The Post-Journal

Tough Act Followed Successfully

Back in April when Wally Huckno was named the new Jamestown High School football coach, he found himself with a tough act to follow. The 1982 Red Raiders under Coach Joe Sanfilippo had finished the regular season with a 7-1 record, the Division 1 championship, a Section 6 playoff win over Clarence and a final ranking of sixth in New York State. Huckno and the 1983 Red Raiders had no trouble following that act.

This season’s squad also finished the regular season with a 7-1 record and won the Division 1 title outright with a 6-0 record. The Red Raiders defeated Clarence again at Rich stadium and Jamestown is listed sixth in the state rankings. This season’s squad scored fewer points than last season’s (196-291), but it allowed fewer points (31-40). However Huckno never expected such a successful season.

“I’m a pessimist,” he said earlier this week. “I knew we had outstanding kids.” But he also knew he had some holes to fill.

“I needed a full back and I didn’t have any linebackers,” he said. “I like to have that big fullback. I thought maybe I’d have to do without it.”

Huckno didn’t have to. The Red Raiders had been famous for big fullbacks like Sam Restivo and Ken Johnson and the tradition continued with Dave Rath who didn’t even play varsity football in 1982. All Rath did in 1983 was punish defenders with his powerful running to finish with seven touchdowns including the game clincher Saturday night against Clarence. Huckno lists Rath as one of the big surprises on the team, along with Andy Radack on defense.

One thing that pleased Huckno was the versatility of his offense. “When I came here twenty years ago, Jamestown was a senior-orientated ballclub and it always had been,” he said and added that the trend continued. Not only was it senior oriented, but the offense was always centered around one senior runner like Nate Davis, Jon Williams or Berto Amoroso in recent years. This year there was not one man in the backfield that the defense could key on.

Running backs Ray Hodnett and Larry Madden had almost equal statistics in rushing and scoring and Rath was used as more than a blocking back. Quarterback Carl Faison was also capable of running or passing the ball, so the defense had to worry about all four men in the backfield.

Faison was a very pleasant surprise. The junior was battling with senior Mike DeAngelo for the starting quarterback spot, but DeAngelo suffered a collapsed lung before the season began and suddenly Faison had the position.

“Our offense is very complicated, but Carl picked it up very quickly,“ Huckno said. Faison also took over a leadership role because Huckno often heard his quarterback yelling in the huddle. “You wait until basketball season and see what this football season did for him.”

Faison had plenty of other responsibilities. He became the team’s top place kicker and he also helped out with the punting. He became a jack-of-all-trades and Huckno pointed out, “It was tough warming up.” Passing usually came last.

But then Faison was given an added responsibility - playing in the defensive secondary. Huckno did not want to play his quarterback on defense and risk injury, but after the Kenmore East game he changed his mind. The only three touchdowns the Red Raiders had allowed were on passes and two of them accounted for Orchard Park’s win over JHS, Huckno knew people would think he was crazy, but he announced at a boosters’ club meeting that Faison was going to play on defense because, “I’m not going to get eaten up by the pass anymore.”

Instead, Jamestown began eating up opponents’ passes. In the last five regular season games, Faison picked off six interceptions. He also avoided injury because Huckno had told him to. “Carl, stay back. Hang back.”

There were many other things that contributed to Jamestown’s success this season. “It was such an injury-free year,” Huckno said, “we were so healthy.”

That ended Saturday night when Madden and Hodnett couldn’t finish the game because of injuries and Faison continued to play after being helped off the field in the first quarter. “The worst injury (of the season) was Larry Madden,” Huckno said. “He couldn’t play if we had a game this week.” The lack of injuries surprised Huckno because, “We were so small by the end of the season. Everyone lost about ten pounds.”

Faison’s injury pointed out another plus to Huckno. Before he returned to the bench after checking Faison’s condition on the field, back–up quarterback Larry Spangenberg was already taking snaps from center in case he had to go in. “One of the assets of this team is that it’s a team. “ Huckno said.

That was also proven by the entire backfield being named to the Division I All-Star Team. It would be difficult to pick a Western New York Player-of-the-Year or an All-State selection from Jamestown because there was no single star on the team, everyone contributed.

The Red Raiders’ attitude was also an asset. The players never got too high after a win or too down after a loss. At this week’s Division I meeting the coaches told Huckno, “We couldn’t get over how nice your kids were on the field.”

“The only time they showed any emotion was after the Sweet Home game, “Huckno recalled. “Before that game it was like a morgue.”

The reason JHS celebrated the win at Sweet Home was because of the game’s importance. “We knew the team that won the game might not go to Rich Stadium, but the team that lost wouldn’t,” Huckno explained. The Red Raiders won 21-6.

That win came after a period of adjustment in which JHS compiled a 3-1 record. Huckno said it took some time for the players to adjust to him as the new head coach. “There was a period of weeks when we got used to each other.”

As the season progressed, the team kept improving and winning. But now the 1983 season is over and it’s time to look to 1984. With four Division 1 All-Stars back, Faison and Hodnett in the backfield and Wasberg and Mark DeAngelo on the line, things should be looking bright for next season. “We think we’re going to be alright,” said Huckno. But then he added, “Once again, find me a fullback. And I also need…”

Always the pessimist. If things are worse next season the Red Raiders might go undefeated.

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