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How a football team rallied a community

Teammates could be heard laughing and singing together on the bus, which was nothing new after a win. As the school bus carrying the Solvay Football team returned to the high school, quarterback Brock Bagozzi noticed flashing red lights illuminating the inside of the bus from fire trucks awaiting the team’s arrival and he quickly realized this wasn’t just another win. For the Village of Solvay, it meant so much more.

Solvay had just beaten Oneida inside the Carrier Dome 14-7 for the Class B Section III title and it seemed like everyone was there to congratulate them and show their support.

“Seeing everyone there waiting for us to get off the bus I knew how special this was for the community,” Bagozzi said.

Bagozzi led the Solvay Bearcats to an undefeated season and their first Section III championship in 17 years, something Bagozzi and the rest of team was fully aware of.

“Everyone knew how long it had been since Solvay won and that was definitely a goal we set for ourselves,” Bagozzi said about the championship drought. “Parents would always let us know we had an opportunity to do something that older teams couldn’t accomplish.”

For most of the last decade, Solvay was not playing at the level most people were accustomed to seeing. Up until the 2019 season, the last sectional win Solvay had was back in 2010. Between the years 2011-2018, Solvay’s record was 15-59 and they went through a stretch where they lost 26 consecutive games. Richard Nagen, a former Solvay player who graduated in 2012, recalls what those seasons were like.

“Not winning a single game my junior and senior seasons was tough. You put in so much work in the off season and set expectations for yourself and the team. When you not only fail to reach those goals, but also don’t even win a game, it’s crushing. Not to mention the parents didn’t hide their frustrations either,” Nagen said.

This season was different, and people were taking notice. Many former players were attending games and practices and as the season went on and wins started to pile up, more and more people were in the stands. Bagozzi noticed after the Marcellus game that the community was rallying behind the Bearcats.

“Once we beat Marcellus who was supposed to be the best school in our league, it really started to set in for people and after that you could really tell the community was behind us,” said Bagozzi.

A big part of former players coming back to do all they could to help this year’s bearcats was offensive coordinator Michael Acchione, who was a former Solvay player himself, class of 2008. Accione asked some of his former teammates if they would come show their support.  

“I wanted our team to know that not only was the village behind them, but past players were too. These kids see former players names in the trophy case in the school and they look up to them,” Accione said. “Having that support really helped our team believe in themselves.”

Bagozzi recalls this personally as many of them gave him the advice to “live in the moment and have fun.” Bagozzi did just that as he threw for 2,476 yards and 33 touchdowns earning himself numerous accolades. During his senior season, Bagozzi earned himself Second-team All-State Class B honors, was named to the All-Central New York team and was a finalist for the Small schools Play of the Year.

During his interview for being named to the All-Central New York team, Bagozzi was asked what his best moment of the season was. Instead of saying his best moment was winning the sectional championship or the individual awards he earned, Bagozzi said his best moment was seeing the entire Solvay community come together by winning football games.

The members of the community weren’t the only ones who rallied behind the Bearcats. The Town of Geddes honored the Solvay Football team by declaring November 9 Solvay Football Day.

Bagozzi, who signed his letter of intent to play football for Marist College, has seen first-hand how a football team can unite a community. He hopes to come back to the program in the future to show his support, like so many did for him.

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