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.