AMSTERDAM — It was just a couple days before the Amsterdam Rams were scheduled to play Saratoga Springs in the 1986 Section II Class A Super Bowl when Amsterdam High School principal Bert DeRose called football coach Frank Derrico into his office.
Both Amsterdam and Saratoga were 9-0 at the time, and the hype surrounding the battle of unbeatens was growing more intense by the hour.
Derrico was expecting a pat on the back and wishes of good luck from the Amsterdam administration.
Instead, DeRose made Derrico aware that an illegal NFL and college football betting sheet was available, and that the Amsterdam-Saratoga game was actually included in the games to be wagered on.
He handed the sheet over to Derrico, who looked at it and noticed his Rams were a three-point underdog to Saratoga.
“Take the points.”
Those three words are as much a part of Amsterdam football folklore as “Super Bowl Champs.” Amsterdam went on to crush Saratoga 35-0 in that Super Bowl, and it helped pave the way for a program already rich in tradition to a level that had others doing its best to replicate it.
On Wednesday, the school district entered a new era, naming just its fourth head coach since 1979. John Homich, a 2000 Amsterdam graduate and a current math teacher in the district, was unanimously approved by the Greater Amsterdam School District Board of Education to take over a program previously helmed by Doug Edick, who stepped down after compiling a 42-33 record over an eight-year span.
Prior to Edick, Pat Liverio was Amsterdam’s head coach from 1996-2011 and led the Rams to a 130-34-1 record. Amsterdam’s all-time winningest coach led the Rams to five Big 10 titles, six Section II and regional championships and the 2005 state Class A championship.
Before Liverio, Derrico, the patriarch of the Amsterdam program, compiled a 121-40-6 record in 17 seasons before taking a job with the University at Albany as an offensive backfield coach. Derrico won seven Big 10 titles, three Super Bowl crowns, two regional championships and a 1995 Class B state championship.
The impressive resumes of past coaches serve as a reminder how successful this program has been. But with Amsterdam football, it’s more than just about the wins.
It seems everyone in the community has a role — from football player to band and majorette participant to the public address announcer Barry Rouse announcing the winner of the traditional, often lucrative 50/50 raffle. During homecoming weekend, a parade takes center stage, with participants walking down a crowd-lined Lindbergh Avenue and finishing up at the Lynch Literacy Academy turf field prior to the game. No one is ever left out.
Former Amsterdam athletic director Bob Noto played a big role in many of those homecomings and has been involved with the football program for the past 40 years. He worked with Derrico, Liverio and Edick in one capacity or another.
“Anybody that has played in Amsterdam has that desire to come back and give back to this program,” said Noto, who isn’t expected to return to the football staff in 2020. “John [Homich] is no different. He wants to bring his own people in, and I respect that. He was born here and lives here. Everything feeds off the football program. We push the bus. Football is special in Amsterdam. People in the fall live for Friday nights with the band and majorettes. It’s an experience. People get upset when we don’t win, and they rejoice when we do win.”
The Friday night football culture in Amsterdam started in 1990 after Lynch Middle School installed lights and from there, the experience simply magnified. High school football back then was primarily a Saturday afternoon event, especially with the smaller schools. Once Amsterdam made the move to Fridays, it was common on game day to see spectators put out a blanket on the concrete bleachers mid-afternoon to reserve their spot for later that evening.
Running the show was and still is the head coach. Looking at the last four head coaches, what is striking is that they are extremely different from one another. Derrico was a brilliant, offensive-minded coach who spent long hours putting together game plans that left the casual fan speechless. Liverio promoted the Amsterdam culture, injecting the hard-working blue collar mentality into his team and was a brilliant motivator, using the “us vs. them” mentality. His favorite two words were “smashmouth football,” because he believed in traditional style of offense and ball control. Edick followed with an adaptable style, changing from year-to-year — and sometimes within a season, be it with play calling or personnel.
Now we have Homich, who brings in a high dose of energy and enthusiasm. He has coached at every level in the Amsterdam program and knows the importance of certain traditions. He plans on continuing many of those traditions, including being involved in the Amsterdam Little Giants feeder program.
“As a former player of the program and a current head coach, tradition has always been important to me,” Homich said. “Almost all of the traditions that take place before, during and after the games will remain in place, such as pregame rituals and our fight song after each score.”
Homich plans to add a new tradition, something that was used briefly a few years back. Installed for 2020 will be the “Earn Your Horns” program that is meant to encourage and inspire players to stay committed to the principles of the program.
“Each varsity player will earn a set of purple Ram horns to be placed on their gold helmet by successfully completing our workout and character programs that have been set in place,” Homich said.
Homich hasn’t coached a varsity football game yet, but the 37-year-old has already displayed a fearless desire to make the program his, naming Josh Hodge to run the offense and Gabe Orengo to take charge of the defense.
You’ll see Homich’s stamp on this program the second they rush on to whatever field they play on this fall. From there, a new era will begin, one that should provide similar results as in the past.
Gambling sheets listing high school games may be a thing of the past, but Homich will take this program to new heights.
You can bet on that.