SOMERS, N.Y. ‒ Somers High School football coach Tony DeMatteo will reach the 300 victory plateau with his next win, which may come Thursday when the 7-0 Tuskers host Hendrick Hudson in the first round of the Section 1 Class A playoffs. Game time is 6 p.m.
DeMatteo, who was born and raised in Yonkers, won more than 200 games in a 32-year career at Roosevelt High School in Yonkers before moving to Somers in 2001. He has won multiple coaching honors, league and Section 1 titles and the Class A state title in 1996 with Roosevelt.
DeMatteo got win No. 299 Saturday in a victory at Eastchester High with a number of former players in the stands and on the sideline cheering him on.
Jimmy Kennedy, a member of the 1996 state championship team who went on to Penn State and an NFL career with St. Louis, Chicago, Minnesota and last year's Super Bowl Champion New York Giants, calls DeMatteo a "life-changer".
"Coach D is a reflection of the good in high school sports," Kennedy said. "He set out to change lives. He gives them structure, positive direction, and most of all, his full commitment. His players and others can see his dedication to them. So, we showed our dedication by winning and doing right with our lives. These victories have added up to 300, but in our hearts it can easily be tripled."
Robert Forcelli, Roosevelt Class of 1970, is a lifelong friend.
"I had the pleasure of playing for and coaching with Coach DeMatteo," Forcelli said. "We became so close. We were like family and still are. He taught me how to win, but most of all how to act as a player and as a coach. I am very proud of what I have accomplished in life, but it would have never happened without his guidance. People see him as a very tough individual. The last time I saw him he hugged me and told me how much he loved me. That is just the way he is."
"Being coached by Coach D was an incredible experience," said 2012 Somers graduate Anthony Lombardo, who attends SUNY Cortland. "He taught me so much on and off the field. He is one of the most determined people I have ever met."
"I played only two years for Coach D and then chose to work over playing football, but that never changed the way he treated me," said 1997 Roosevelt grad Matt Fedor. "He always looked out for me in school and genuinely cared. He taught me many life lessons that I try to instill in my kids even to this day."
Max Kremer, a 1971 Roosevelt graduate, was a member of DeMattoe's first unbeaten team in thye late 1960s.
"I have been fortunate in my life to have had great coaches and Coach Dematteo was definitely one of them," Kremer said. "I have carried many of the things he said and done throughout my life, as a father and a coach. Here's to the next 300."
Florida high school football coach Perry Schneider, who played for rival Gorton High in Yonkers and graduated in 1970, was mentored by DeMatteo.
"I did not play for Tony, but due to his mentoring when I was a young head coach, he helped me become a very successful head coach in New York and Florida. I owe him a lot," Schneider said.
"He was my coach from third to ninth grade," said Jamie Geiger, a 1971 Roosevelt graduate. "Coach is one of the top five people that had a big influence on my life. We all know that he could have risen to the college ranks and beyond, but he felt that high school was where he wanted to be. A great teacher and a man that has molded the lives of many people."
Bob Butler, another rival player at Gorton (1971) learned more about the game from DeMatteo.
"Coach D has helped so many assistants become head coaches, but more importantly these men have impacted literally thousands of student athletes and have shaped their lives in a positive manner," Butler said. "Thanks Tony for everything you have done for me. I will never forget the behind-the-scenes support you have given me. Congrats on your record-setting milestone."
"Coach D was far and way one of the most influential men in the history of Yonkers," said 1999 Roosevelt graduate Mike Ware. "I played for Coach D during his last chapter at Roosevelt and was on the field for his 200th victory."
Former assistant coach Juan Aquino was on the staff that won the state title in 1996.
"Unfortunately, I didn't play for [DeMatteo], but worked for him. He is an unbelievable motivator. In the eight years of coaching with him I only felt once that we were going to lose a game and we ended up blowing them out. That was Ramapo in 1999 ‒ his last home game at Roosevelt."
Fran Brown, who played for DeMatteo's younger brother Don at Gorton (1981), enjoyed Coach D's football family. Brothers Tony and Don were crosstown rival coaches for more than two decades before Don's death in 1999.
"Beating him (Roosevelt) for the City Championship with his brother Donald on their home field was like beating a legend," Brown said. "I would have loved to be around the DeMatteo dinner table that night."
Carlton Major, a 1999 Roosevelt grad, said his life was changed for the better by his coach.
"Coach D was one of the most honest men I have ever met," Major said. "If it was not for football in high school, who knows what my life may have been."
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