Mohonasen Hall of Fame: Erickson proud to be a Draper man
The Mohonasen High School Athletic Hall of Fame is only in its third year, but is ready to add a new wing. Since the Mohonasen and Draper school districts merged in 1986 and the latter never established a hall of fame, former Draper athletes will now be welcomed into the Mohonasen hall.
“Great athletes went through Mohonasen, and great athletes went through Draper,” said Joe Scalise, the director of athletics at Mohonasen and coordinator of the hall of fame. “We are going to recognize all of these great athletes in the coming years.”
And the perfect link between the existing hall of fame and the Draper addition? It’s Doug Erickson, the longtime football and baseball coach at Draper who recently concluded a 60-year coaching
career as the modified football coach at Mohonasen.
It was announced during Erickson’s last game on Oct. 29 that he will lead the 2011 class of inductees during a ceremony Tuesday at 4 p.m. at Draper Middle School. The new class will also be recognized during the annual John F. Kirvin Cup basketball tournament that night.
Also being inducted are four Mohonasen standouts from the early 1960s — Dave Wheeler, Roger Harrison, Buddy Williamson and Nick Constantino — as well as Phil DeCarlo (1992) and Aaron Smith (1998).
“It’s going to open the door,” said Erickson, who didn’t want to be inducted until the decision was made to include former Draper athletes. “They wanted me to go in sooner, but I’m a Draper person. There really were some great athletes at Draper. We’ll have to see who’s next.”
That list is already extensive, and Erickson quickly throws out such names as Dick Grubar, Jim Tedisco, Karl Bankowski, Rit Keath, Tim Higgins, Al Skinner, Chuck Kranitzky, Ron Osinski, Rob Callahan, Randy Strijek and Kathy Kaczkowski, although a few of them left Draper and finished their high school careers at Bishop Gibbons.
He’s proud of the fact that three athletes he coached received appointments to West Point and many were drafted into the pro ranks. In fact, one of the athletes Erickson coached in his early years at Coxsackie-Athens, the late Bill Stafford, pitched in the major leagues for seven years, three with the New York Yankees, and won a game in the 1962 World Series for the Yankees.
“When I retired [from teaching], he gave me his World Series bat,” Erickson said.
The stories the veteran coach could tell are endless, as is the list of prominent athletes he has coached or played with or against. Erickson, on scholarship, had to settle for a role on defense as a linebacker for coach Ben Schwartzwalder at Syracuse because he couldn’t beat out Jim Ringo for the center spot on offense. Ringo went on to star for the Green Bay Packers and is enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Erickson also played against Don Shula and roomed with former Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis at Syracuse one summer, and attended Davis’ 65th birthday party.
Erickson has actually been involved in football for 69 years total, beginning with his freshman and sophomore years at Auburn High School, then continuing with his junior, senior and postgraduate years at Scotia before he played four years at Syracuse.
He didn’t play baseball past high school, but was involved in fast-pitch softball for 20 years as a top pitcher on a number of local traveling teams. He once squared off against Eddie Feigner and his famous team, “The King and His Court.”
Erickson’s coaching career got off to a fast start at Coxsackie-Athens, where his baseball teams went 77-7 from 1952-57 and won the Central Hudson Valley League
title five times. At Draper, his unbeaten 1966 football team was the Colonial Council champion, part of his ledger of 105 varsity football wins from 1957-83, and his baseball teams of 1982 and 83 both won Section II titles and reached the state semifinals. He is seventh on the all-time Section II baseball coaching victory list with 415.
“Ironically, I only coached basketball three seasons and went to the sectional finals all three years,” said Erickson, who earned titles with Coxsackie-Athens in 1956-57, then was a last-minute fill-in one season at Draper, when his 5-13 team qualified for sectionals because it was the only Class C school in a larger conference, then advanced to the finals before losing to Canajoharie.
Erickson’s coaching resume included stints on the football staffs at Linton and Mohonasen, and one season as the varsity softball coach at Mohonasen before he settled into his spot with the Mighty Warriors’ modified football program in 1990. The result? In his first five seasons, Erickson’s teams went unbeaten, winning 29 games in a row.
“I used to tell these guys who were refereeing my games that I was coaching before they were born,” Erickson said with a chuckle.
His biggest problem these days is keeping track of the hundreds of athletes he’s coached over the years.
“I can’t go shopping in Rotterdam without running into one of them,” Erickson said. “I tell them, ‘There was only one of me and hundreds of you guys.’
“I’ve been around a long time, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I have lots of good memories and lots of good friends.”
Some of the other inductees were on teams that went head-to-head with Erickson’s Draper teams.
Wheeler, whose younger brother Bruce was inducted last year, excelled in both basketball and baseball as the Schenectady Gazette Suburban Council Player of the Year in basketball 1963 and for his role in leading Mohonasen to the Suburban Council co-championship in baseball later that year.
Wheeler, who lives in Rotterdam, was gifted in the classroom, as well, as president of the National Honor Society and Key Club, and was the commencement speaker in 1963. He played basketball for Cornell, and later baseball for the University at Albany, before working for GE Energy, where he is now a consultant.
Harrison graduated in 1966, and track, football and basketball were his sports. He earned eight varsity letters, as well as Suburban Council and Class B sectional high jump titles in back-to-back years. He was the team co-captain and a Gazette All-County selection in both football (1965) and basketball (1966), and leading scorer for the basketball team in both the 1964-65 and 1965-66 seasons. These days, Harrison heads up the water department for the Town of Glenville.
Scalise noted that Constantino and Williamson, who were best friends in high school and college, remain close to this day, even through Constantino lives in Clifton Park and Williamson wound up in Alaska.
Constantino, a 1964 graduate, was a three-year standout in soccer, basketball and baseball who went on to play varsity basketball on scholarship at Northeastern University. In basketball, he led the Suburban Council in scoring (20.2 average) in 1963-63, when he was the Schenectady Union-Star Suburban Council Player of the Year and Rotterdam Elks Player of the Year. He was also the co-winner of the Four Chaplains Award as Rotterdam Athlete of the Year in 1964.
On the soccer field, Constantino anchored a defense that went 33-1-1 over two seasons, included a run of 17-0 and a Section II championship in 1963. Constantino is retired as the director of investigation for the New York State Office of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities.
The co-winner of the Four Chaplains Award in 1964 was Marshall “Buddy” Williamson, who starred in football, basketball and baseball. He was a Schenectady County first-team selection for football in 1963, when he scored 10 touchdowns and was chosen an All-American honorable mention by Coach and Athlete Magazine.
Williamson earned eight varsity letters and a football scholarship to Northeastern, where he majored in chemical engineering. Following a career in the military, Williamson has spent the last 30 years in Alaska in the oil and gas industry. He will not be able to attend Tuesday’s ceremonies.
Smith, who is living in Chicago, where he works for Edwards Lifesciences, was a modified player under Erickson. His career included four seasons at Wagner, where he broke 11 school or Northeast Conference records, and finished in the arena leagues.
Smith was quarterback of the highest-scoring Mohonasen offense in school history, contributing 17 touchdown passes and 11 rushing touchdowns in a 1997 season when he was named Capital Conference Player of the Year, Class B second-team all-state quarterback and first-team quarterback on both the Gazette and Times Union all-area teams. He was also a Capital Conference first-team pick as a wide receiver in 1996, when he made the Gazette all-area second team.
DeCarlo is the highest-scoring basketball player in Mohonasen history with a 22.1 point average and 1,268 career points. He was MVP of both the Kirvin Cup and Class B Section II tournament which the Warriors won in 1992, and the Gazette Player of the Year. DeCarlo also played football and track, and went on to play basketball for The College of Saint Rose. He has remained involved in sports as the director of Student Athlete Support Services at Boston University.
“This is a very strong class of inductees who have excelled at Mohonasen,” said Scalise. “Now that we’ve included Draper, we’ll continue to have strong classes, year after year.”
The future Draper inductees will be placed on the Mohonasen Hall of Fame display at the school, but will have a “D” and maroon background on their photos.
“The hall of fame process is very exciting and rewarding because we get to learn more about the history of our school and get to appreciate the athletes and programs from the past,” Scalise said.