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Athletics

 

'Dream job' for new Albany High football coach

The last time Albany High School had a championship football season, Mike Ware was excited to see it end.   

 

Ware was a freshman on the Yonkers Roosevelt team that beat the Falcons 34-27 in the 1996 state quarterfinals, the last time Albany High won the Section II title. Ware didn’t get into that game, but he played a part in helping Roosevelt, the eventual state champion, prep for the high-scoring Falcons.

 

Twenty-one years later, Ware is now in charge on the other side of the field and hoping to build on the resurgence the Albany High program has enjoyed the past two years.

 

“Football is back,” said Ware, promoted earlier this month from assistant to head coach. “We’re trying our hardest to develop these kids academically, physically and as men. It’s our mission to produce the best product on Saturdays, and the best product after graduation.”

 

A former assistant for five years at Hudson Valley Community College, his alma mater (he also played linebacker for the Vikings), Ware joined the Albany High coaching staff last season as an assistant under coach Joey DiPiazza.

 

The Falcons finished 5-4 last fall, their first winning season in 12 years, and were 8-11 in DiPiazza’s two seasons. That marked major progress for a program that had gone 3-69 over the previous eight seasons, including five consecutive winless seasons from 2007-11.

 

DiPiazza stepped down following the breakthrough season last fall and the Falcons will graduate an outstanding group of seniors, led by electrifying All-State performers Ky’ere Tillery and Jarrell Chaney.

 

But the Falcons have a solid core of returning players, and Ware has been impressed by the level of participation in offseason workouts. He will keep the rest of last fall’s coaching staff intact to provide important continuity, and he’s also actively trying to infect more students with the Falcon football bug.

 

“Joey sparked it, and it’s my job to continually try to change the culture and the perception of the football player in Albany,” Ware said. “Last year we had some success and now the attitudes have changed.”

 

Taking over the top job for an urban high school football program has been Ware’s goal since his playing days at Yonkers Roosevelt, a school and city similar to Albany.

 

“This is literally, verbatim, my dream job, minus not being in Yonkers,” he said. “It’s almost unreal.”

 

Ware played at Roosevelt for iconic coach Tony DeMatteo, whose 318 career wins are the most among all active coaches in New York (DeMatteo led Somers to the 2016 Class A state title in addition to the '96 Class AA title with Roosevelt). As a kid growing up in Yonkers, Ware dreamed of being part of the respected program DeMatteo built at Roosevelt. He had bigger dreams, too.

 

"Every other kid wanted to play in the NFL. I wanted to be coach DeMatteo," Ware said.

 

Now he has a chance to build that culture in Albany.

 

“When I was growing up, they would say, ‘He played for coach DeMatteo. He’s a great kid.’ That meant something to me in my community,” Ware said. “If I can give that to our kids and our community, I will feel that I have done my share.”

 

The mission of the City School District of Albany is to educate and prepare all students for college and career, citizenship and life, in partnership with our diverse community. The district serves more than 9,600 students in 17 elementary, middle and high schools. In addition to neighborhood schools, the district includes several magnet schools and programs, as well as other innovative academic opportunities for students, including four themed academies at Albany High School.

 

 

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