PORT CHESTER, N.Y.- The Port Chester High School football program - which has struggled in recent years, picking up just two wins last season - is looking for a shot in the arm this fall, and the Rams believe they've found it, bringing in Paul Santavicca as head coach.
Santavicca, a Yorktown High grad (where he played lacrosse and football), before going on to Marist (where he played lacrosse), is thrilled to have his first shot at being the head man. And he's also got plenty of veterans surrounding him to help learn the ropes. Santavicca's father, of course, is Ron Santavicca, who coached at Yorktown for 20 years, earning a pair of state titles with Huskers (in 1993 and '94).
Paul Santavicca at 28 is the youngest head varsity football coach in Section 1 (Westchester, Putnam, Rockland and Dutchess counties).
Ron Santavicca, meanwhile, says he's "too old for this stuff," has no problem springing to life when practice begins, and is clearly ready and willing to give whatever he can to assure his son's - and the Rams' - success.
Like most fathers would, Ron Santavicca is cherishing the opportunity to be involved, as his son's coaching journey begins.
"It's really quite a thrill, because I didn't think he'd be a head coach this fast," Ron Santavicca said.
"And he got me while I'm still fresh," joked Santavicca, a Yonkers native and graduate of Roosevelt High School.
"He handles himself well. He's been around all those great players at Yorktown, he knows how to handle kids. The kids at Port Chester love him. He has a good staff - I'm just here to help him get off the ground. This is all about him. I'm just a proud father staying in the background."
Paul Santavicca, laughing when he hears his father's quote about staying in the background, chimes in quickly that he sometimes has to remind his dad who is the current Head Coach.
"He still thinks he's in charge sometimes," Paul Santavicca laughs. "He forgets.... He has a different style than me."
Ron Santavicca agrees.
"He's a bit different than me," Ron said of his son. "Calmer in demeanor. He gets fired up, but he's much more level headed than I ever was."
Both Santaviccas have plenty of ties to dozens of the section's top coaches, including Somers' Tony DeMatteo, who was a mentor to Santavicca.
"It's nice," Ron Santavicca explains, "because he had all those guys... Tony, and my roommate Don DeMatteo, to look up to... and now it's amazing to see how he's taking what he's learned, and how he's putting it together, handling his staff."
On that staff are, along with Ron Santavicca, Mike Bruno from Rye, Anthony Fiorelli, and Frank Girdauskas (who played with Gorton in a championship game against Yorktown).
The staff's immediate goal is simple: to get Port Chester on a winning track.
Being able to share the start of his own coaching journey with his father is icing on the cake.
"It's very special," Paul Santavicca said. "I saw what he got to do for a group of young individuals. and not just on the field. How much he influenced them going through life, how many of them come back and thank him. And I'm so proud to be able to do this at Port Chester, where I teach. The kids here are just excellent, and I want to give them the kind of football experience that I was fortunate enough to grow up around."
Then, Ron Santavicca sounds like the proud father he clearly is, when he sums it all up. "I'm getting a little older," he said... "but for this moment, I wouldn't want to be any other place."