Haley Hopes to Honor SHS Football History, Restore Excitement
Since the late Joe Sanfilippo’s Salamanca varsity football tenure began in 1957, only five other men can claim the same title.
Some have had longer runs, most notably and exceptionally George Whitcher, from 1974-1999. But since those heydey years, Paul Haley said he's seen a decline, not just in athlete participation but in community engagement.
Haley, the newest member of the Salamanca coaches club, hopes to boost both starting this year. He takes over a program which has posted winning seasons in recent years, including three straight 6-1 regular seasons from 2011-2013, but lost five of its final six games in a 3-5 year last fall.
“It’s a huge honor,” Haley said. “To follow those guys, it’s amazing. It’s a dream come true. If I can do half or a quarter of what those guys, Mr. Sanfilippo, Coach Whitcher, Coach (Rich) Morton did, I’d be happy.
“My biggest thing right now is I want to get Salamanca football back to where it was. I want to get the town interested. You used to go to Salamanca football games on Friday, Saturday nights and it was two-to-three people deep around the whole field. The whole town embraced the team. The kids are pumped and it’s something we’ve got to cultivate.”
Haley also takes over in Salamanca’s centennial year, one that could have been the first of a cooperative agreement. The Salamanca school board hired Haley after Jason Marsh withdrew his application to return and the school rejected an absorption into Allegany-Limestone's program.
“I didn't want them to merge, maybe that's too much pride, but I wanted them to stay Warriors,” Haley said. “I understand there's going to be tough years. But I don't want to have a couple tough years to ruin 100 years of tradition.”
The new coach sounded optimistic about avoiding the roster concerns that drove the merger discussions.
"If we get the kids out that signed up, we should be alright,” he said. “I've had a lot of kids contacting me that haven't played that are interested in playing. With our weight program, we've had two or three kids that've never played before there every night.
"There's going to be a little bit of a growth period, but we've got a nice young nucleus in place if we can get through this first year here."
Haley made the Big 30 all-star team as a senior in 1993 playing for Whitcher and attended Alfred State. He now resides in Salamanca and works at the South Buffalo Railway in Lackawanna. He coached pee wees and midgets with the Salamanca Sabers program from 2000 until last year and SHS' junior varsity from 2012-2014.
Haley went from entering coaching with his friends to help in absence of a midget coach to stepping into the varsity job. While admitting he has “a long way to go,” Haley said he’s already learned from his predecessors.
"I took a lot that I learned from Coach Whitcher and Coach Morton and tried to start off with what they taught me to do,” he said. “Through the way, I've learned a lot, especially since I started on the J.V.'s working with Coach Furlong and Coach Marsh. Those guys really taught me a lot."
Part of Haley's enthusiasm for the season stems from a familiarity with his roster. Aside from a few newcomers, he's coached most of the team in pee wee, midget, J.V. or all three.
"For example, Marcus Cooper, I've coached that kid basically every level of football he's played. He started out as an eight-year-old and I watched him all the way through. He was on my first J.V. team (in 2012) and now my first varsity team, he's a senior this year. Cole Quigley, too."
Dustin Ross returns to the sideline as a varsity assistant. Seth Hostuttler, a longtime Saber youth coach who started helping in 2000 at age 17 and now the Southern Tier Diesel’s offensive coordinator, replaces Haley as the J.V. coach. The Salamanca board is expected to hire Pat Galante at its next meeting as an assistant “swing” coach to aid both teams.
“Seth and I have a good feeling for each other, being together all those years,” Haley said. “Me and Coach Ross, we grew up together. His brother (Darren) was one of my best friends. I know I can rely on him. He’s a smart guy. We haven’t defined who’s calling what. We’ve got four guys who can come up with a gameplan.”