With a great week of games upon us, here’s one of my favorite stories so far. Put it this way: The Mahopac Indians will bring the same uniforms, coaching staff, mentality and boisterous student section to the County Center. Just not the same players.
In fact, for a repeat semifinalist, Mahopac is a very different team. One staple of the last five seasons is the coaching staff, led by 1989 graduate Kevin Downes, who took over the head varsity job at his alma mater under unique circumstances. When Tom McMahon stepped down in September of 2007, athletic director Frank Miele’s first recommendation Phil Diasparra was denied by the board of ed. Downes was hired instead. His first meeting with the team came the Friday before his first practice. Still, the Indians are 66-36 since.
Two seniors who earned significant playing time off the bench last year, Zack Ankier and Marc Vaccaro (pictured above with their coach), said Downes’ passion and intensity had fueled them. The team needed that boost after a three-game losing streak at midseason, so Downes held a mini-boot camp to refocus them. They needed it again last Tuesday when they rallied from 18 points down to beat Arlington in double OT.
Of course, part of Mahopac’s success is the strength of one of the section’s most vociferous fan bases. The students are dubbed the “Mahopac Maniacs” and they come complete with a Twitter handle (@MahopacManiacs), a Facebook fan page and three t-shirts (white, black and blue). One of the group leaders, Nick Lovera, told me the Maniacs use social media to organize chants, outline game protocol (yes, seriously) and urge participants to join a blueout or a blackout or a whiteout.
Friday night’s mission: Get students to the County Center during the Junior Prom.
Downes, Ankier, Vaccaro, Lovera and Downes’ former coach — longtime Mahopac man Lance DeMarzo — all helped make a fun story. Give it a read and see what’s made the Indians click.