The Post-Journal

Ty Harper Doing What He Loves

SHERMAN — As the Clymer/Sherman/Panama football team warmed up on the field prior to its Class C South regular-season finale against Fredonia last Saturday afternoon, Coach Ty Harper paced slowly back and forth, only a perfectly executed down-and-out from the scoreboard in the west end zone that bears the name of Harry W. Brosius.

While Harper, a social studies teacher at Sherman, doesn’t need a history lesson on his predecessor from decades ago, I certainly did, so I went to the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame website to learn more about Brosius.

Did you know:

That the former Sherman athletic director/coach (1937-1969) and CSHOF inductee (1988) guided the school to Section VI titles in basketball, volleyball, baseball and bowling? That he compiled a 107-67-5 record as the school’s first football coach? That he was in charge of the six-man team at the school from 1940 through 1959, including 1957 when Sherman was listed among the country’s top teams by Six-Man Magazine? That he completed his stellar career with an 11-man program from 1960-68?

Then I did a little more digging.

The athletic complex at Panama Central School was named after Jack Keeney, a 2015 CSHOF inductee, in 1998. A physical education teacher at Panama for 34 years (1962-1996), Keeney was the Panthers’ football coach for 33 years and athletic director for 30. In his time calling the shots from the sidelines, he posted a 154-106-10 record, won four division titles and had four unbeaten seasons. A former Section VI football chairman, Keeney also coached track and field, basketball, baseball, volleyball and swimming during his tenure at Panama.

And, for good measure, I extended my research to neighboring Clymer where its longtime former football coach, Howard McMullin, also produced a pretty significant resume, including guiding the Pirates to four straight Section VI titles (1999-2002) and four trips to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D final four, including a berth in the title game in 1999.

Brosius, Keeney & McMullin.

Harper belongs in that company, too.

Since 2018, the merged program from three neighboring school districts has compiled a 29-1 record and claimed NYSPHSAA Class D titles in 2018 and 2019. Bumped up to Class C this season, the Wolfpack (5-0) haven’t missed a beat.

“It comes down to their willingness to work hard,” Harper said. “At the end of the day, the motto we have for the team this year is to be ‘the standard.’ We’ve got so many seniors (18) and I don’t think that they want to let anyone down. They don’t want to let anyone down from the kids who came before them.”

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With 4.5 minutes remaining in the third quarter last Saturday, Clymer/Sherman/Panama’s all-purpose star, John Swabik, fumbled and Fredonia recovered.

“Keep your head up,” Harper yelled from the sideline, “and make the next play.”

On the Hillbillies’ first snap after the turnover, Swabik did as he was told, intercepting a Nick Whitfield pass at the Wolfpack’s 23-yard line. Clymer/Sherman/Panama went on to win, 26-0, to secure the top seed in the Section VI Class C playoffs, setting up a semifinal showdown against Southwestern on Saturday.

Some might suggest Harper’s “make-the-next-play” directive was just plain luck. Fair enough … IF the Wolfpack didn’t have a history of doing such things on a regular basis.

For example: Early in the fourth quarter of the 2018 state title game, the Wolfpack led Moriah, 7-0, their closest game of the season. Facing a fourth-and-21 from the Moriah 30, Harper called a timeout.

It was time to unveil “trips, gun right; rip, hitch and pitch,” Harper’s favorite trick play.

With Cameron Barmore flanked left, and Swabik, Mitchell Hovey and Zavon Overton flanked right, quarterback Gerrit Hinsdale barked out the signals. Swabik went in motion left, the ball was snapped by center Elliott Jackson to Hinsdale, who connected with Barmore on a 12-yard hitch. Almost simultaneously, Swabik, streaking up the sideline, took a lateral from Barmore and raced the final 18 yards for the touchdown.

Momentum clearly in their favor, the Wolfpack dominated the rest of the way, their state title dream realized.

Then, in the NYSPHSAA semifinal in 2019, Harper threw caution to the wind again.

After a fourth-quarter touchdown pulled Clymer/Sherman/Panama to within a point of Tioga, 27-26, with 9:51 left, Harper opted for the two-point conversion rather than an extra-point kick that would have tied the game.

Operating out of the wildcat, Swabik, the nationally ranked decathlete and the fastest player on the team, took the direct snap and sprinted right, just barely beating Tioga defenders into the end zone. Clymer/Sherman/Panama won, 28-27. A week later, the Wolfpack rolled past Moriah, 47-6, for their second straight state title.

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Merging three rival schools into one cohesive unit can be challenging at best.

At worst? I won’t go there.

But Harper has found the winning formula, both on the field and on the sidelines. His staff includes defensive coordinator Chris Payne — he coached the stand-alone Panama team for years before the merger — and special teams guru Dave Bodamer. Although the men work in separate buildings during the school day (Harper at Sherman, Payne at Panama and Bodamer at Clymer), they’ve managed the logistics and the challenges to make the Wolfpack one of the best programs in the state.

“It’s a matter of unselfishness,” Harper said. “The kids have bought into everything we asked them to do. Chris Payne could have very easily said, ‘I’ve been a head coach for 16-18 years, I’m not going to be anyone’s assistant.’ He took on that role and ran with it. He’s as good a coach as I’ve ever seen. You’re seeing what this defense is doing this year.”

Success — at least in terms of victories — didn’t happen overnight, though.

The first merged season, 2015, the Wolfpack were 2-6, losing four games by a touchdown or less.

In 2016, they won five of their last six games, to finish 5-4. And in 2017, they were 6-3, bowing to Maple Grove, the eventual state runner-up, in the Section VI semifinals.

Since then, Clymer/Sherman/Panama is batting .996 — 29 for 30.

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Kyle Hinsdale has had a front-row seat to watch the growth of the program the last five years, dating back to when he was coaching Clymer/Sherman/Panama’s modified program.

“I had a couple of conversations with Ty, trying to take some of the things he was doing at the varsity level and implement them at the modified level,” said Hinsdale, the father of Gerrit, who is now a freshman quarterback at Washington & Jefferson University, and Bryce, who will join the Clymer/Sherman/Panama varsity team next season. “You could tell then, in those conversations, that he was going to be a builder of a program. To me, that’s what it is. He’s had great teams, but he’s now built a program that he’s going to be able to sustain.”

In typical fashion, Harper deflects any and all credit.

“I can’t fix anything, I can’t build anything, I can’t cook,” he said. “I’m not very good at anything, (but) I love football and I love kids. This is what I enjoy doing. You have to have something you’re passionate about and this is it for me.”

Harry W. Brosius would be proud.

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