Sports Editor’s Playbook, Friday, Sept. 21, 2012

Patrick Newell

* Today we began our Athlete of the Week series, one we hope to run without interruption during the prime high school sports seasons. It was a bit of a delay this year as we searched for a title sponsor, and we thank Matthews Ford/Planet Preowned for stepping up to support Chenango County Athletes. The first honoree, Jake Mazzarella of Bainbridge-Guilford, is an example of making the most of an opportunity. As detailed in today’s article, Mazzarella was buried on the depth chart on last year’s varsity team. Around the midway point of last season, head coach Tim Mattingly was looking to better complement fullback Billy Holden. More and more, teams were stacking their fronts to slow Holden, who still managed a 1,000-yard season in just eight games. At tailback, Mattingly was looking for a little bit more than what he was getting. He turned to Mazzarella, and it proved a great choice. Since making his first start in the backfield, he has remained a fixture, and has gone one better this year. Instead of acting as the “change-up” to Holden’s “fastball,” Mazzarella is now the number one pitch in the B-G offense. Each week he has improved, and over the past two weeks he has rushed for nearly 500 yards to go with five touchdowns. Usually a head coach is well aware of his top prospects while they are still a year or two away from joining the varsity. As Mattingly admitted, Mazzarella was not immediately on his radar. “To be honest, we didn’t see this coming from Jacob,” Mattingly said in a phone interview earlier this week. “But boy, we’re glad he’s here.” So, too, are the rest of the Bobcats.

*NFL Films president Steve Sabol died earlier this week after an 18-month battle with brain cancer. The last time I saw him, he was introducing his father Ed at the 2011 NFL Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio. Ed Sabol founded NFL films, and quickly enlisted his son as a cameraman and writer. Eventually Sabol took the reins at NFL Films as his father stepped back into retirement. In my generation — and those who grew up in the 1960s –– NFL films served as a video catalog of the greatest NFL games of that era. It told football stories that became operatic, balletic, and poetic. The narration of legendary John Facenda added gravitas to what was already cinematic beauty. Who doesn’t remember the trumpets and horns sounding off as a ballcarrier (running in super slow motion) drives forward with great exertion toward the goal line? The camera work was brilliant; the script always on point, and Facenda…well, his moniker as “the voice of God” was well deserved. If you loved football, an NFL Films presentation was a must watch. Rest in peace Mr. Sabol, and thank you for helping foster my love of sports.

* Until yesterday evening, I had not looked at the 2012 state football rankings. In an interview with Greene head coach Tim Paske, I asked if he knew his team’s ranking – if at all. He didn’t have an answer, but did say that this week’s opponent, Chenango Forks, was probably ranked pretty high. Paske was right, Chenango Forks is ranked high, number 12, but Greene is ranked even higher. The Trojans appear to have garnered some respect based on their 9-1 finish last year. Greene is presently ranked number six among Class C football teams. It’s a nice ranking, but Paske will be the first to tell you the only ranking that matters is the last poll when the state playoffs are completed. Among other local teams, Bainbridge-Guilford’s 3-0 start has it ranked number 12 in the Class D poll. Norwich, in Class B, received honorable mention status.

Follow Patrick Newell on Twitter @evesunpat