Olean Times Herald

Salamanca’s Crist Is 15 But Big Joe Smiles ‘n Smiles

Chuckie Crist is just 15, but he squats behind the center as if he was born a quarterback.“He’s a Crist alright,” says the proud coach, mostly to himself, but loud enough for all around to hear. “He’ll be OK,” Joe Sanfilippo says, this time to his companions along the sidelines. It’s a practice session for Sanfilippo’s unbeaten Salamanca Central School football troupe and Sanfilippo obviously uses young Crist as the springboard for the confidence he oozes these days.

Chuckie Crist is the backup quarterback for senior Terry DeBoy and young Crist does not think about unhorsing the veteran. It’s 1966 and 1967 he – as well as Sanfilippo – is thinking about and people who know football in Salamanca say young Chuckie has all the tools to make it big. He’s a slender 5-foot-7, and only 120 pounds, but, at 16 and 17, kids, especially football kids, blossom fast.

“Remember,” explained Big Joe, pausing in the practice to talk about his sophomore prospect, “he’s been brought up with a football in his hand. He’s been at this game seven years. Seven good years in that good midget football program we have here in Salamanca.”

Then young Chuckie was in the huddle. He’s a skinny-legged lad among the well-conditioned 17 and 18-year-olds who have carried Salamanca along the all-winning road so far this year. His voice carries authority. He looks his older teammates squarely in the eyes as he gives the play, slaps his hands and the Salamanca varsity breaks the huddle and moves up to the scrimmage line.

“See what I mean.” Big Joe smiles. He’s proud of all his gridders, but he’s especially proud of the 15-year-old who squats behind the center. The snap. Crist fakes to the lunging 195 pound full back Jim Wright, and drifts back. He stays in the protective pocket as all good quarterbacks must do, and cocks his right arm.

“Watch this, watch this,” Sanfilippo says. It’s a hiss but the smile is all over Joe’s face. Young Chuckie fires away. It is a good pass, not the best in the world, but good. You think of the 15-year-old boy and you look at Big Joe.

“He’s my quarterback next year,” Sanfilippo says. “He can’t miss. What a player. He’s a Crist all right.”

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