MAHOPAC, N.Y. Mahopac varsity football fans are hoping that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
The Board of Education announced last week that it was naming Dominick DeMatteo, 45, to be the next head varsity football coach. He is the son of Tony DeMatteo, a Hudson Valley coaching legend who led Somers to the Class A state title last year and took Roosevelt High School in Yonkers to the state crown in 1996.
DeMatteo said he’s learned a lot from his father over the years.
“I think as I have gone on with my career, the basic philosophy of educator, both as a teacher and a coach, and how to treat kids the right way and really understand the big picture is something I have learned from him,” he said. “We are here as educators trying to provide the best experience for the student athletes and hopefully enable them to utilize their particular sport to become productive citizens once they graduate school and move on into the community.”
DeMatteo will replace Mark Langella, whose contract was not renewed after leading the Indians to a 3-6 season last year. There were some in the community who spoke out against Langella’s dismissal at board meetings over the past several months, saying their kids looked up to him, but DeMatteo says he hopes they’ll give him a chance.
“I have walked into similar situations in the past,” he said. “It can be a rocky road, but the one thing I’ve learned is you have to keep moving forward. I think right now the most important thing is the kids. The focus should be on them.”
DeMatteo had plans to meet with the players last week, as well as the Touchdown Club and the athletic director.
“I want to get open gyms going as soon as possible and then get ready for June camp,” he said. “So, I think now is just about the kids; let’s focus on the kids and get ready for the 2017 season and in doing that, let’s get our program going in the right direction.
“I respect where the program has been, but I am very focused on where it’s going and that is what we are trying to have everyone do,” he added. “The sooner we do that collaboratively, the better chance we will have for success, not just this season, but moving into the future.”
DeMatteo brings a wealth of experience to the job. He was the head coach of the Arlington High School varsity squad in Dutchess County from 2007 to 2015. Last year, he was the head coach at Nyack High School in Rockland County.
“In Arlington, we created a very competitive interscholastic program, one of the elite programs in the whole Hudson Valley, with a family atmosphere and I think we can do that here at Mahopac,” he said. “I am excited to be back in AA North; I know all the teams very well.”
DeMatteo and his wife, Dianne, and sons, Anthony, 12, and Dominick, 10, have lived in Mahopac for the past 12 years, which, he said, makes the head coach position even more special to him.
“I’ve been involved in the community in many ways and we love it here,” he said. “Our kids have had great success in the district, both academically and athletically. We have had a great experience and now to have the opportunity to come here and serve as an educator is really unique and I am thankful for it.”
DeMatteo said he hopes to create not just excellent football players, but excellent young men as well.
“Football for me is the vehicle, but it’s not the end-all, be-all,” he said. “Every time we walk on the field, do we want to win that game and have a successful season? Of course. But the real success comes in the relationships we develop with the student athletes that we maintain after they graduate and helping them go on to higher education and helping them go on to a higher point.”
Besides taking over the head-coaching duties, DeMatteo has been hired to fill a new physical education position with a salary of $97,756, which was added to this year’s budget.
District administrators said the position was cut several years ago during the economic downturn and is now being added back to reduce the stress on an overtaxed phys ed department. It was originally thought that DeMatteo would serve as chair of the department, but he said last week his role is still under discussion.
“They are talking about doing some things in the phys ed department because the athletic director has so many hats,” he said. “I don’t really know what that structure is going to be. It’s more of a work in progress’ The department head is probably more for one of the veteran teachers in the district. I am willing to step up and doing anything that they need me to do, but that’s for them to decide.”
Because Mahopac is an AA school and Somers is A, DeMatteo won’t have the opportunity to meet his father’s squad on the gridiron, but he said the schools will work closely together in the preseason.
“We can do everything with Somers because we don’t play them,” he said. “Things like camps, scrimmages. When I first took over in Arlington that is something I did and it really accelerated the learning process for the coaches. I take my defensive back coach and line him up with the defensive back of Somers and say listen to what he’s saying. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun seeing Mahopac and Somers working together. [Somers] is kind of the model in the area right now and we want to map that.”
DeMatteo said he was grateful to the school district and the community for the chance to show what he can do.
“I want to thank Superintendent Dr. Dennis Creedon and the administrative teams at both the district and high school level and all the members of the board of education, specifically (board president) Dr. Brian Mahoney,” he said. “They had the vision and willingness to select someone they felt was the best candidate for the phys ed job and the coaching job. I am humbled and grateful and look forward to the opportunity.”