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Football Summer Program a Tradition

Posted Friday, July 23, 2010 by Sachem Patch.com

On a rainy Wednesday morning at 7 a.m. the sound of a thunderous thump could be heard from the track surrounding Fred Fusaro Alumni Stadium at Sachem High School North.

It wasn't Mother Nature roaring as the wind and rain hit the crisp turf. It was the sound of 30 something varsity football players running around the track quietly, drenched from rain and sweat, the humidity seeping into their pours as they jumped rope while circling the track on the orders of John Horst, who also serves as North's varsity boys track coach during the school year. 

Nearly 90 minutes later the same group of athletes will run down the steps into the rear of the school and hit the weights for another grueling session, this time with coaches Joe Canone and Tom Pandolf serving as the points of wrath. Later in the day they'll be on the field in Under Armour shirts and shorts, running plays and taking part in a passing clinic with neighboring high schools, again learning from other coaches, those including Dave Falco, Dave Caputo, Nick Codispoti, Alexander Grimm and Mike Marrato.

This is the off-season workout program for Sachem North football, a mix of conditioning, weight lifting, passing drills and tactical rebuilding sessions. It's not Texas or Florida, but high school football on Long Island – especially at the house that Fred built – can hold its own and it all starts in the summer.

"The benefit is two-fold," said Falco, North's head coach. "It prevents us from getting injured and allows us to recover from injuries a lot faster. When you're bigger, faster and stronger, it allows us to compete in Suffolk County in Division I. The third aspect is the ability to build a team over the summer through hard work."

Fusaro, a legend in these parts for his 192 career victories and countless playoff appearances in over three decades as Sachem's general, originated Sachem football's conditioning and workout programs in 1971 when he took the post over from Brian Smith.

Not yet a national phenomenon for sport-specific conditioning, weightlifting and training was only performed by a handful of high school football programs on Long Island at that time. It wasn't a surprise that teams like East Islip and later Bellport were lifting regularly. They're both dynasties like Sachem.

"When I first started to play here in the early '80s, and prior to that, we had a couple universal machines," said Falco. "It's evolved since then. The fact that we have continued it and improved upon it is a big part of our success."

Fusaro recalls the day when there were zero weights in the building and the current weight room in the bowels of the high school was a rifle range and storage area for dusty filing cabinets. He and Jack LaPraire, a former Sachem quarterback, poured cement and made the slab by hand in the back of the current room.

"We got one universal, then another and by the time Dave [Falco] was playing, we had three," Fusaro recalled. "It was better than nothing. We made it a weight room."

Last year's 10-1 campaign, which saw Sachem win more games in a single season than ever before in the 48-year history of the program, has helped build up the troops. There are about 60 players on the varsity – nearly 20 more than last season – and almost all are taking part in the workouts.

"Kids are excited about our success last year," said Falco, sitting next to a binder that reads, 'Dreams Don't Work Unless You Do: Unfinished Business in 2010.' "The things we learned from that experience, the positive and the negative, we hope carry through. We want to take those lessons as a staff and move forward. Unfinished business does not mean we're going to hang our hat on what we did last year."

"You're waking up every morning and working your [tail] off to become bigger, faster and stronger then any other team out there," said Sachem quarterback Angelo Armine, who is heading into his senior year. "The off-season is what makes Sachem football Sachem football, because no other team does what we do every morning."

Training camp starts August 16 and the team heads to camp in Fishkill, N.Y. August 22. North opens its season September 11 at 7 p.m. under the lights at home against Patchogue-Medford.

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