You Could Smell Football In The Air

With all its complexities, the sense of smell can trigger memories. For this writer, the newly cut grass in late August will always remind me of an oncoming football season.

A season of happiness and expectations is what I remember.

I grew up in Webber Park when Sleepy Hollow was North Tarrytown. My home was close to the High School and the Saturday sounds of a football game being played there with fan cheers, referee whistles and music from the bands made it seem to me like a college or professional game was being played in my village.

When I was ten years old, my friends and I would always find a way to sneak into the stands for free. It was more than a game. It was hotdogs, hot chocolate and the pixy footballs that were thrown around the crowds of people. Other kids my age would gather around in the end zone and we’d all play touch football, hardly paying any attention to the real game at hand.

I loved the game and that must have caught the eye of a local youth football coach when he approached me at an annual police picnic a year or so later. "Do you play any football?" he said. "What’s your name and where do you live?" he added. When he showed up outside my house in a 1968 red Ford Galaxie and asked my Dad if he could speak with me, little did I know that I was going to be playing Pop Warner football for him. His name was Mike Annicchiarico, he was an ex-Marine and a cop like my Dad.

To me, Coach Mike and his Assistant Coach Dick Fariel were the best. They were serious about football and very organized. Our team had incredible players and the coaches knew what everyone could do best and let them do it. I ended up as a running back which fit me to a tee. I loved running away from players trying to stop me. One of the games I will never forget took place on the Washington Irving Junior High School field in Tarrytown. We were playing Hastings and the night before the game we assembled for chalk talk and reviewed all our plays to make certain that no one made any mistakes. The first two plays of the game the following day had me running the ball. I can remember all the other players looking at me and I can also remember not getting too much sleep that night.

On game day we won the coin toss. As planned, the first play had the quarterback handing the ball to me. I gained ten yards on the carry, took a hard shot to my helmet and got up with my face guard full of grass. On the next play, our linemen opened up a hole that a truck could have driven through. I ran sixty yards for a touchdown and that moment I will never forget. I felt so proud of myself, my teammates and my coaches.

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About the Author: John Williams