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A legend and an icon passed away last week. Longtime MSJ head football coach Funzie Cioffi died last week at the age of 84. He was the most successful high school football coach in Vermont history. He and Tony Zingale teamed up to dominate the 70’s and the 80’s in the championship game era. MSJ won Division 1 state championships in 1974, 1976,1977,1980,1983,1985,1986 and 1989. MSJ also made it to the state title game in 1970 and 1982.

Funzie and Tony also both won a championship as players and also teamed up for a few mythical state championships in the 60’s. Together they would win 13 of MSJ’s 17 state championships and together they were 8-2 in state championship games.

The 1976 MSJ team is considered by many including myself to be the best Vermont high school football team ever.

The following is an email I received from Joe Liscinsky who now lives in South Burlington and played for Coach Funzie Cioffi in the mid 80's. Joe says it so very well and I would like to share this with everybody.

Coach Cioffi had a profound impact on me and my development as an athlete and a young man. The encouragement he provided me with, allowed me to push myself to go a bit beyond my comfort zone and really test the boundaries of whatever sport I was playing.

When I made a mistake, he had a real knack for knowing how to handle it depending on the situation – whether it was a practice or a game, whether it was a new play or something we’ve run a thousand time, whether it was late in the day of a hard practice or the start of preseason. A coach is a teacher and he/she needs to correct mistakes and sometimes you do it more vocally than others. For me, Funzie knew which method would always work to get a better effort and hopefully a better result.

Going back to the teaching aspect – Coach loved to discuss the history of certain plays and how they developed …. and then how we would modify them to best utilize our roster. I learned this very early in my coaching career and it’s a great lesson not only in coaching sports in terms of improvising, adapting and adjusting to meet the ever shifting skills sets of players from year to year….but you can also use some of that fine-tuning and modifying of staff in other careers.

It took years before I ever became somewhat comfortable calling him Funzie, yet my first inclination was always to call him Coach. This could be a result of repetition or is it because of a certain level of respect I had (and will always have) for him? I think it’s more the latter.

Interesting memory is that he was the only person I knew who would repeatedly find 4 leaf clovers all over St. Peter’s Field.

He never stopped wanting to learn more about ‘what was new in football’ in terms of formations and plays. This inquisitive nature …. Along with the note above about adapting to your players is why my Junior year we won a title as a mostly ‘ground and pound’ team and my Senior year we won a title mostly throwing the ball…which was almost sacrilege at the Mount!

This brings me to another memory – Coach Cioffi would always remind us to make sure we say hello to the nuns and priests whenever we saw them. He respected them for their commitment and he worked on teaching us to appreciate what they did for the MSJ Community.

The last time I spoke with Funzie was about a year ago and he was going through a difficult time. He’s at peace now with Phyllis and I send the best of thoughts and prayers to his family.

I thank him for all he did for me. Our lady of victory – pray for us.

Also my deepest sympathies go out to the family of Mike Harte who passed away last week at the age of 74. Mike was a star athlete at West Rutland High School and was a one time West Rutland varsity softball coach.

The MSJ “Honor The Past” was a wonderful event last week. Congratulations to the honorees: Long time Drama teacher Jennifer Bagley, Dr. Fletcher Wilson class of 1986 and the MSJ Athletic Association.

The Rutland at BFA-St. Albans football game on Friday night and the Oxbow at MSJ and Anna Maria at Castleton football games on Saturday afternoon will all be video cast on the Northeast Sports Network, The Castleton-Anna Maria game will also be telivesed live on PEGTV channel 20 on the Rutland cable system and will be broadcast on WSYB Radio AM 1380.

Catch you next week!

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Finish Line

Quenneville Stratton Share Bowl Checkers

In the second round of the Battle at the Bowl at the newly constructed dirt track in the infield at Devils Bowl Vince Quenneville led wire to wire to take home the victory in the 30 lap sportsman modified feature. With his second place last week to Kenny Tremont who had troubles during this event Quenneville will now be the points leader in the three race series. Bear Ridge Invader Josh Sunn finished second with Tim Hodge, Derek Graham and Adam Pierson rounding out the top five. In the 50 lap King of the Clay Big Block modified challenge Kenny Tremont dominated the event until breaking on the races final couple of laps and Bennington's Neal Stratton then took home the 5000 dollar victory. Elmo Reckner was second followed by Josh Sunn and Tremont and a great run by Brian Whittemore in fifth. Jamy Begor an asphalt campaigner from Airborne Speedway capped off a strong run last week with a victory in the renegade division Billy Duprey seemed to have the race in hand until he spun in turn 3 and 4 late in the event. Tim Martin won the mini stock feature and Richie Turner won the enduro. Heavy rains on Saturday forced the whole event to be pushed to Sunday and after having a really racy track for the first event last week. More clay was added to surface during the week.

With yesterday's rain it made for a really rough race track. But all in all once all the bugs are ironed out its going to be a really racy track.

Thunder Road postponed the Milk Bowl weekend to next weekend due to the rain on Saturday. Devils Bowl will be off until October 18th when the final race of the dirt series will take place and the Sprint Cars of New England will take to the new surface along with the sportsman modifieds. Coming up this week is Super Dirt in Syracuse, New York as several locals will make the trek to central New York to either watch or compete. Although I can't make it out this year we will bring you the results next week.

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Don Chioffi

Pretty much as predicted----the cooler weather and the rain came----and so did the Salmon! This past weekend, timed perfectly with the beginning of Bow season for Deer, the reluctant Salmon on the Salmon River out in Pulaski, NY finally started their push upriver on Sat and Sun, with pretty good numbers of Kings, Cohos, and Steelhead Trout, and a few nice Brown Trout thrown in for good measure headed upstream on their annual spawning run. Even the smaller creeks had a limited run of fish, but these will back out quickly if there is not more rain, as the amounts were just about enough to get them started, but will quickly recede as the water table is so low that much of the inch or so of rain was absorbed. This is all good news for the local economy in the region as the recent weeks have been pathetically slow for all the local merchants that rely on a steady flow of anglers.

For sure, there have been fish caught in all reaches of the river, however the numbers have been strikingly low and the size of the fish has also been remarkably down from traditional lengths and weights. This season will surely go down in the books as an epic low season by any known and recorded standards. As I stated in a previous article, the most reasonable explanation for all this is the hurricane Irene event and the devastation it wracked on the entire stream system in NY. If, in fact, this proves true, then we have to expect another 4th year low in the future (2018) for there are many, many less fish in the system right now spawning. That inevitably means that the survival rates for fry of all species will be markedly lower four years from now. That is just a mathematically predictable fact!

If the usual weather patterns of October prevail, we should see more fish as soon as we see more rain, as these events seem to continually trigger more and more pods of fish into the spawning run. The burning question that remains unanswered is just how many fish there really are to return, and time will just have to be the determiner of that answer.

Of course, I missed it all this last weekend, but for good and necessary reason. When your grandson has the honor and privilege of Quarterbacking an awesome Rutland Raider Football team, that is definitely not an event that any proud grandfather would ever miss. Not only that, but coming off a milestone 18th birthday just the day before, on Thursday, what a party the game on Friday night could prove to be. And prove to be it certainly did! The entire team rose to the occasion with stellar defense from minute one to the finish, including a defensive created touchdown fumble in the end zone, and a superb running game supported by equally awesome airborne connections. In short, the entire Raider team put on quite a clinic on just how to master all aspects of the game and this performance certainly showcased Coach Norman's success in both motivation and technical coaching skills for the Rutland community. Though the road may be tough, this team certainly has the ability to go all the way if they continue to play the caliber of ball they showed last Friday.

Though I only "played" the game with my loudly positive cheering mouth, I wouldn't have missed the "birthday boy" who just quietly and consistently performs in his element of sports excellence, continually justifying our pride in this exceptional young man. And don't you think he will cherish that "Game Ball" that already sits, proudly, on the hallway shelf? As much as I love fishing----there is not even the remotest of comparison to be made.

Archers----fare thee well! Let forth from your quivers one boldly accurate shot---and harvest your quarry. Until next week, good sports.

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