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Three Draper greats at head of Mohonasen Athletic Hall of Fame class

Tuesday, December 25, 2012
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Kathy Kaczkowski was MVP of the Tri-Valley League all three years that she played basketball.
Kathy Kaczkowski was MVP of the Tri-Valley League all three years that she played basketball.

Three of the greatest athletes in Draper High School history — Tim Higgins, Frank Famiano and Kathy Kaczkowski Dufort — will be the first from that school inducted into the Mohonasen Athletic Hall of Fame.

Joining them in the 2012 class will be Mohonasen multi-sports stars Bill Murphy and Fred Mastroianni, and a longtime member of the coaching staff, Sherri Bowers Donato, during ceremonies Thursday at 4 p.m. at Draper Middle School.

Donato is the daughter of the late Lyle Bowers, the highly successful soccer coach who was in the first class of inductees in 2009, giving the hall its first two-generation connection.

It was decided a year ago that because Draper merged with Mohonasen in 1986 without ever having a Hall of Fame of its own, its stars would be included in the Mohonasen hall. A maroon “D” stands alongside the orange “M” on their induction plaques.

The Draper wing of the hall actually opened in 2011 with the induction of longtime coach and athletic director Doug Erickson. He finished a 60-year coaching career at Mohonasen, and was the ideal transitional figure who was also a strong proponent for the inclusion of his former athletes.

The initial Vikings include an all-area quarterback who could throw the ball 80 yards, a wrestler who competed in the 1984 Olympic Games and a basketball/track star who broke the state triple jump record as a freshman.

“We have an outstanding class of athletes,” said Joe Scalise, Mohonasen athletic director. “Each year, we go through the process and realize there have been so many great athletes who played at Mohonasen and Draper. It’s been a fun process, getting to know about the history of both schools.”

Erickson called the 6-foot-5 Higgins “the best athlete I had,” and a long list of honors back that statement. Higgins, who played from 1964-67, was the league and area player of the year in both football and basketball, as well as the recipient of Four Chaplains Award as the Rotterdam Athlete of the Year in 1967.

“He could throw the ball 80 yards,” Erickson said. “We tested him one time and tied his feet together, and he still threw 70 yards. He had a hell of an arm.”

Higgins was equally dominating on defense as a tough, lanky, mobile figure.

“When he played defense, you didn’t want to run where he was,” said Erickson, who will introduce Higgins Thursday. “Timmy was a hard-nose kid.”

Erickson recalled one difficult game in 1966, Draper’s only undef­eated football season. Mechanicville had converted two early fumbles and led, 14-0.

“He said, ‘Don’t worry, coach. We’ve got this one.’ ” Erickson said. “We won, 24-14.”

Although Higgins received athletic scholarships to Boston University and Bridgeport and played briefly at the latter, he instead continued his football career in the semi-pro ranks and caught the eye of pro scouts with his size and arm. He tried out for the Houston Oilers and signed a contract, but did not play. After being traded to the Kansas City Chiefs, Higgins decided to return home. He was also in the Oakland Raiders’ training camp.

Higgins, who is retired as a bus­iness agent for the labor union and living in Duanesburg, apparently had good basketball genes to pass on. His daughter Val was a standout player for Siena and is in that school’s Hall of Fame, and he has a grandson playing on the Schalmont varsity this season as a freshman.

Famiano’s wrestling career went well beyond Draper and Brockport State, where he was a four-time All-American. Where he thrived was with the Adirondack Three-Style Wrestling Association (ATWA), landing him a spot on the U.S. Greco-Roman team for 13 years, during which he won six national championships and was twice a silver medalist in both the World Cup and Pan-American Games.

His most recognizable achievement came in 1984, when he made the U.S. Olympic team and finished fifth in the bantamweight class at the Los Angeles Games. The 1979 Draper graduate is in the Section II, Brockport and NCAA Division III halls of fame.

“Frank came out for basketball as an eighth-grader, and I said, ‘Frank, you’re wasting your time’ ” Erickson said. “He went into wrestling instead.”

Even before his high school days, Famiano traveled to youth wrestling tournaments with Erickson, who was a wrestling referee for many years, working those tournaments.

Famiano makes his home in the Tampa, Fla., area, where he is a branch manager of the East West Partners Management Company and runs Olympic ATM Inc. with 260 ATM machines in six states.

Kaczkowski Dufort excelled in four seasons of track and three of basketball from 1982-86. She landed a full basketball scholarship to Siena after setting a school record with 1,385 points in three seasons and being named MVP of the Tri-Valley League all three years.

At Siena, she finished with 1,135 points (17th all-time), 701 rebounds (ninth all-time) and 116 shot blocks (fifth all-time). Kaczkowski Dufort also played for the Adirondack

Region team in the Empire Games, twice in college and twice in high school.

Kaczkowski Dufort’s natural athletic ability was also evident in track, where she not only set a school record of 5-7 in the high jump, but also was far ahead of her peers in the triple jump, which was new to girls’ track at the time. Her 38-21⁄2 best stood up as a Section II record for five years, and still ranks fifth on the all-time Section II list.

“As a freshman, she set the New York state record in the triple jump,” Erickson said. “She had never tried it before.”

Kaczkowski Dufort taught bus­iness and was a JV basketball coach in Avon before relocating to Sar­atoga Springs, where she has three sons and coaches one of their CYO basketball teams.

Murphy, who graduated in 1961, was among the first athletes to compete at Mohonasen, which centralized in 1957, and played three seasons of football as a running back in football and four seasons in baseball.

Murphy, who has been a parole officer in Georgia since 1989, was a first-team Union Star selection in 1960, when he rushed for 1,076 yards and scored eight touchdowns. He was the Rotterdam Athlete of the Year in 1961.

Murphy earned a football scholarship to Boston University and led the team in carries with a 4.6 yards-per-carry average and was named the school’s Most Outstanding Back. Murphy will not be attending the ceremonies.

A 1967 Mohonasen graduate and senior class president, Mastroianni was a true three-sport star as a running back in football, high scorer on the basketball team and author of a baseball no-hitter while earning eight varsity letters.

He was captain of the football team and its top scorer in both his junior and senior seasons, led the basketball team in scoring for two seasons and was team captain and an all-Suburban Council selection in baseball. His complete-game no-hitter against Mont Pleasant in 1966 was the first in school history.

Mastroianni went on to Boston University, where he played one season of football and four seasons of baseball. The Terriers’ baseball team was ranked 25th in the final Associated Press and United Press International polls in 1969.

Mastroianni, who lives in the Atlanta area, had a very successful business career, starting sportswear and jean companies with manufacturing plants in the United States and Russia. He retired in 2008.

Donato is a 1969 Mohonasen graduate who returned to her alma mater to teach from 1973-2007 and had successful runs as a softball and cheerleading coach. She coached 16 seasons in the school’s softball program, six as varsity coach with 70 wins from 1997-2002.

Donato coached cheerleading from 1980-2006 and had four teams compete in national competitions, finishing as high as fifth. Her teams won four grand championships, and had 32 first-place finishes and 16 second-place finishes in cheerleading competitions. She was the Suburban Council cheerleading chairperson for eight years and also coached at Siena in 1991-92.

Thursday’s ceremonies are open to the public. The new inductees will also be honored during the Kirvin Cup basketball tournament that evening.

 
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