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YOUTH TEAM EXEC DEFENDS TEAM IN INJURY DISPUTE: SOUTHBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — An executive of one of two youth football programs penalized after a lopsided game in which five players suffered concussions is defending his team.

Rob Philion, vice president of the Southbridge Pop Warner program, read a statement at a Wednesday news conference. He said the Tantasqua team, whose players were injured, had the responsibility to stop the Sept. 15 game if they didn't have the required number of players to safely continue.

The Tantasqua coach has said Southbridge players targeted his, and referees didn't interfere. He acknowledged breaking the minumum-player rule, but said it's been loosely enforced.

After a hearing last week, the Central Massachusetts Pop Warner League suspended both teams' coaches for the season and permanently banned the three game referees.

The players who suffered concussions missed some school. Most have since been medically cleared for football.

MISSISSIPPI JURY RULES IN FAVOR OF HELMET MAKER: JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — A Mississippi jury has decided that helmet-manufacturer Riddell is not responsible for the injury of a George County High School football player in 2006.

Court documents say that the plaintiff, who was a minor at the time of the incident, suffered a stroke following a school-sponsored ninth-grade football practice. The lawsuit claimed the helmet pushed on his neck, which damaged an artery and caused the stroke.

The unanimous verdict in the Southern District of Mississippi came last week after a five-day trial.

PLAYERS OPPOSE TAGLIABUE HEARING APPEALS: The players' union and the four players suspended in the Saints' bounties case filed motions Wednesday to have former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue removed from hearing their appeals.

They asked in U.S. District Court in New Orleans that Tagliabue recuse himself because of a conflict of interest, and also asked for a neutral arbitrator to be appointed by the court.

The NFL said it would oppose Tagliabue stepping aside.

Commissioner Roger Goodell removed himself from hearing this set of appeals and appointed his predecessor last week. But the players and their union contend Tagliabue should be disqualified because of his employment by a law firm that has handled bounty-related matters for the league and represented Goodell in Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma's defamation lawsuit against him.




FEDERER BEATS BELLUCCI IN 3 SETS AT SWISS INDOORS: BASEL, Switzerland (AP) — Roger Federer edged Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil 6-3, 6-7 (6), 7-5 Wednesday to advance to the quarterfinals of his hometown Swiss Indoors tournament.

The top-ranked Federer saved four consecutive set points in the second-set tiebreaker before the 34th-ranked Bellucci tied the second-round match.

It was not until match point that Federer, who held serve throughout, had the decisive break-point chance in the decider.

Federer will face either Benoit Paire of France or Lukasz Kubot of Poland in the final eight Friday. Paire beat fifth-seeded Andreas Seppi of Italy, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 in a first-round match.

ISNER OUSTED BY GOFFIN IN 2ND ROUND AT VALENCIA: VALENCIA, Spain (AP) — John Isner of the United States lost to David Goffin 7-6 (2), 4-6, 6-4 Wednesday in the second round at the Valencia Open.

Isner had 21 aces but it wasn't enough against his Belgian opponent, who has improved in the rankings to 45th from No. 175.

Isner has gone 4-5 since winning at Winston-Salem in August. The loss hurts his bid to qualify for the World Tour Finals next month, with only the Paris Masters left to play before the season-ending event.


ROGGE SAYS CYCLING WILL REMAIN IN OLYMPICS: LONDON (AP) — IOC President Jacques Rogge defended the international cycling union's anti-doping efforts Wednesday and said it would be wrong to kick the sport out of the Olympics in the wake of the Lance Armstrong scandal.

Rogge called the evidence against Armstrong "shocking" but said it will ultimately be a "good thing" that helps clean up the sport after a string of high-profile drug cases.

Some critics have called for cycling to be thrown out of the Olympics following the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report that detailed systematic cheating by Armstrong and other riders and led the UCI to strip the American of his seven Tour de France titles.