Following in his family’s footsteps, Mike Mancini gets to work as head coach of Fonda-Fultonville football

Varsity football head coach Mike Mancini during practice at Fonda-Fultonville High School in Fonda on Wednesday.

Varsity football head coach Mike Mancini during practice at Fonda-Fultonville High School in Fonda on Wednesday.

FONDA There aren’t many families as synonymous with a single high school football program in Section II than the Mancini clan at Fonda-Fultonville.

For Mike Mancini, the program has been a part of his life as long as he can remember.

“I’ve been around it for my entire life,” Mancini said Wednesday.

The Mancini family has been a driving force behind Fonda-Fultonville football for more than 50 years. Three family members — Mike’s father Alex, uncle John and younger brother Matt — have been enshrined in the Fonda-Fultonville Central School District Athletic Hall of Fame for their football exploits as players and coaches. Mike himself was one of the most decorated quarterbacks in Section II history during his playing days, and has served as an assistant coach during multiple stints.

And now, for the first time since Alex Mancini stepped away as head coach following the 2005 season, a Mancini is back in charge of the Braves’ sideline. With Sean Thompson stepping aside as head coach after leading Fonda-Fultonville to a Section II Class C Super Bowl appearance last fall, Mike Mancini has taken over the top job.

“Myself, my family, we bleed maroon and gold,” Mike Mancini said. “My father and uncles have been in this program since the onset, the late 1960s. I grew up around it, played in it, now I’ve coached in it. Same with my brother. It’s something that does mean a lot, but at the same time, I’m focused on the goal and the task at hand, which is to get back to where we were last year and, hopefully, continue that.”

Fonda-Fultonville football’s history is steeped with accomplishments from the Mancini family.

Alex Mancini led the Braves to the program’s first three league championships as a quarterback in the 1970s and graduated as Section II’s all-time leading passer, then returned to his alma mater as a teacher and coach, winning 149 games and a pair of Section II championships from 1985-2005. He also served as Fonda-Fultonville’s athletic director from 1994-2012.

Mike Mancini, a 2002 Fonda-Fultonville graduate, followed in his father’s footsteps as a star quarterback, winning a Section II Class B title for his father in 1999 and throwing for 4,766 yards during his career to eclipse dad’s record. Younger brother Matt followed and finished his career atop Fonda-Fultonville’s all-time passing chart.

Between the three, they passed for nearly 14,000 yards in Braves’ maroon and gold. In total, five Mancinis — adding Mike’s uncle John in the 1970s and his nephew John in the late 2010s — have quarterbacked Fonda-Fultonville over the decades.

While Thompson stepped away from serving as head coach, he’s still on the staff as an assistant, helping to maintain continuity in what Mike Mancini said has been an easy transition.

It also means that the new head coach has three former head coaches on the sideline with him, as former Gloversville coach Jared Bongo and former Johnstown coach Tyler Hall are still on board as top assistants.

“Honestly, things haven’t really changed much, because we have the same staff,” Mike Mancini said. “Sean and I worked together pretty cohesively for the last couple years, and he and I have wokred together even moreso in the past. We’ve had a very strong professional relationship with one another, so it’s not really that much different. He’s still very involved, and it’s the same staff.”

While not much has changed in the way the program conducts business, Mancini is still thrilled to get a long-awaited chance to be a head coach — and to do so at the program that he grew up a part of.

“To be a head coach — not just here, but to be a head coach in general — is something that I’ve been working towards for a long time,” he said. “But, it’s what’s on the front of your chest that’s way more important than what’s on your back. The front of your jersey is way more important than the back of your jersey.”

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