September 14, 2010

Following dad into the trenches

More news about: Castleton | Plymouth State

When Xander Fuccillo was just a little tyke he would put his father's old Plymouth State football helmet on, with two towels on top of another another inside the headgear to make it fit.

Plymouth State's Nick Fuccillo
Nick Fuccillo and brother Xander Fuccillo are Plymouth State offensive linemen, nearly three decades after their father played the position for the Panthers.
Plymouth State athletics photo

These days the Plymouth State helmet is a great fit for the family. Xander is playing on the Panther offensive line along with his brother Nick. They are following their father Dave Fuccillo's path. Dave was an offensive lineman for the 1981 Panther team that went unbeaten in the New England Football Conference under coach Jay Cottone.

The brothers are starters on a Plymouth team that is shooting for a fourth consecutive postseason game, ECAC or NCAA playoffs. Nick is a senior and Xander a sophomore.

Nick had narrowed his choices to three schools. His father posed the question, "Which one has shown the most interest in you?"

Nick answered Plymouth as Panther head coach Paul Castonia had made a couple of visits to the home.

"I told him, 'Don't go there just because I went there,'" Dave said.

Then Xander was confronted with more choices. There were nine Division I-AA schools showing interest and D-II schools had offered partial scholarships.

"He told me that he wanted to play with his brother," Dave said.

Xander wound up starting all 11 games as a freshman.

"My message to kids is that if you go to a Division I school you could stand on the sidelines and maybe get a chance down the road," Dave said.

"Or you can go to a Division III school and maybe play every game for four years. And D-III football is great football. People don't realize how good it is."

Castonia was a factor in the Fuccillos' decision.

"John Clark (the athletic director) told me that Paul was the best coach they have had there," Dave said.

That's a heck of an endorsement since the Plymouth history includes such luminaries as Cottone and Don Brown. Brown was the defensive coordinator for a UMass team that won a national championship and was the architect of the Maryland defense a couple of weeks ago that contained the Navy ground attack in the Terps' victory.

"Paul is outstanding," Dave said.

"I never met a harder working person in my life than coach Castonia," Xander said.

"I'm glad I'm here," Nick said.

It has worked out pretty well for the captain of that 1981 team, too. He doesn't have to choose which game to attend to see one of his sons play.

"It makes my life easier," Dave said.

But the Panthers have some work to do if they are to attain their goal of another postseason berth. They are coming off a 41-16 spanking by nonconference foe Mount Ida.

But Dad can offer some encouragement here. His 1981 squad opened with a loss to Norwich before putting together its perfect league season.

Family all over the field
Castleton State sports information director Jeff Weld looked out at the field during the season opener with Plymouth State and wondered aloud, "How many other games in the country today have brothers on the offensive line for both teams?"

A safe answer: It was a pretty short list.

Not only were the Fuccillos on the O-line for the Panthers, Andrew and Chris Kiernan were starting on the offensive line for the Spartans.

Andrew began college at Vermont and left a few years ago. Chris went to Champlain College and got a two-year degree that makes him a licensed X-ray technician.

"I made a promise to my parents to go back to college if Castleton ever got a football team," Andrew said.

Castleton's inaugural season was 2009.

"It has been eight years since I have played on the offensive line," Andrew said.

"Andrew kind of recruited me," Chris said.

Now, they share a house 10 miles from campus and spend Saturdays using their 560 pounds of combined weight muscling defensive linemen.

"It just feels right. This was the way it was supposed to happen," Chris said.

Bridgewater 2-0 ... bearly
The Bridgewater State Bears stayed perfect by edging UMass-Dartmouth 10-7 as Justin Fuller rambled for 127 yards and the touchdown. Bridgewater scored all 10 points in the fourth quarter.

9/11 remembrances
There were 9/11 observations at stadiums throughout the country. It had to be especially poignant at the game between Western New England and Mass. Maritime. Former WNEC receiver Jimmy Geyer lost his life in the attack of the World Trade Center.

Certainly the day had special meaning at the Secretaries Cup Game between Coast Guard and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and in Danbury, Conn., where SUNY-Maritime coach Clayton Kendrick-Holmes had his Privateers in town to play Western Connecticut. Kendrick-Holmes will be deployed to Afghanistan after the season.

On the field, Western New England rolled past Mass. Maritime 30-6 as WNEC quarterback Bryce Brown had 100 yards and a touchdown on the ground. He aso threw a 46-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Filmore.

Pat Bennett was the big-play guy for Coast Guard as the Bears helped coach Bill George open his 12th season as head coach with a 10-8 victory. Bennett took the opening kickoff 82 yards to a score and blocked a field goal.

SUNY-Maritime went to 2-0 by beating Western Conn. 41-28. Freshman Thomas Davis, who scored the winning TD in the opener, ran for three more touchdowns.

All grown up
Scott Drosendahl was pressed into service as a 17-year-old freshman last year, the youngest of Mike Landers' Baby Mustangs at Mount Ida.

A year older and wiser, he threw three touchdown passes in Ida's big 41-16 victory at Plymouth State.

The loss ended a 17-game home winning streak for Plymouth. But Norwich kept its streak going. The Cadets won their 10th consecutive game by beating St. Lawrence 25-14.

The Cadets, who finished last season with eight consecutive wins on the strength of a bruising ground game, are mixing in the pass with great success this season. Chris Denton had seven catches for 169 yards and three touchdowns. Kris Sabourin threw for 223 yards.

Doing more With less
Maine Maritime's Todd Murphy had only four carries, but he still rushed for 93 yards and two touchdowns as the Mariners crushed Anna Maria 47-0. Maine Maritime has its home opener this week against UMass-Dartmouth.

King Curry
Curry did nothing to dispel its preseason billing that had the Colonels ranked first by the coaches in the NEFC poll. Playing their first Division III opponent, the Colonels blanked Fitchburg State 28-0 as Robert Bambini had six catches for 133 yards and two touchdowns. But it was the defense that had to have coach Skip Bandini smiling. They held Fitchburg to just 50 yards of total offense.

Winning late
Framingham State's Kurt Leone tossed a 5-yard pass to Alex Avery with just 1:20 to play to lift the Rams to a 20-19 victory over Nichols. Leone was 23 of 36 for 186 yards and two scores.

First Win
MIT opened the season by beating Becker 21-13 as Marcel Sanchez rushed for 154 yards.

Not so special
J.B. Wells must be lamenting the play of his special teams. Endicott had two field goals blocked and fell to RPI 6-3.

Still, he had to love the great defensive effort against a good team. Matt Schafer led that effort with 13 tackles and PJ Bay added 11 tackles and two pass break-ups.

Ah, the atmosphere
Think coaches are so preoccupied with the X's and O's that they don't notice all the extras and hoopla that surrounds game day?

"(Castleton coach) Rich Alercio has really got it going here with all the tailgating, the full stands and the marching band. The people of Vermont should be very proud of this," Utica coach Blaise Faggiano said after his Pioneers crushed Castleton 59-22.

The Big Games
Westfield State visits Western New England for the Presidents' Cup, an event that has become special for the Springfield, Mass., area.

Coast Guard's visit to Curry is a game that could tell us a lot about those NEFC teams.

The Merchant Marine at SUNY-Maritime contest is one of the most special anywhere. The schools are just across the water from one another and many of the alumni of the two institutions work together, making bragging rights a special reward.

And Hartwick's visit to Northfield is very special for the Norwich Cadets. The Cadets would love to beat an old foe from the Empire 8 and enter their own conference with a 3-0 record and 11-game winning streak.

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Tom Haley

A seven time Vermont sportswriter of the year, Tom Haley has been with the Rutland Herald since 1987. He was inducted into the Castleton State College Hall of Fame in 2004 and received the Contributor to Football Award from the National Football Foundation's Vermont Chapter.

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