The end of an era has come to the Amsterdam High School football program. Head coach Pat Liverio appeared in his last game on Saturday night when the Rugged Rams lost to Burnt Hills, 26-23, in the Section II Class A championship game at Shenendehowa.


Liverio is retiring after 28 years in the Rugged Rams program, 16 as head coach.

It's been a special season for Liverio coaching his son Nick, a senior playing at tight end/defensive end.

"You need new blood. I really enjoyed coaching Nick. He's had a good year. All of Nick's friends I've coached somewhere, in T-Ball, basketball football. It's a close group and a lot of them were ball boys for the football team. I've thought about this (retirement) for a couple of years. Amy (Pat's wife) and I have discussed it and feel this is the right time," said Liverio.

Nick first suited up in his sophomore year in a crossover game against Mohonasen. He started at tight end and defensive end and long snapper last year, and played a big role in the Rugged Rams' success.

How does Nick feel about playing for his father?

"I would not have it any other way. At times, playing for my dad is hard, but he and the other coaches are the smartest in Section II. My friends are on the team and are in and out of my house on the weekends, so we are really close with him and the other coaches. It is a second family and it's like playing with 34 brothers," said Nick.

Liverio's record is impressive: winningest head coach in school history, 130-34-1, six Section II championships and the 2005 New York State Class A title.

Liverio actually made his decision before the season but wanted the focus to be on the players.

"This is a great group. The kids knew in the offseason and kept it quiet. It's a fun-fun team. The staff is great. I'd like to see one of the guys take over," said Liverio.

Liverio talks with second-year athletic director Ron Smith a lot during the day, and of course retirement was a popular topic.

"We talked about it a couple of times. He wanted to make sure this was the right thing to do. I think for me I knew it was coming. Pat's done a great job for the school. It (decision) was bittersweet," said Smith.

Assistant coach Bob Noto has spent many years on the sidelines with Liverio. Noto is retiring from teaching this year and most likely, will not return next season to the Rugged Rams staff.

"I think we have had a good chemistry all the years we have been together. I worked with Frank Derrico and was part of a state championship team back in '95, but the '05 championship Pat had complete trust in my handling of the offense as he still has to this day," said Noto. "Pat lives and dies for the Amsterdam football program and treats the players like they are family. That kind of dedication takes a toll on you and it is better to get out sooner rather than later."

Bishop Maginn head football coach Joe Grasso has stood on the sidelines across from the Rugged Rams many times and speaks highly of Liverio.

"Pat and I have been highly competitive for many years, but there has always been a great deal of mutual respect for each other and between our teams. The kids often reflect the attitude of their coach and it is very apparent that Amsterdam football has been a class act for as long as I can remember," said Grasso.

The veteran coach has competed against Brian Mee, Derrico and now for many years, Liverio.

"They are class coaches and gentlemen. As former Big 10 football programs, we have a tremendous history over my 35 years at Maginn. Often times, Pat and I will talk on the phone or meet to exchange game tapes and talk. It's always about the players, keeping the players focused, playing hard and executing has always been paramount to Coach Liverio's philosophy," said Grasso.

Maginn and Amsterdam have battled on the football field for years and Grasso will take away fond memories.

"Our games are like chess matches. As much strategic as physical. He runs a sophiscated offense and defense and always has great special teams. They always have a great kicker. Pat will always be considered a friend even though we compete fiercely on the field. He sets the standard for intensity in Section II football. Truly a great coach," he said.

The Rugged Rams also clashed with Queensbury and its talented running games.

"Pat's teams have always been well-coached. Even in years when his talent wasn't the best, you could always count on each player playing above his level and producing. I'll miss him being there. One of our games is still considered the best Section II game ever. Another thing, he has always been complimentary about our team which is classy. Not all opposing coaches are," said Queensbury head coach John Irion.

Irion remembers the 1998 Class A sectional championship game played at Shenendehowa. The final score: Queensbury 36, Amsterdam 35 (OT).

Prior to the game, Amsterdam and Queensbury were ranked first and second, respectively in the state poll. It was a classic.

Burnt Hills coach Matt Shell also speaks highly of Liverio and the special friendship they've experienced over the years.

"I spoke to Pat. He's a great person. He mentioned (retirement) to me. He's going to be missed. Pat set a precedent for Amsterdam and he's done everything the right way. He's a genuine person, a no-nonsense guy. He respects all his opponents," said Shell. "Amsterdam has a great tradition and he's a tremendous coach. He has a love for the game. He prepares for every team. Pat's a great influence on Section II football. He doesn't want the spotlight on him. It's always bittersweet. I'll miss him on the sidelines. Pat has his fingerprints all over the program. It's pretty special for Section II."

Derrico coached at Amsterdam for 17 years (1979-95) compiling a 121-40-6 record. He won the Class B state title in 1995 plus three Super Bowls, two regional crowns and seven Big 10 League titles. He's remained close friends with Liverio over the years.

"I saw him (Liverio) this summer and talked about it (retirement). Pat was my defensive coordinator for eight years. He was great with the kids. He could take criticism. I think he respected where the criticism was coming from. Pat was very perceptive. I definitely saw a coach in him. He wanted the job when I was getting out. It was in his blood as a player and coach. I never, never doubted his ability. I wanted to leave on top. As good as Pat is, the program needs some fresh air. I feel change comes with the territory," said Derrico.

Derrico spends summers in the Amsterdam area working at Fox Run Golf Club and now lives in Delray Beach, Florida.

Liverio's father, Pat, is a familiar sight on the Rugged Rams sidelines manning the water bucket and cups. At 80, he's never missed a game despite having a couple of close calls.

Liverio has many special memories throughout his career.

"I think I will remember the great people I've been around, the coaches especially my mentor Frank Derrico. He taught us well. I've had fine assistant coaches and great kids. It's nice when the former players come back and see you," said Liverio.

Article by Mike Collar



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