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Sanfilippo Recalled as Legend in Salamanca

For all the success he enjoyed on the football field under Joe Sanfilippo, including an undefeated season, Jud Foy said his greatest memories of the coach were away from it.

Son of the late Salamanca administrator and coach Louis Foy, Jud played high school football from 1968-72, near the end of Sanfilippo’s run with the Warriors.

“You have to understand, we feared Joe,” Foy said. “He was the disciplinarian and one thing you learned about Joe is you don’t make the same mistake twice. But our senior year, Carl, his son, was one of my closest friends in high school and in May, we had our junior-senior prom. Joe invited all of us seniors who played for him to come to his house after the prom to hang out with our dates.

“We weren’t sure what to expect because we just feared this man like there was no tomorrow, but he showed us this human side of him we never knew existed. We played pool with him, we did other things and it wasn’t the same man who coached us in football.”

SANFILIPPO, a Navy veteran, legendary coach and San Jose State star, died Sunday in Syracuse at Veterans Medical Center at 91.

He arrived in Salamanca in 1957, named the school’s football coach that August, after moving from Gallup, N.M., where his coaching career began.

After a 1-6 debut season, he built the Warriors into a powerhouse with four undefeated seasons (1964, 1965, 1967 and 1971) and went a total record of 95-33-4. After two of his undefeated seasons, 1964 and 1971, he was named Big 30 coach of the year.

His Salamanca tenure included 11 championships in the then-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Interscholastic Athletic Conference and Division VI of the Section VI Football Federation.

“He was an old-school, very basic, disciplined football coach,” Foy said. “We did not have a lot of plays in Salamanca, but what we did have, he practiced us to perfection. The man could tear apart an opposing team’s offense or defense like there was no tomorrow.”

Among the Warriors’ stars under Sanfilippo were his son, Carl Sanfilippo, who went on to a successful coaching career in Baldwinsville, and former Giants, Saints and 49ers safety Chuck Crist.

“He brought discipline and work ethic to the program,” said Crist, the former Salamanca principal. “Looking back on it, the thing that he brought — believe it or not — he did a lot of non-football things to bring the camaraderie in. The one that comes to mind is we had this old wooden sled, it just had boards in the front and some runners on it. There were nights that we were out there 30 minutes, 40 minutes after dark, pushing this thing around and it really had nothing to do with conditioning or football as it did building the camaraderie of the team.”

Crist played from 1965-67 at Salamanca, then later at Penn State and the NFL. Chief among Sanfilippo’s traditions were strategically planned Saturday night home games.

“He wanted to show off the program: we were the only game in town,” Crist said. “And the coaching staff was free to go scouting on Friday nights. We went seven days a week, practiced Monday through Friday, played on Saturday and had film sessions on Sunday.”

Brad Weitzel had the distinction of scoring Sanfilippo’s last touchdown at Salamanca and George Whitcher’s first and wrote a book of the Sanfilippo and Whitcher years.

“TUESDAY WAS the most grueling test of manhood I’ve ever been through as a human being,” Weitzel wrote by email. “We blocked and tackled for over 3 hours and all of this was live (it was brutal but I would love to do it again). Wednesday was a repeat of Tuesday. By the end of the week we’d all be beat up from pounding on each other and then he would start telling us how good we were. Then he’d have us in a fevered pitch for punishing the other team. On Saturday, that’s what we did. Everybody was afraid of us. People from outside thought we were animals — disciplined animals. We did not lack confidence and I have to say that c