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Mohonasen Hall of Fame: Standouts from 1960s head another distinguished class

Sunday, December 26, 2010
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Members of the Mohonasen High School Athletic Hall of Fame include, from left, Dan Lucca, Bill Baker and Debbie Capullo. Baker was a member of the inaugural class, while Lucca and Capullo will be inducted Tuesday.
Members of the Mohonasen High School Athletic Hall of Fame include, from left, Dan Lucca, Bill Baker and Debbie Capullo. Baker was a member of the inaugural class, while Lucca and Capullo will be inducted Tuesday.

The first class inducted into the Mohonasen High School Athletic Hall of Fame focused on the school’s rich soccer history. The second takes a nostalgic look back at several stars of the 1960s.

Five former athletes, two of whom came back to coach, will be inducted during ceremonies Tuesday from 4-6 p.m. at the multi-purpose room at Draper Middle School. Reservations for the

invitation-only ceremonies have closed, but the

inductees will also be introduced that evening following the first quarter of the Mohonasen-Schalmont game, which starts at 7:30, in the annual Kirvin Cup tourn­ament.

Scheduled to be enshrined are Bill Gold, who played on a Suburban Council championship baseball team in 1963, then coached the Mighty Warriors to league and Section II titles; Dan Lucca, all-star quarterback of the middle 1960s who played for Boston University;

Dr. Bruce Wheeler, a three-sport star who distinguished himself as a university professor; Jim Danton, a prolific basketball scorer who moved up to varsity as a sophomore in the 1968-69 season; and Deb Cap­ullo, an outstanding bowler and softball player who is regarded as one of the top female bowlers in the Capital Region.

“The idea developed two years ago, with the 50th anniversary of the school,” said Joe Scalise, the Mohonasen athletic director who has been the driving force behind the hall. “Originally, we were

going to pick the top 50 athletes in 50 years and create a Hall of Fame down the road, but we decided to go ahead with the Hall of Fame.”

Gold, a middle school social studies teacher from 1968-2000, spent seven seasons as JV baseball coach before moving up to varsity, where he sported a 177-77 record in 11 seasons. His accomplishments included the 1982 Class A sectional title, three consecutive outright Suburban Council titles from

1984-86 and shared championships in 1979, ’82 and ’88.

“He was a great coach, moreso than a player,” said former coach Bill Baker, who will introduce Gold and Danton at Tuesday’s cer­emonies. “His problem was that he was like 5-foot-2 through high school, then shot up to 6-4 when he got to Albany State.

“We were playing at Guilderland, and he hit a home run between two outfielders. Bill was slower than a truck, chugging around the bases. But they hadn’t mowed the field and the ball went into this big, tall heather, and the kid couldn’t find it. That’s why Bill got the home run, and we won the game.”

Lucca, who also returned to

Mohonasen as a social studies teacher, football coach and later served as middle school principal, led Mohonasen to its best football season ever (6-1-1) in 1964, when he was named county player of the year by the Union Star, Rotterdam Elks Player of the Year and a first-team all-star by the Schenectady Gazette. Lucca was a Scholastic Coach magazine All-America honorable mention his senior year, was chosen Rotterdam Athlete of the Year by the Four Chaplains and

received a full scholarship to BU. In addition to four years on the varsity football team, Lucca played basketball and baseball.

Wheeler’s accomplishments in the classroom mirrored those in athletics. After graduating from MIT and earning his master’s and Ph.D. at Cornell, he began working in the Electrical Engineering Department at the University of Illinois and served as a professor for 28 years. Wheeler is currently working as a professor and interim chair of the Biomedical Engineering Department at the University of Florida.

Wheeler, a 1966 graduate, was captain of the football, basketball and baseball teams, earning all-star recognition in football and basketball. At MIT, he excelled in basketball and baseball, and was named MVP of the Greater Boston Baseball League in 1968, Senior Athlete of the Year at MIT in 1971 and was the recipient of an NCAA scholar-athlete postgraduate scholarship in 1971.

“Bruce was incredible,” Baker said. “Kids would come off the field after batting during a baseball game and ask Bruce what their batting

average was now, and he’d tell them right off the top of his head.

“One time, I yelled at Bruce for making a stupid play, and Ray Borden, who was my JV coach, called over the other field and said, ‘Don’t call him stupid.’ ”

Danton, a 1971 graduate, set a school and Suburban Council

record of 44 points for one game in 1970, outscoring the entire opposing team. He was the Suburban Council scoring champion that

season, and was twice named a first-team league all-star. Also a football player, Danton moved up to varsity basketball early in his sophomore season on a 1968-69 Mohonasen team that shared the Suburban Council championship, and was a Sunkist Prep All-America honorable mention in 1971.

Danton went on to graduate from Northeastern University, where he played basketball, and picked up his master’s at Union. He’s now director of Child Care Systems at

NYS Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, and before that was director of data processing for the Town of Colonie.

“Jim was a very tough kid. I

remember that more from football than basketball,” Baker said.

Capullo graduated in 1990, when she led Mohonasen to its second straight Suburban Council softball title as co-MVP, and also received the Artemis Award as the most outstanding female scholar-athlete and the U.S. Army Reserve National Scholar-Athlete Award. But Capullo’s forté was bowling, where she was MVP for four

seasons, was twice named to the co-ed Section II all-star team and carried the highest bowling average in the Capital Region, a 189.79.

Capullo’s game accelerated after high school, earning her a spot in the Schenectady/Scotia Women’s Bowling Hall of Fame in 2005.

Capullo was the first woman from Hudson Valley Community College to win the all-events and singles titles at the Region III bowling championships (1992) and in 1998, became only the sixth woman in the country ever to roll consecutive 300 games.

Capullo will be introduced Tuesday by another area bowling standout, Kenny Hall. Vic Mikovich, a former Mohonasen High School English teacher, principal and assistant football coach, will introduce Wheeler, and former Rotterdam town supervisor John Paolino will speak for Lucca.

THE FIRST CLASS

The soccer theme in the first class a year ago started with the late Lyle Bowers, the coach who turned Mohonasen into an area power during his 16-year tenure, winning 10 Suburban Council championships and six Section II titles while compiling a record of 186-57-17.

“Back in the 60s, we were a dominant force in soccer, and Lyle Bowers was pretty much the face of Mohonasen athletics,” Scalise said.

Also selected were two of Bowers’ leading scorers, Pat Popolizio (Section II-record 35 goals in one season) and Brett Armstrong (52 career goals), along with Peter Sgueglia, a 2003 graduate who

rewrote the school’s record books by scoring the most goals in one game (six), season (39) and career (118), the latter setting a Section II mark, as well. In addition to

being All-Americans, Popolizio and Armstrong were standouts in other sports, too; the former was a two-time Section II wrestling champion with a career record of 97-8, and the latter was a golf star who now owns and operates Whispering Pines Golf Course.

The Section II Class A Player of the Year in 2002, Sgueglia was a first-team, all-state player and

Adidas All-American before continuing his soccer career at the University at Albany and Binghamton.

“We tried to target our All-Americans, and as it turned out, they all were soccer players,” Scalise said. “We felt those eight we selected stood out above the rest.”

Also among the inaugural standouts was Baker, varsity basketball coach from 1963-88, who earned the Suburban Council championship in 1969 and the Section II Class A and A-AA titles in 1972. Baker was also baseball coach from 1960-65, leading the Warriors to the co-champ­ionship one season, athletic director from 1970-86, and later served on the Section II basketball committee and as a scheduling consultant for the Suburban Council.

Angela Whisher, a physical

education teacher for 23 years and a pioneer in the development of girls’ athletics in an era before inter­scholastic sports existed for girls, was also chosen, as were John Gallo, a football, wrestling and track standout who is now director of athletics at Schalmont, and Amanda Blackstone, who led the Warriors to their first Section II girls’ basketball championship in 2002.

Among her other accomplishments, Whisher organized the first area cheerleading clinic,

organized sports nights that

provided exposure for girls’ athletics at Mohonasen and served as president of the NYS Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.

Gallo, who had a long list of all-star awards, was a two-time Section II wrestling champ who set school records for the most career wrestling wins (119), the most yards rushed in a football season (1,096) and in the shot put (50-111⁄2). Blackstone led Section II Class A and B players in scoring (19.9) in 1971, set a school career scoring record with 1,336 points, made the Gazette all-area first team and was chosen for the all-state second team as a junior and first team as a senior.

 
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