Login |  Register |  help

35th anniversary for Sachem’s ’77 title team

Varsity - 2012 Season
Posted Saturday, October 27, 2012 by SachemReport



Sachem’s 1977 championship team.

To see them now is still impressive. Hulking men, who as teenagers were forces on the football field, embodying for the most part a blue-collar work ethic that is difficult to replicate in the modern era.

Flip through a yearbook from the 1970s or 1980s, in all schools, not just Sachem, and there are distinctive differences in physical teenage development. Young men had facial hair and muscles worth bragging about. Forget the questionable hair styles for a moment and you’ll also realize the athletic teams were packed with in fact young men and not boys. It was a different time, a different chapter in society.

Fred Fusaro being recognized at the ’77 reunion.

At Bruno’s Friday night in Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y., just a few miles from Sachem High School North, a place they called home during their formative years as adolescents, nearly 40 players and coaches from Sachem’s 1977 team gathered for a post-game reunion for the 35th anniversary of their remarkable championship season.

Earlier in the night, they were honored during halftime of Sachem’s victory over Longwood, where their names were called out and they continued to receive the adulation they deserve for winning Sachem’s first football championship almost four decades ago.

“The ’77 team will go down as one of the best teams ever in the history of this school,” said former Sachem coach Fred Fusaro. “We had so much talent it was unbelievable. They were real good kids, hard nosed kids. It’s a pleasure to see them. It’s unbelievable it’s been 35 years.”

Fusaro’s most vivid memory of the ’77 season was the final game, a 21-16 victory over Patchogue-Medford before nearly 10,000 fans at Central Islip High School, a neutral championship site. Ahead by five points in the closing minutes of the game, Pat-Med intercepted Sachem quarterback Brian Dehler and had ample time to make a drive down field.

John Matheis, however, had other ideas and came flying through the Sachem secondary to intercept Pat-Med and return the favor, jumping between two receivers and sealing the victory for good.

“There were these two huge tight ends,” Fusaro recalled, “and out of the clear blue sky John came in, plucked the ball and ran it out of the end zone. That was it.”

Sachem charges the field after beating Pat-Med in 1977.

That was it for ’77, but it meant dividends for Sachem and its future. The Flaming Arrows rattled off county titles in 1978 and 1979, winning three straight and continuing to be a force through most of the next three decades.

That year Dehler won the Hansen Award, the first of four Sachem players in history to be recognized as the top player in Suffolk County. The team also won its first Rutgers Trophy as the top squad in the county. It’s the Long Island football hatrick: the team honor, the player honor and a championship.

During the reunion on Friday, players hugged, friends embraced each other, some for the first time since the ’70s, and others shared stories about that memorable season.

“This is another example of how special Sachem pride is and our willingness to not let the rich history of the Sachem athletic program dim as time goes by,” said Sachem Athletic Director Pete Blieberg.

Players like Jerry Figgiani were ecstatic to see teammates they have not spoken to since that ’77 season. Figgiani also has spent a lifetime reliving some of those moments with his family, so to bring his wife, also a Sachem alum, and daughters to the stadium meant the world to him.

“To relive the memories and share the stories is special,” he said. “I always tell my kids how special a time it was for me. It was a great night to see the guys again.”

Current Sachem coach Dave Falco is in the process of making his own history with the present day Flaming Arrows, but if not for players from the ’77 team, even his life and career could have been different. He recalls watching those players as an elementary school student at Wenonah and later as a middle school student at Samoset. By the early 1980s he became one of the players and by the mid-1990s, he was back at Sachem coaching and teaching.

“It’s great to see guys, who when I was a kid, were the stars of Sachem football,” he said.

And they continue to shine as stars today.

This page was created in 0.1094 seconds on server 132