Schenectady resident Phil Chrys never saw the Hall of Fame induction coming — just like the season nearly four decades ago that got him there.
“It was unexpected,” Chrys said of his first season with the Weedsport Central School football team. “It was a storybook thing. Before the year, they called us a perennial doormat.”
Weedsport was. The Cayuga County school west of Syracuse hadn’t had a winning season in 12 years before Chrys, then a 23-year-old, was hired in January of 1977 to teach history and lead the Class D Warriors.
“They had athletes at that school. That’s what I couldn’t understand,” Chrys said. “They were winning in basketball, baseball, swimming, track and field. We brought together a group of big, physical and determined kids who were sick of losing.”
Weedsport went 8-1 that year, setting a then-school record for wins, capturing the Onondaga League championship for the first time and earning an honorable-mention nod on the final state sportswriter’s poll.
Last Wednesday night, that contingent became the first team inducted into the Weedsport Sports Hall of Fame. Joining Chrys at the ceremony was the first assistant he hired — current Weedsport coach Greg Michaels — and 13 former players.
“It means a lot to me,” said Chrys, who was tabbed the 1977 Onondaga League Coach of the Year and had nine players — roughly one third of his roster — make the all-star team. “Thirty-nine years later, and I’m in their Hall of Fame. It’s kind of flattering.”
Weedsport flattened teams with its defense, posting seven shutouts while allowing 28 points.
“It was, ‘You show me you want to hit someone, and we’ll find a spot for you,’ ” said Chrys, who played football at the University of Rochester and had one-year assistant coaching stints at the University at Albany and Rochester Institute of Technology before moving to Weedsport. “We challenged the kids to hit, and our offense was about simple execution. We focused on making no mistakes. Disciplined football. We had seven offensive plays, kind of like Vince Lombardi.”
Chrys said the season highlight was a 14-0 win in Week 7 against Port Byron, when his Warriors scored a touchdown in each half and forced a key fumble just before the intermission.
“It was similar to the Election Day games with Mont Pleasant and Linton. It was that kind of a rivalry,” Chrys said. “They were undefeated and had won the league title several times. We were undefeated. People were still paying to get in at halftime. People were parked a mile away. There must have been 3,500 to 4,000 people. We had 2,000 in the school district.”
Weedsport had allowed only one touchdown before giving up three in a season-ending loss to Morrisville-Eaton.
“We lost five kids to injuries,” Chrys said. “If we were at full strength . . . everyone involved on both sides knew we were a better team. We beat them the following year.”
Weedsport went 7-1-1 with five shutouts in 1978, Chrys’ final season at the school.
“You recruit kids out of the halls,” Chrys said. “The main thing is to develop and retain them. That’s how you make a good team.”
Weedsport has been consistently successful ever since Chrys’ departure, with its 2004 state Class D championship team going 13-0.
“We got them into weight training,” Chrys said. “We brought in a scouting system. We looked at tendencies of other teams, and that was kind of novel back then.”
Chrys brought those same things to Niskayuna, where he served as head coach for two years in 1979 (3-5-1) and 1980 (2-6-1) before leaving education for private industry. He is the only coach to win his varsity debut with Niskayuna, against favored Colonie, on Tim Howell’s touchdown pass to Paul Massaroni on the final play.
The 62-year-old Chrys helped form the Pop Warner league in Niskayuna, as he had in Weedsport. His two sons, Joe and Gary, excelled at Niskayuna and went on URochester and Hartwick, respeectively, as fourth generation collegiate football players.
“I’ve been blessed in so many ways,” Chrys said.
GIRARD LEAD SOPH
Glens Falls guard Joe Girard III scored a team-high 15 points Sunday in the top-20 all-star game at the invitation-only Super Soph Camp in Atlanta.
Girard, a Gazette All-Area first team selection, was among 100 sophomores-to-be from across the country who participated at the camp. Twenty were selected for the prestigious final game in which Girard nailed four 3-point baskets and added an assist and a steal. His White team lost to the Blue team 87-60.
TOP SCHOOL RUNNERS
Colonie freshman Kathryn Tenney repeated as the 14-under division winner at the Freihofer’s Run For Women 5K in Albany Saturday, winning in a group of 196 by 70 seconds in 18:24.
Saratoga Springs junior Amelia Mahoney won the 15-19 age group of 195 runners in 17:55, with Schalmont senior and Iona-bound Julia Flower placing second (17:59) and Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake junior Eva Scott taking third (18:08). Flower and Scott finished first and second last tear.
Mahoney, Flower and Scott were 19th, 21st and 23rd overall. Tenney was 26th.
Albany Academy junior Michael Haelen won three times before a 6-3, 3-6, 10-7 setback against Shawn Jackson of Susan Wagner in the consolation final at the state tennis championships Saturday in Flushing.
Haelen and Jeff Martin of Niskayuna both lost their opening match in the main draw, while Alex Federov of Guilderland went 1-1. Martin went 2-1 in the consolation portion of the event, reaching the semifinals.
David Kalmer and Conor Brandon of Bethlehem lost in their main draw doubles opener and then went 3-1 in the consolation bracket, reaching the semifinals. Conners O’Brien and Aiden O’Brien of Albany Academy went 2-1 in the doubles main draw, reaching the quarterfinals, and Elan Shiang and Jason Tang of Niskayuna went 1-1 in the main draw.
HERE AND THERE
Amsterdam third baseman Ben Rhodes will be signing his latter of intent with Siena College Thursday.
Justin Burke of LaSalle won the 110-meter hurdles in 15.04 Sunday at the Eastern States Championships at Iona College. The Cadets placed fifth in the 800 relay and sixth in the sprint medley relay.