Alex Cooper / Recorder Staff Broadalbin-Perth’s Stephen Spraker (10) runs down the field with Tamarac’s Evan Petersen (16) during the Section II Class B quarterfinal game on Friday, October 21, at Broadalbin-Perth High School.
By ADAM SHINDER
Why should we have all the fun?
Every year, myself and the rest of The Recorder sports staff have a jolly old time in late December coming up with a list of the biggest local sports stories of the year that was. This year is no different, but I wanted to flip the script just a bit and get more than just our opinions on what was the best of the year.
So, I decided to open up the choices for the best of 2016 on the local sports scene to the public, via a series of polls run on my Twitter account (Cheap plug: @RecorderShinder) and the response was absolutely massive.
Over the two weeks of polling, nearly 8,000 votes were cast as readers decided the area’s team, coach and both male and female high school athlete of the year. For two weeks, my Twitter feed was inundated with retweets and replies of athletes, friends and family members campaigning for their picks.
These aren’t exactly scientific results, but — barring any Russian hacking (I’ve got my eyes on you, Comrade Putin) — they are the will of the voters. Thanks to the magic of the internet, I couldn’t actually cast my vote in any poll, but I’m including my choices in here as well.
That being said, onward to The Recorder’s fabulous 2016 Readers’ Choice Sports Awards:
TEAM OF THE YEAR
Readers’ Choice: Broadalbin-Perth boys soccer — The Patriots came up short of a Section II Class B title, but were brilliant throughout the regular season, winning the Foothills Council North Division and going undefeated until the sectional semifinals during a year that saw B-P outscore its opponents 79-8.
My choice: Fort Plain baseball — B-P soccer was a fascinating story this fall, to be sure, but Fort Plain and the state title plaque the Hilltoppers brought home from Binghamton in mid-June get my vote. From their incredible victory over Fort Ann in the Section II Class D championship game all the way up through their wins over Genesee Valley and West Canada Valley at Broome Community College to capture the title, the Toppers provided an exhilarating ride.
Final totals: B-P boys soccer 40 percent, Fort Plain baseball 34 percent, Amsterdam girls basketball 16 percent, Amsterdam Mohawks 10 percent
COACH OF THE YEAR
Readers’ Choice: Brian Henry, B-P boys soccer — B-P’s get-out-the-vote effort also allowed Henry to ride the wave to a win. In his final season on the sideline, Henry led the Patriots to a undefeated regular season and the top ranking in the statewide Class B poll. He was also named Section II soccer’s Golden Thread Award winner as the section’s man of the year, an award deserved not only for his work as a coach, but for his efforts in raising huge amounts of money for cancer research through the Patriot Pink Out.
My choice: Craig Phillips, Fort Plain baseball — Like the first award, my vote goes the Hilltoppers’ way. Phillips, the winningest high school baseball coach in New York history, led the Toppers in his inimitable style to a second state title in what could be the final act of an incredible career. By the way, this was a banner year for great coaching jobs. Beyond the finalists, the likes of Amsterdam’s Eric Duemler, OESJ’s Jason Brundage and Zale Benton, Galway’s Mike Glenn and the Amsterdam Mohawks’ Keith Griffin all had brilliant runs leading their respective teams.
Final totals: Henry 36 percent, Phillips 32 percent, Jon Caraco 25 percent, Charlie Karker 7 percent
FEMALE HS ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Readers’ Choice: Julianna Taylor, Fonda-Fultonville — In both the tightest and most-voted-on race of all, Taylor got a groundswell of support to earn the award. The Fonda-Fultonville senior certainly earned her spot, carving out a reputation as one of the top point guards in Section II girls basketball while also playing standout roles in soccer and softball.
My choice: Nina Fedullo, Amsterdam — Undone by a handful of votes, Fedullo nonetheless earns my choice for rather obvious reasons. The 5-foot-11 Amsterdam senior has broken every scoring record the AHS girls basketball program has to offer, passing Amy Jo Stewart as the program’s leading scorer and then becoming the first Lady Ram ever to score 1,000 points in her career, all while leading Amsterdam to its first Section II finals apperance in 22 years and earning a full basketball scholarship to the College of Saint Rose.
Final totals: Taylor 41 percent, Fedullo 40 percent, Julie Hampton 12 percent, Jordan Marshall 9 percent
MALE HS ATHLETE OF THE YEAR
Readers’ Choice: Drew Fureno, Fort Plain — The LeMoyne College-bound Fureno had a junior year to remember. The New York State Class D baseball player of the year was behind the plate for every pitch of the Hilltoppers’ state championship run and produced huge hits throughout the state playoffs in a season that saw him put up some truly staggering numbers. Despite playing with a number of senior teammates, he was also Fort Plain’s unquestioned emotional leader.
My choice: Fureno and Dale Stanavich, Amsterdam (TIE) — I’m sorry. I just couldn’t decide. But, this is my poll, so I decide that I get two votes. For a single sport, Fureno had about as good a year as any athlete I’ve covered during my time in the area. Stanavich, on the other hand, showed tremendous versatility. He ran for 1,500 yards during football season, was Amsterdam’s top pitcher during baseball season and is a major contributor on the AHS boys basketball team.
Final totals: Fureno 40 percent, Stanavich 35 percent, Stephen Spraker 16 percent, Jeff Derwin 9 percent
Contact ADAM SHINDER at [email protected]