Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Three All-Americans Under One Roof: A Yorktown Lacrosse Lineage

When Frankie, Austin, and Rilea Fusco were children, they were often treated to always-intriguing bed time stories.

These bedtime stories were far from trite, with nary a lame moment or cliché evident. They never lacked excitement.

The Fusco family bed time stories never actually depicted a joyful Peter Pan journey. These bed time stories didn’t describe the exploits of an infallible make-believe hero.

These bed time stories were devoid of characters capable of walking through fire or leaping tall buildings in a single bound.

There were few, if any, tales of Mighty Mouse or a majestic superhuman creature conquering evil.

Yet the bed time stories were always action-packed, typically full of plot twists and turns and rising action.

Still, they were not your typical journey-like, fairy tale bed time stories. There was no “they lived happily ever after” ending line.

Instead, all three of Frank and Pauline Fusco’s children were engaged in endless tales of Yorktown lacrosse games.

An intense, nearly play-by-play synopsis was provided by the narrator.

Fusco Sr. brought to life the memorable battles, wild and dizzying games forever embedded in the program’s history books.

From as early back as his memory serves him, Frank Fusco Jr. (better known as Frankie) recalls hearing about a prolific scorer who his father thoroughly blanketed, applying wallpaper-tight defense.

He recalls stories about Frank Sr. staving off dodgers, using his physicality to protect the crease and planting opponents into the turf when the extra-curricular activity intensified.

Maintaining toughness amid the chaos was pivotal, as Fusco Sr. emphasized.

“My Dad would always tell us about him and all his buddies spending time at (Charlie Murphy)’s house and how everyone would go over and throw the ball around and hang out,” said Frankie Fusco, a Drexel University sophomore and former All-American lefty attack at Yorktown.

“It gave me something to dream about as a kid. Although I was still young, I still remember my Dad introducing my brother and I to the great man, Mr. Murph.”

The late and legendary Murphy was the co-founder of Yorktown lacrosse.

Murphy's legacy as a local pioneer, player confidante, and kick-starter of feeder programs serves an all-purpose reminder of the program's past glory and current prestige.

 The Huskers, owners of 37 Section I championships, have flowered into a New York State power and a perennial NCAA launching pad.

In the 1980s, high school lacrosse was to Yorktown, N.Y. what football is to the fertile breeding grounds of Odessa, Texas. It was akin to religion, the rivalries ratcheting to blood sport levels.

Frank Fusco Sr. was a veritable defensive enforcer in those days, carving an All-American career he could hark back on while tucking his children in at night.




The torch that Murphy passed down to Fusco Sr. and his teammates has been passed along to the Fusco children.

Frankie brought immediate contributions to Drexel as a freshman, emerging as a key scorer supplementing go-to trigger men Robert Church and Ben McIntosh.

The lefty became more adept with his right and increased his level of physical play, acclimatizing to the rigors of the Division-I level.

While Fusco scored 23 goals, scooped up 22 groundballs, and dished out nine assists for the Dragons, Austin’s game and body has ballooned at Yorktown.  

When Austin Fusco arrived at Yorktown High via tiny Class D Haldane, he was rail-slim.

He possessed skinny legs and pipe cleaner arms, with shoulders that looked as if they were hanging on a coat hanger.

The senior has grown into a 6-foot-1, 185-pound aggressor.

Fusco’s added muscle is an omen of the constant weight room work, an essential ingredient of the year-round lacrosse focus enforced by head coach Dave Marr.

The Syracuse-bound Fusco helped backbone a defensive unit which handcuffed the wrists of shooters, altered shots, and sealed off dodgers throughout 2013.

The Huskers were bolstered by Fusco’s ability to absorb hits and fuel a breakneck transition game.

 Fusco also handled the chore of neutralizing high-volume scorers from John Jay to Chaminade.

 Any high-scorer who entered the hostile confines of Charlie Murphy field, which is fortified by the ebullient CROP fan base, was heavily draped.

The Huskers outscored Section 1 foes by a 199-46 margin and cruised the Section I championship, with a 17-3 win over John Jay.

Yorktown suffered a brutal 13-11 loss in the searing 96-degree heat during the NYS playoffs, buckling and crumbling under a top-tier Niskayuna team.

At the season’s end, Austin Fusco earned All-American honors, one of six Yorktown players to take home that distinction.

This makes it three All-Americans now, all under the same roof.

“Coming from a family where both my father and brother have been All-Americans at Yorktown allowed me to have a great appreciation for our program,” explained Austin Fusco.

“I aspired to become an All-American just as my father and brother were, not to be put in any spotlight but because I wanted to share the feeling of pride with the ones I loved the most. I would never have gotten to this point without the support of the other half of my family. My Mom and sister have always been there for me and gave me the strength to keep pushing forward.”

When he first stepped foot on Yorktown’s plant-green turf field, Austin Fusco was cognizant that respect had to be earned.

This was not a DELTA fraternity house, legacy status alone doesn’t earn you instant credibility. Not at Yorktown.

The politics factor, which tends to infect other programs throughout Westchester County in all sports, never reared its putrid head.

Fusco brought his game (and not his name) while evolving into a key cog at long stick middie. He has since transitioned to close defense.

He’s quick to heap the credit on those who pushed his ascent.

Dave Marr, who starred at Yorktown and is second all-time in assists at Johns Hopkins University, has sustained the lofty aspirations for a first-class system.

As effective as Marr has been in capturing sectional championships, a lock-tight support system helps keep the stock intact.  

Adam Lodewick, Sean Carney, Rob Doerr, Dave Graham, Paul Carcaretta, Mike McCall and a bevy of others have kept the competitive focus alive through four seasons.

Paulina Fusco, also a Yorktown native, is at the helm of both Frankie and Austin’s support system.

The proud mother’s days of watching sports at Yorktown, however, are far from over.

Rilea Fusco played varsity field hockey as a freshman, piping home a game-winner against Putnam Valley. She’s played lacrosse on the grass-roots level since second grade.

For the Fusco parents, the future is as promising as the past has been eventful.


Frankie Fusco is very much a free spirit.

His hair split into a Mohawk, his eyes shielded with sunglasses, his muscle-bound 5-foot-11 frame encased in a Russell Wilson jersey while he sports Reebok “The Pump” kicks, Fusco could easily be a stunt double for a reputed Southern California emcee.

Fusco usually announces his presence with a welcoming, engaging smile.

Ask his friends from Cold Spring, ask his former teammates, you’ll find one word almost synonymous with Frankie…It is so obvious, it nearly falls straight off the page..


“If he is your teammate, to know him is to love him,” said Trevor Koelsch, the former Huskers defenseman now playing at Johns Hopkins.

“If you’re going against him, you probably don’t feel the same way about him.”

Fusco displayed loyalty to his brother this fall, when the former quarterback/tailback provided moral support on the sidelines of Yorktown’s season-opening 21-7 victory over Walter Panas.

Frankie was full throttle, pacing the sidelines.

He was zoned in on every play, heaping motivational words and refusing to let the intensity elude his alma mater’s grasp.

Fusco, a halfback/defensive back, relished the moment.

Frankie Fusco was the starting quarterback at then-reeling Haldane as a freshman, seeking to right a floundering program.

Transferring to Yorktown helped him grow as a player, though lacrosse is his true labor of love.

While Frankie won't be founding an Alumni Program or rocking his senior shirt across Drexel’s urban campus and while his days revving up the Crop are likely over for now, Fusco keeps former teammates and friends within reach.

As his collegiate year continues, he vows not to forget what and who helped pave his path to Drexel.

If there is a major advocate for Austin, a vocal influence constantly propelling his production rate, it has to be Frankie.

Fusco watched in despair as Yorktown lost to then-undefeated Niskayuna, 13-11, in the aforementioned state regional final.

He texted a barrage of friends with constant score updates, alerting former Huskers spread all over the country.

“Frankie is one of the most intense emotional leaders I’ve ever seen,” as former Huskers All-American and current UMass freshman Nick Mariano once said of his former Yorktown teammate.

During Austin’s junior season, Fusco took the grueling three-hour trek through the New Jersey Turnpike, Philadelphia to Yorktown, to see his little brother perform.

Rewind the clock back to May of 2013.

Frankie is back at Yorktown to see a highly-anticipated game against vaunted Ridgefield (CT).

He’s all over the place.

The alum greets everyone from trainer Diesel Dave to Yorktown High principal Joe DeGennaro to the water boy, embodying a former mayor back in his old stomping grounds.

Talk to Frankie about his freshman campaign at Drexel, he will rattle off a few sentences.

He talks about the team’s aspirations and style of play first, the high-powered read-and-react, catch-and-stick offense.

Frankie talks about encountering a well-balanced Towson team in the post-season, where he went up against former teammates Justin Mabus and John Fennessey.

Asked about his own production tree, Fusco quietly mentions that he took home Colonial Athletic Association Rookie of the Week honors at the tail end of the season.

He certainly won’t self-promote, however, or care much for seizing the spotlight.

He’s not here for himself.

Ask Frankie Fusco about his little brother, not exactly little these days, his whole demeanor changes.

He opens up as if you are Barbara Walters or Jim Gray. The tinge of excitement is traced through his New York drawl.

“So stoked for that little dude,” Fusco says.

“He was getting heavy looks from a number of top-notch programs. North Carolina, Johns Hopkins, he was big on the radar. I’m glad he chose Syracuse. He got the process out of the way early and now he knows what to focus on.”

That he does. Austin has prepared for his season with a bigger and stronger frame, ready to assume leadership responsibilities from the get-go.


It seems simple, carrying out as Austin Fusco does.

 One minute he’s amidst teammates, cheering on the varsity basketball team in spirited fashion, solidifying the Crop with boisterous chants and a steady stream of applause following every loud play.

Fusco made a verbal promise, via text, to lacrosse teammate Luke Palmadesso that he’d attend the game.

Palmadesso, another All-American headed to Villanova, doubles as a small forward on the Huskers’ basketball team.

When weekend kicks in, Fusco will trek up to his future lacrosse living room, Syracuse.

 Everything surrounding the Orange induces adrenaline right now.

 The Orange men's basketball team, buoyed by the emergence of promising freshman guard Tyler Ennis, has caught Fusco’s attention.

Fusco’s weekdays are a little bit more hectic.

One minute he’s ripping through sets of squats.

The next minute, he’s jumping rope in the hallway of Yorktown High.

Then, sporting a sweat-drenched black Syracuse cut-off shirt, he’s studying future opponents’ strengths while reciting their weaknesses.

The season is two months away, but Fusco knows what’s expected of him. This is his final season, the last dance of a decorated career, for a program that always puts a Murphy Cup and Sectional title as first and foremost goals.

“I’ve never seen two kids love the game of lacrosse as much as Frankie and Austin,” says Yorktown senior Conor Vecruysse, a Rutgers-bound sniper and another returning All-American.

“You can see the passion they have for the game in their eyes. It definitely carries over to the weight room and the practice field as their both always giving 110 percent.”

Frankie has witnessed his brother’s evolution, which comprises equal parts hustle and labor. He’s watched Austin evolve from purified scorer to certifiable defensive pest and ball-hawker.

I was able to watch (Austin) develop from an offensive guy who scored 11 goals against a team in the eighth grade, to a now cut up monster and a true All American like his father and fellow Yorktown brothers,” Frankie Fusco said.

“He really knows what it means to play for Yorktown knowing that the name on the front of the jersey is way more important than the one on the back.

Now, with the season waiting in the wings, Austin Fusco has come to grips with the fact that this is it.

This is the final chapter, the last stop on a lacrosse pilgrimage both his brother and father led him on.

 “I believe the team this year is going to be very focused on hard work,” explained Austin.

“We have reloaded our team and will work non-stop until our goals, set forth at the beginning of the season are accomplished. If we play physical,  smart lacrosse, this team can do great things. We have plenty of motivation to keep the Yorktown tradition alive. We hope to make Mr. Murph very proud.”


Imagine what’s next?

Austin may one day find himself carrying on tradition, telling unique and engaging lacrosse bed time stories to his children. A Section I title, to cap his career would surely elicit sweet dreams.