouts would replace three signalized intersections on Southside.

Lawson Fowble of G&I Homes was among several people who lobbied against the use of roundabouts.

"We are in the business of moving manufactured homes," Fowble said. "We are very much in favor of modernizing Southside, don't get me wrong."

But Fowble said the roundabouts would make it very difficult for his company to move manufactured homes from its place of business.

The DOT is also considering an option with just signalized intersections.

Both of these options would includes improved access to city-owned New Island, which borders the north bank of the Susquehanna River. New Island is a de facto city park used on a small scale by hikers, birdwatchers and mountain bikers.

But there is one problem.

"There is no way to get there legally," said Donna Vogler, of the Oneonta Susquehanna Greenway Committee.

Vogler pointed out at the hearing that since Interstate 88 was constructed, Oneonta residents have largely been cut off from the Susquehanna River. The DOT owns the land along Exit 15 that is used to access New Island, but this access is technically illegal.

Vogler applauded the DOT for including official and improved access to New Island in both proposals, but said she wondered if this portion could move forward independent from the larger project now that it will likely be delayed.

"This access is owed to us," she said.

The Oneonta Susquehanna Greenway is envisioned to one day run through New Island.

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Staff Writer Jake Palmateer covers Oneonta City Hall and police and fire departments.

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