Here’s my story on how quarterback John Decker – known more for his jumpshot than his spirals – has given Somers a new weapon:
SOMERS — Each season is different to Tony DeMatteo, so when asked to accept John Decker back on Somers’ football team, the section’s winningest coach did it without hesitation.
Well, there was one. Decker, a senior quarterback, had played football since fourth grade, and played with the core of this year’s team throughout. He just hadn’t taken a snap in a game or a practice at the varsity level, leaving precious little time for the sport’s steepest learning curve.
“He was coming out for a position that’s really hard to play in football,” DeMatteo said. “We knew he could throw the ball. We just didn’t know if he could grasp the offense the way he has.”
Decker has accomplished more than that. The 6-foot-1, 175-pounder completed 5 of 7 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown in the Tuskers’ 41-20 victory over Nyack on Friday, continuing a sparkling start for himself and his team. He has completed 16 of 22 for 300 yards and two touchdowns, with just one interception, through the unbeaten Tuskers’ first three games, during which they’ve outscored their opponents 109-26.
“For him not playing football, to be at the level he’s at is really shocking to me,” DeMatteo said.
The results have pleased Decker, who despite playing all those years, doesn’t even consider himself a football player. His preference for basketball was what led him to sit out as a junior in the first place. He focused on improving his game and strengthening his opportunities to play in college. He developed into an all-section guard who was selected to represent Hudson Valley at this summer’s BCANY Summer Hoops Festival.
Decker said he expects to pursue basketball at a Division II or III program, including the likes of Cortland, Oneonta, Mercy, St. John Fisher and Nazareth. Still, he never gave up on football.
“In the back of my head, I always knew I was going to come back senior year,” he said. “We were always good since a younger age. I knew we could get something going.”
He approached DeMatteo’s son, Anthony — a junior-varsity basketball coach and varsity football assistant — last winter and expressed an interest in returning. Decker showed his commitment since that day, attending every spring and summer workout except for one camp that conflicted with the BCANY tournament.
“I was committed from the start,” he said. “I knew my team was going to be good. In order for the team to be good, I knew the quarterback had to know all the plays.”
Now he’s the one realigning teammates into position. In fact, Decker has seized the starting job despite sharing snaps with Tim Cousin. The junior will still play every third series, but the other two belong to Decker. He’s earned them.
In fact, DeMatteo has taken to teasing Decker that basketball may not be his best sport.
“I know he loves basketball. I love basketball, too,” DeMatteo said. “But if he committed to football the way he committed to basketball, he would probably go higher as a football player than as a basketball player. That’s how much skill this kid has.”