Recorder file photo Broadalbin-Perth's Biago Bucciferro cheers on his team after being sidelined with an injury last season.
By MICHAEL KELLY
BROADALBIN -- Last November, Biagio Bucciferro suffered one of the cruelest fates imaginable for a high school football player, an imperfect ending to a charmed season.
Just two days away from his Broadalbin-Perth Patriots' appearance in the Section II Class B Super Bowl, the then-junior made a cut to his right, a simple one he had completed without a thought so many times throughout his career.
But, at this practice, Bucciferro ended the movement on the turf at Patriot Field, clutching his left knee and yelling he had "heard a crack."
Bucciferro held out hope, but he knew what had happened. The anterior cruciate ligament in the knee had torn, and his season was finished at the hands of a non-contact injury. That fact was confirmed the next day, one day before Bucciferro yelled himself hoarse while crutches propped him up during the Patriots' excruciating 54-7 loss to Schalmont in the title game.
A little more than nine months later, Bucciferro is back in the fold for the Patriots, ready to resume his role as the club's sure-tackling middle linebacker and heartbeat.
"And," he said at a recent preseason practice, "I think I'm even stronger than I was."
Bucciferro was cleared to play in June, ahead of schedule after a December surgery. He participated in the program's 7-on-7 summer workouts and its early-August team camp. With no problems to report through the preseason, he is on track to start his club's Week 1 contest vs. Cohoes.
All along, the hope had been that Bucciferro could be in the mix for Week 1. That there is still every expectation that Bucciferro will be on the field for the Patriots' opener is no surprise to his teammates, senior quarterback Zach Morreale said.
"Not really," he said, "because we know Biagio."
Bucciferro had his surgery in early December and ditched his crutches within days, eager to begin rehabilitating his knee. Two weeks after his surgery, he started grueling three-times-a-week physical therapy sessions; basically, if it was an exercise that started with the word "legs," he did it. By April, he had pressed, curled and lunged his left leg enough that he could run for the first time, and the ability to cut soon followed.
While Bucciferro worked to make sure his legs were right, he used his lack of mobility as a means to dedicate time to overhauling his upper body. Pelneau said Bucciferro had always been diligent in heeding the Patriots' strength-training regimen -- the player had little choice; Pelneau is his cousin -- but Bucciferro said his injury's horrendous timing fueled him to do more than usual.
"I was just so mad that I'd go to the gym four times a week to do upper body," he said. "I was just so mad, I just wanted to get bigger, get better, and win a sectional championship."
The results from Bucciferro's offseason are visible. He estimates that he put on roughly 10 pounds from his workouts, his chest now broadened and his shoulders fuller. The black brace on his left knee is a reminder of last year's pain, but he said it is not a sign of weakness.
"It (the injury to the left knee) is going to go through my mind a bit the first game, but not after that," Bucciferro said.
Pelneau said Bucciferro has no physical restrictions for the upcoming season, but the squad is being careful with the co-captain. He probably will not see special-teams action and his involvement with the B-P offense is likely -- at least, at first -- to be limited to only a few packages.
"Priority number one for him is to play defense at a high level," said Pelneau. "He's one of our best players, the leader of our defense."
Bucciferro said he is confident his left knee and the rest of his body will hold up in 2014. He said in the weeks after he tore his ACL, he'd sometimes wake up in a cold sweat after a nightmare about the pain from the injury.
Now, though, he said those nightmares are over, instead giving way to dreams of winning a sectional title. The anger he felt that pushed him to the weight room is still there motivating him, but there is relief, too, now that his senior season is about to start with a sound left knee.
"Knock on wood," he said, "it's been perfect."
Contact MICHAEL KELLY at michael.kelly@