'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
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
“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
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.