Hammond Girls Honor Coach Chapman's Legacy
BY DAVE SHEA
Student-athletes across New York State desperately hoped against hope that somehow and through some way the 2020 New York State Public High School Athletic Association's Winter Sports Championships could be completed.
Those athletes most concerned were members of teams which had qualified for state finals or state final fours in their respective sports and teams that had qualified for regional title games.
Those final hopes evaporated on Monday when the NYSPHSAA, after careful consideration of every aspect of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic, made the agonizing decision to cancel the remaining winter championship events.
“It is with great disappointment that we make the decision to cancel the remaining winter championship events,” said Dr. Robert Zayas, NYSPHSAA Executive Director in a press release.
“Our association’s focus is to benefit students through participation in interscholastic athletics and unfortunately this rapidly developing situation has prevented our association from providing a quality championship experience. We certainly sympathize for the students who are being impacted by this crisis but at this time they deserve honesty from the leadership of our association.”
“This is one of the most difficult decisions the Officers of the NYSPHSAA have ever had to make,” said Paul Harrica, President of NYSPHSAA.
“It has been determined it is not feasible for the Winter State Championships to be hosted in a safe and beneficial manner for the participating student-athletes and their teams in the near future. The health and safety of the students we serve will always be our top priority.”
A news release from the NYSPHAA went on to say that with school districts closed for an extended period of time, sections and schools are individually determining the Spring sport start dates and practice parameters and that the status of the NYSPHSAA Spring State Championships will be determined on or prior to Monday, April 27.
The official cancelling of the winter sports championships was especially disheartening to the seniors athletes on teams which were still in the hunt for state titles. Seniors who were also facing the major uncertainties, fears and anxiety brought on by the imposing threat of the virus.
In Section 10 Massena used a perfectly timed peak to reach the New York State Final Four in Division I Hockey.
In Class D basketball the number one ranked Chateaugay Boys (shared with DeRuyter) and the number four ranked Hammond Girls were poised to complete runs at state titles. In Class C Boys Basketball 10th ranked Madrid-Waddington vaulted into the mix for a state crown with an impressive victory over number one ranked Moriah in the regional semi-finals.
As one Massena hockey player said "I guess we will never know."
"I’m absolutely sick about this for these girls. I feel it has ripped a title out of their hands," said Hammond Coach Shawn Dack when the state championships were postponed five days before the regional finals.
The Hammond Girls do know that they met all expectations and developed into state title contenders in basketball and soccer drawing inspiration from the late Coach Tom Chapman in the final two seasons of coaching and teaching career which continued for 26 years after he retired after serving for 32 1/2 years as a coach, teacher and athletic director at Hammond Central. Coach Chapman passed away on March 5.
While inspiring Hammond Girls and Boys teams in recent years, Chapman also drew strength from the Red Devils to carry his defiant fight against cancer well into overtime.
"He was like a another grandfather to all of us. We all love him," said Hammond senior Kelsey Bennett after Chapman ended a stay in the hospital to watch a sectional soccer game from his truck with his wife Betty.
Along with directing his student-athletes on the field, in the gym and in the classroom, Coach Chapman also taught hunter safety classes and instilled the love of the outdoors into countless youngsters. Coach Chapman fished, hunted and trapped on the water and the land surrounding Black Lake since the early days of his youth.
"I am the coach of these girls but there will always be only one "Coach" in Hammond. Coach Tom Chapman. He is Hammond," said Hammond Girls Soccer and Basketball Coach Shawn Dack who has guided two Lady Red Devil basketball squads to state titles in his 30-year career at Hammond.
REMEMBERING COACH CHAPMAN STORIES
"Everyone who knew him has a “Coach Chapman story” and he always had so many of his own stories and jokes to tell," said Betty Chapman.
"He will live on through us forever in those stories."
Since the passing of Hammond Coach Tom Chapman countless numbers of fishing stories on Black Lake have circulated by mouth and social media.
I will add one here.
One of my favorite fishing stories ever.
Covering high school sports for The Journal and Advance News I became friends with Coach Chapman and each visit to the home of the Red Devils included talks about fishing and always ended with Coach saying "Thanks For Coming".
On a trip to Hammond to cover baseball and softball Coach invited me to fish crappie on Black Lake. He gave me a few of his favorite jigs and we began casting brush piles for the panfish known for it voracious feeding habits ands ability to make fish feeds memorable.
We found the crappies and enjoyed fast action for an hour or so when a pack of largemouth pass moved in to pilfer the jigs.
We quickly shifted to small plugs and the hits were also nonstop.
Suddenly Coach's line went limp as a big bass broke his line.
"Boy that's too bad," he said.
"I have had that plug since I was a kid and it means a lot to me."
An instant later the plug was back.
The fish that broke Coach's line had struck my lure and when I reeled the bass in there was coach's lure.
Many times over the years when I would see Coach and his wife Betty at games we would recall that day from so long ago and we would laugh like it was happening all over again.
Coach Chapman was born and Cortland and came to Hammond seven years later when his took over the operation the Chapman Point Resort and Chapman's Sports Shop. At Hammond Central he was a standout athlete in basketball, 7-on-7 soccer and baseball. After graduation in 1956 he attended SUNY Cortland graduating in 1961. In 1959 he married his high school sweetheart , Betty Dunn, who came to Hammond when her family relocated after their farm in Waddington was among the land tracts purchased and flooded for the building of the St. Lawrence Seaway.
Coach Chapman received his Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education and Health from SUNY Cortland in 1961 and he returned to his alma mater, Hammond Central School, to teach Physical Education and Health and coach for 32 and one-half years. Tom and Betty Chapman also owned TLC Antiques for over 40 years, participating in antique shows and running estate sales. Hammond Central graduate Doug Farley, who has taught and coached modified soccer, baseball and basketball at Ogdensburg Free Academy for many years, is among the legion of former Red Devils who feel so fortunate to have known Coach Chapman as a coach, teacher, mentor and friend.
"Coach was my junior varsity basketball coach and my teacher. He and Mr. Scofield (Superintendent of Schools Bob Scofield) encouraged me to get into coaching and I coached varsity baseball at Hammond for one season" said Farley who later coached Varsity Girls Basketball at Morristown Central and served as an assistant women's basketball for Bruce Tallon at SUNY Canton.
"I also got a chance to bowl with coach and played a few rounds of golf with him. He was so much fun to be around. He told the same jokes all of the time but they always made you laugh. And he was a good athlete. He didn't play golf much and he never used a wood. But he could hit a five iron 200 yards."
HISTORIC SECTION 10 CHAMPIONSHIP RUN
One of the highlights of Coach Tom Chapman's coaching career at Hammond was an historic run to the Overall Section 10 Basketball Championship in March of 1967. Over the years Coach Chapman always spoke with great fondness and admiration for that team.
At that time there were three leagues in Section 10. The large schools played in the Northern League and the small schools played in the St. Lawrence and Oswegatchie Valley Leagues. The Section 10 Tournament was played after the three leagues held their playoffs.
The teams were not bracketed by class size but just seeded on their records and the tournament was played.
For the 1974-75 school year the three leagues were united in the Northern Conference with different division formats used over the years. In 1975 the Section 10 Tournament by class size followed by beginning of regional play and eventually the founding of the New York State Tournament.
In 1967 Hammond lost to Hermon-DeKalb 60-47 in the St. Lawrence Valley League Playoff title game but rebounded to become the first small school to defeat three Northern League teams and win the sectionals. The Red Devils made their historic run in the space of five days downing Potsdam 66-56 on Monday, Canton 65-63 on Wednesday and Tupper Lake 71-69 on Friday.
All three games were played at Potsdam Central School.
In the championship game Steve Storie scored a game-winning layup off a pass from Greg Lavarnway with six seconds to play. Joe Farrell led the Devils with 17 points in the game followed by Gary Hunter with 15 and Phil Hansen with 13. Storie and Lavarnway each scored eight points rounding out a great team effort.
Tupper Lake reached the finals in another thriller outscoring Gouverneur 83-82.
In the semi-finals Canton was guided by Jerry Hourihan in the first season of his New York State Basketball Hall of Fame career. The Devils overcame 26 points from Lee Cartmill and 20 from Paul Patterson and prevailed on a game-winning layup by Steve Storie, again with six seconds to play. Storie finished with 20 points followed by Gary Hunter with 18, Phil Hansen with 14, Joe Farrell with seven and Greg Lavarnway with six.
In the first round win over Potsdam Storie and Hunter scored 21 and 19 points followed by Lavarnway withy eight and Farrell with four.
Speaking from his winter home in Florida Coach Hourihan remembered the semi-final game vividly.
"We lost to a great Massena team by a quite a bit in the regular season but we lost in a close game to them in the playoff finals at Appleton Arena," said Coach Hourihan.
"Many of the Northern League teams didn't want to play in the sectionals but Frank Tice (Tupper Lake), Hal Gillette (Potsdam) and I wanted some extra games. At that time Steve Storie of Hammond and our Lee Cartmill were considered as two of the very best players in the area. It was a great game and as a team Hammond didn't need to take a back seat to anyone. And as a coach Tom Chapman didn't need to take a back seat to anyone."