Alumni: Callen gets the call as new A-L football coach
ALLEGANY — There’s a connection among the three new high school football coaches in Cattaraugus County.
Chad Bartoszek (Salamanca), Jason Marsh (Franklinville/Ellicottville) and Tom Callen (Allegany-Limestone) each played at Salamanca, where they were Big 30 all-stars for legendary coach George Whitcher.
If that’s not enough, Bartoszek and Callen succeed fellow Salamanca alums Paul Haley and Paul Furlong, respectively, while Marsh takes over for Bartoszek.
“We’re all from the same era of that golden era of Salamanca football,” said Callen, approved June 4 as A-L’s coach. “I could call Allegany a soccer town. They love soccer here. They bleed it. In Salamanca back in the ‘80s, ‘90s and 2000s, they really bled football.
“I don’t know if it was the town or what, but we had an excellent coach, we had someone who we could model ourselves after. Ultimately, you have to love the sport. You certainly don’t do it for the money but you need to love it, and I think the guys that played at Salamanca really, truly loved the game of football so they just wanted to continue it and keep on coaching.”
But the 43-year-old Callen never expected to be a varsity head coach. He spent the last two years on Furlong’s staff at A-L.
“And I had every intention of just being another assistant until news broke that he was leaving,” Callen said.
Furlong was hired as a physical education teacher at Salamanca, where he will be an assistant football coach. With the Gators, he had a 24-43 record in eight seasons over two stints (2008-09, 2013-18).
Callen’s son, Thomas, is a senior-to-be at A-L and started at quarterback as a junior.
“I’ve coached these boys since they were in peewees, so I know all of them, I’m familiar with all of them,” said Callen, who is employed by Eaton-Cooper Power Systems. “It just made sense to continue on and see what we can do this year.”
Callen inherits a program that has just one winning season and one playoff win in the last 10 years. Last fall, the Gators went 2-6 in an injury-riddled campaign. Callen’s son suffered a broken arm in Week 1 and A-L started 0-5.
“We had some injuries, and I think the kids got down. It just kind of snowballed from there,” Callen said. “We didn’t have as many seniors, and that’s always a huge factor in your leadership and your physical preparedness. I think we had five or six seniors.”
This year, the Gators expect to have 18 seniors on their roster, making expectations high.
Still, Callen is faced with trying to achieve football success in what he called a “soccer town.”
“With all the success that Jon Luce has had with his soccer program, their numbers are very healthy, they get some of the premier athletes,” he said. “For us to have 18 seniors is very unusual. Usually six or seven of those guys are playing soccer, and rightfully so. He’s built a powerhouse program in this area, so he’s going to attract the best talent.”
Since Allegany and Limestone merged in 1995, the school has won seven Section 6 titles in boys soccer, including four in the last five years. It’s still seeking its first championship in football.
“In the last four decades, only four schools have ever done a double sectional title in soccer and football in the same year,” Callen said. “So it’s extremely difficult for your school to win football and soccer in the same year ... and it’s usually the bigger schools with a bigger number of kids to pull from. But like I said, this is an unusual year with 18 seniors.
“I think we have an opportunity to be really good this year, if we could get all of the kids to buy in and just believe that they can win games. If we could do that, I think everything will fall into place. They’re really good football-playing kids. ... I expect great things out of them this year. Hopefully we as a coaching staff can get that out of them.”
(Shawn Campbell, a Times Herald sports writer, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)