Salamanca mourns coaching legend Whitcher
Sam Wilson, Salamanca Press
One of winningest coaches in Big 30 football history and the architect of many of Salamanca’s finest times, George Whitcher, died on Thursday.
Whitcher’s daughter, Jennifer Whitcher Hawkins, shared the news with a Salamanca Alumni Football group on Facebook, writing, “I wanted to share how much a part you have all been in my dad's life. He left the earth this morning, and is with Jesus.”
“Warrior Nation lost a legend today!” Salamanca alumnus and longtime booster D.J. Whitmore commented on the post. “He was one of the central figures in most of our young adult lives, who helped shape us into the men we are today! He will truly be missed! My most sincerest heartfelt condolences go out to the Whitcher family!”
“Jennifer, my deepest condolences,” commented Baldwinsville coach Carl Sanfilippo, son of Whitcher’s predecessor at Salamanca. “Mr. Whitcher was a great man, and had a tremendous impact on so many young people. He was and always will be a big part of my life. Prayers for your family.”
At Salamanca, Whitcher succeeded Joe Sanfilippo as varsity head coach and held the job from 1974-98. His teams went 167-59-5 for a .735 win percentage, won seven Section 6 championship seasons including in an undefeated season in 1982 (before the establishment of the NYSPHSAA state tournament). He retired as not only the school’s winningest coach, but the winningest in all of the Big 30 (a record now held by former Randolph coach Pat Slater).
Just this fall, the Salamanca High athletic department honored the 82-year-old Whitcher with a rededication of its new Veterans Memorial Park press box in his name at halftime of the football home opener against Southwestern on Sept. 10. The Warriors played a video narrated by current coach and athletic director Chad Bartoszek, who played for Whitcher, recognizing their former coach and welcomed Whitcher and dozens of former Salamanca football players at midfield during the rededication.
On Thursday, Bartoszek told The Salamanca Press the Warriors plan to honor Whitcher again in tonight’s playoff game against Lackawanna at Vets Park.
“It is a big deal obviously for the community and the school,” Bartoszek said. “In my professional position we are going to be doing a couple things tomorrow to make sure that we recognize his legacy and I'm so glad we were able to get the dedication through earlier in the year.
“But on a personal note,” Bartoszek added, “it is a big deal for me as it is for a lot of other players and I've got a ton of memories being a player for him and I coached with him a little bit. He just had a big impact on my life and just football was something that I learned to love here at Salamanca and it became my life really. I have a lot of emotions going through me today but I'm just focusing on the game and I'm hoping to be able to just reflect a little bit tomorrow night after the game, hopefully with some joy.”
Reached by The Press on Thursday, another coach and former player of Whitcher’s, Jason Marsh, expressed his condolences and appreciation for his high school coach.
“Initially my heart kind of sunk when I heard the news,” said Marsh, who coached at Salamanca for nine seasons and now leads Franklinville/Ellicottville. “But then it made you realize that I was lucky to have had him be a part of my life as my coach and mentor. He certainly provided me a lot of guidance not only as a player but also in my coaching career. He definitely was a leader of men and I just think I was blessed to have the time and the memories that I had with him.”