Tussey Mountain savors program turnaround

SAXTON — From 2015 through 2017, Tussey Mountain’s football program went just 2-28.

Then, Anthony Sottasante came to Saxton.

The Titans are 12-3 since, but the coach didn’t want any of the credit after Tussey Mountain’s 32-22 victory over Northern Bedford Friday.

“Players win games, not coaches,” Sottasante said. “The kids deserve 150 percent of this. Many times we could have folded tonight, but we didn’t. We held in there, and they deserve credit for that.”

Quarterback Matt Leonard is one of the few players who started before Sottasante arrived, and he explained what has changed in the program.

“It’s how close our locker room is,” Leonard said. “We’re so close as a team, and we hang out all the time after school. We love hanging out at Martin’s, that’s our favorite spot, and we just feel so close as a team.”

That connection is even more significant than being together on a football field or hanging out at a gas station.

“I think the biggest thing is that we’ve got God,” Sottasante said. “We have Him to say thanks to for that. I think we’re a team of faith. These kids care about each other, and they’ve really bought into we before me. We have kids that were running backs who have moved to the line, and anything we ask them to do, they’ll do, and they do it 100 percent. We’re just an unselfish team.”

Friday night, Tussey Mountain got big plays from Leonard and Tyler Rhodes, scores from stars Kaden Lucko and Jarred Sipes, but the most animated celebration by the team may have come when Dave Smith, who had just three carries, fought his way in for a score in the third quarter.

Though the Titans and their opponent Friday night are rivals, Northern Bedford coach Garry Black said he certainly respects what Tussey has built.

“I’ve become friends with Coach Sottasante over the past few years,” Black said. “He’s a great person, a great motivator and I’m glad to call him a friend. But I won’t take anything away from the foundation that was laid here before. We’ve seen this coming for awhile now. Kids like (Sipes), (Rhodes) and (Lucko) don’t come around very often. They can fly, and Lucko pounds the ball. (Sottasante) has helped put it all together. I hope they represent District 5 well the rest of the year and win out.”