Oct 06, 2006 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Two decades of hard work and continuous success has put Fayetteville-Manlius boys soccer head coach Jeff Hammond on a pedestal few of his peers ever reach.
Under a full moon on a cold Thursday night at Swan Pond, the Hornets beat Utica Proctor, 3-0, and gave Hammond his 300th coaching victory, all of it done at F-M.
“It’s hard to believe,” said Hammond. “To be at one place for 20 years, it can be a tough gig, but this is a place that truly supports athletics. F-M is a wonderful place to coach.”
That support was evident once the victory was sealed. Hammond was given the game ball by one of his players, T-shirts were handed out to mark the occasion, and two cakes were made, one that included an oak tree, F-M’s symbol.
Fittingly, the milestone was reached at Swan Pond, the Hornets’ soccer home during Hammond’s entire tenure.
“It’s exciting and nice to win it at home,” he said. “It’s special to do it here.”
As always, Hammond’s family was present. His wife, Kathy, kept the score, as she has done since her husband began coaching at F-M. And 4-year-old son Ben was around to join in the team pictures at game’s end.
Everyone has seen quite a show since Hammond took over in 1987. Back then, the idea that anyone could succeed legendary coach Ed Schmitt seemed ridiculous.
After all, Schmitt had led the Hornets to 11 Section III and 14 league championships, establishing F-M as the premier soccer program in Central New York. Hammond, just 22 and fresh out of college, had a lot to prove.
But with a patient method of teaching and a continual flood of talent, Hammond’s Hornets just kept on winning. Beginning in 1994, F-M claimed five Class A titles in six years, four of them in a row.
A brief dry spell followed, but the Hornets have won or shared the last three sectional championships, the last two outright. By doing so, Hammond has matched the 11 sectional crowns won by Schmitt’s teams and built a record of 300-67-23.
To average better than 15 wins per season, as Hammond is done, requires more than a steady hand at the top. He said much credit must go to his support system, from his family (he also has a 15-year-old daughter, Ashley), to athletic director Rich Roy, to the parents and, most importantly, the guys on the field.
“The consistency has to do with the number of good players we have each year,” he said, giving high praise to long-time JV coach Brent Ostrander for further developing their skills before they reached the varsity level.
This season is yet another example of Hammond’s considerable coaching skill. After starting 0-2-1, the Hornets have won seven of eight games and, once again, are on top of the OHSL Colonial American division standings.
“We’re just starting to figure it out,” said Hammond. “And we know that the games that matter are at the end of the season.”
In the milestone win over Proctor, Jamie Davin’s goal in the 15th minute got the Hornets on the board, and he tacked on another goal 1:22 into the second half after the Raiders lost a player to a red card.
Rich Courto added a late tally, with Jim Forbes, Chris Hartzheim and Matt Kutzer earning assists and Matt Wopperer making seven saves for the shutout.
Now that the milestone is out of the way, F-M can turn to the regular-season homestretch, which begins Tuesday at Corcoran and continues Friday with a big game at Cicero-North Syracuse.