It’s time for OTH’s 50th anniversary Football Edition
Twenty-five years, plus two days ago, Salamanca coach George Whitcher occupied the cover of the Times Herald’s annual football edition.
Whitcher, who learned under the tutelage of the legendary Joe Sanfilippo at that same school, went on to carve his own legacy in the annals of Warrior football, hence his place as the lead story in the TH’s 25th preview of Big 30 football.
But Whitcher’s impact didn’t stop with his retirement in 1998.
His influence was passed on to a trio of former players who are now head coaches at three Big 30 schools in Cattaraugus County.
Jason Marsh (‘91), who actually served a stint at Salamanca in that role, is now in charge of the Franklinville/Ellicottville co-op. He took the position formerly occupied by Chad Bartoszek (‘99), who left F/E to assume the same job at his alma mater.
Also this year, Tom Callen (‘94), a former assistant at Allegany-Limestone, takes over as Gators head coach this season.
It’s a remarkable coaching tree and is examined by TH sports writer and Salamanca Press sports editor Sam Wilson in the cover story for the 50th annual Football Edition included in today’s Times Herald. Indeed, that cover photo of Whitcher 25 years ago reappears out front in the current preview along with Marsh, Bartoszek and Callen.
It’s fitting that Whitcher, now 80, who won 167 games and seven Section 6 championships during his 25-year head coaching career, is cited in our anniversary edition for his impact on a new generation of Big 30 coaches from New York.
AS USUAL, in this year’s 48-page football preview, there are capsules of all 22 schools, including the five fringe programs: Randolph, Ridgway, Sheffield, St. Marys and Elk County Catholic.
Naturally, there’s also the popular but always controversial predictions story on the fates of Big 30 schools, and, spoiler alert, no team will have the burden of unbeaten expectations and only one is tabbed for a single loss.
J.P. Butler has his annual story on players to watch, in which he tabs three five-player units. This year’s first team consists of five who made last season’s Big 30 All-Star Team: four seniors and a junior. The second and third teams are equally split, sharing five juniors and an equal number of seniors.
TH sports writer Shawn Campbell has a piece on the Big 30 coaching carousel where, besides the new positions for Marsh, Bartoszek and Callen, two other coaches return for second stints at their respective schools
(Frank Brown at Wellsville and Port Allegany’s Justin Bienkowski). There’s also a trio of first-year head coaches (Ryan Neyman, Cameron County; David Wild, Cuba-Rushford; and Chris Dworek, St. Marys).
Wilson has a story on the new-look Class B division in Section 6 affecting Olean and Pioneer and the sad reality that shrinking numbers have forced both Maple Grove and Frewsburg to revert to eight-man football. Those moves have changed the look of Class D, the division to which both Randolph and Franklinville/Ellicottville have moved based on New York’s newly-adjusted student-population guidelines.
Butler, meanwhile, examines the changes in Section 5 by which sectional class rather than geography determines scheduling, hopefully reducing the number of uncompetitive matchups that marked cross-class geographical matchups.
Campbell has his annual piece on Big 30 football players in college. This year, 23 players from the area are on collegiate rosters, but nearly half of them (11) are true freshmen. As usual, Alfred University has the largest Big 30 presence, five players, three of them upperclassmen.
There’s also a story on radio broadcasts of Big 30 football. Bradford High, Cameron County, Elk County Catholic and St. Marys will have their entire schedules broadcast while Salamanca’s and Wellsville’s home games will be aired. Two other stations will have full schedules but carry multiple teams.
TIMES HERALD sports intern Jeff Uveino has previews of both Alfred University’s and Alfred State’s football seasons, and the edition also contains the National Football League’s week-by-week schedule.
Finally, there are also nearly two dozen action photos from Big 30-area football games last fall.
(Chuck Pollock, a Times Herald senior sports columnist, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)