Whitesboro – Our annual sit down down with Whitesboro High School Head Football Coach Tom Schoen is always a pleasure. In fact, we look at it as our own “kickoff” to the season. This year’s talk with Coach Schoen, who begins his 45th season steering the perennial state power Warriors program, may have been the best yet. Maybe that’s because this may (or may not) be his last one at the helm, or maybe it’s just because he’s really enjoying his time getting ready for the 2018 season. Who knows?
So, what does it take to get the football coach with the most wins in Section III history excited for the upcoming season? In all honesty, probably not much more than the calendar reaching mid-August, but this season, the smile on Coach Schoen’s face may have more behind it.
The nickname “Big Blue Wrecking Crew” may be more befitting for the 2018 Warriors than it has been in a very long time. Whitesboro, which has won the Section III, Class “A” Championship the past three seasons, is one of the biggest programs in Section III this season. The Warriors boast more than 100 players combined on the Varsity and JV teams and there are more than 60 registered to play Modified this season.
Whitesboro’s size doesn’t stop with their numbers this season, not by a long shot. One of the biggest strengths Whitesboro’s Offensive Coordinator Curtis Schmidt, Defensive Coordinator Kurt Hurthum, and Line Coach Joe Nassif will collectively rely on is the overall size and athleticism of their linemen. Up front, Whitesboro returns All-State senior lineman Josh Weiler for his 3rd season as a starter. Weiler (5’10” – 260) will have plenty of help from fellow seniors Jacob Wojtowycz (6’3″ – 240) , Dan Brindisi (6’3″ – 240), John Dote (5’9″ – 250) and Jake Small ( 6’1″ – 220), all of whom are battle hardened veterans.
If the Warriors have an area on the field that will require some extra attention this fall, it will be in the linebacking corps. A big part of Whitesboro’s two consectuive trips to the NYSPHSAA Class “A” Final 4 has been the consistent play of their linebackers. The Warriors hope to fill the shoes of graduated LB’s Philip Gilberti, Declan Simmons and Tyler Crouse as soon as possible. “We’re going to have to get some big contributions from seniors like Troy Little and Louden Johnson at the linebacker position this year, no doubt about it” Coach Schoen explained.
On offense, Whitesboro has a trio of quarterbacks working out in pretty equal shares early in training camp. Senior Joe Panuccio, who saw plenty of action and had success under center for the Warriors last season is joined by juniors Zach Britt and Nick Sardina. “I’m very pleased with our quarterback situation right now and Sardina has proven he can play any one of four positions in our backfield anytime we ask him to” said Schoen.
The Warriors, who could easily be called Running Back Academy year in and year out, shouldn’t have any issues meeting or exceeding expectations this year. “If we stay healthy, we’ve got some real speed in the skill positions again this year” said Coach Schoen. The Warriors run game will rely heavily on returning senior speedsters Zach Hoage and Lucas Casab. Casab’s junior season was cut short with a foot injury on his first carry in 2017, but he returned in the spring to claim 3rd place in the 100m dash and joined Hoage and Michael Collins on the runner-up 4 x 400m relay team in Section III Track.
When Whitesboro throws the ball this season, they will have plenty of options on the receiving end. Another speedster, senior Michael Collins, will be joined by seniors Nate DePerno and Tom Morreale, a 6’4″ senior widely known for basketball. Another newcomer, senior Collin McAndrew, adds athleticism to the Warriors defense and special teams.
While the Warriors players overall have put a spring in Coach Schoen’s step on the practice field so far this season, it may just be the schedule that has him most enthused. “Oh man, we’ve got a schedule” Schoen said with a smile, adding “we play two “AA” teams this year including RFA and two teams that have dropped down from “AA” in Central Square and Auburn, then throw in our ‘regulars’ East Syracuse-Minoa, Carthage and Indian River, if that doesn’t get your blood pumping you’re in the wrong sport”. The other “AA” team Coach Schoen referred to is downstate power Pine Bush, which went (7-3) last season after falling in the Section 9 Championship to Newburgh Free Academy. The “Bush Men” will travel to Chiz Frye Field on Saturday, October 6th for a rare 2 p.m. inter-sectional clash with the Warriors.
As the Whitesboro Warriors begin their quest for a 4th straight Section III Class “A” Championship, we’d like to wish them the best of luck. We’d also like to thank Coach Tom Schoen for all of the time and attention he as given us over the years, talking from the heart about his players, coaches and “the game”.
Like everyone else, we’re left to wonder whether this was the last football season that his Wife, Sharon (of 45 years) said “See you at Christmas” to the coach as he headed out the door to the first day of training camp in the middle of each and every August that they have been married.