Congratulations to the 2009 honorees... click name for bios 2009 Patrons
|Al DiGuido||Dan Woog||Jeff Lavaty||Jim Deegan|
|Kenny Murphy||George Chappa||Rick Giunta||Dennis Murphy|
|All bios written by George Albano, assistant sports editor and columnist at The Hour Newspaper in Norwalk, CT.|
Although his surname is synonymous
with the sport of golf in Westport, George Chappa made his mark in football and
track while at Staples High School.
The Sportsmen Award winner was an outstanding tailback at SHS from 1954-56 and became the first 1,000-yard rusher in school history his senior year. Chappa ran for 1,051 yards during that 1956 season, and he did it in only seven games for a 150-yards-per-game average.
In fact, he averaged over 10 yards a carry on his 101 carries that season, including 10 runs of 25 yards or better, all Staples school records as well.
Chappa teamed up with Jack Mitchell, a 1991 Sportsmen Award recipient, to form one of the best one-two backfield punches in the state.
“We ran a single-wing offense back then,” recalled Paul Lane, the backfield coach at Staples during Chappa’s high school years. “The single-wing is pretty much what they play in college now, but they don’t call it that anymore. Now they call it the ‘spread offense’ but it’s basically the single-wing.
“George and Jack were the two backs. There was no quarterback. He was called a quarterback, but he was really a blocking back.”
Lane, who a few years later would become the head football coach at Staples and embark on a successful 25-year career, said Chappa and Mitchell reminded him of Army’s famous Heisman Trophy winning backfield of the 1940s with “Doc” Blanchard the powerful Mr. Inside to Glenn Davis’ Mr. Outside.
“Jack Mitchell was our inside guy and George Chappa was our outside guy,” Lane said. “He would run sweeps and off tackle.”
Something Chappa did quite a bit his senior year when he earned all-state honors. He was never better, though, than that Saturday afternoon when Staples played Bassick and Chappa rushed for a career-high 230 yards on only 14 carries, scored two touchdowns and passed for two more.
Chappa also enjoyed a big season his junior year in the fall of ’55. One memorable game came against Fitch High School when, with three minutes remaining and the game scoreless, Chappa moved Staples downfield with passes to Mitchell, Lee Pierson and Horace Lanute covering 66 yards. Then with only 10 seconds left, Chappa ran the ball into the end zone to give the Westporters a thrilling 6-0 victory.
Also that season, Chappa scored both touchdowns in Staples’ big 13-6 win over rival Darien.
“I can honestly say in the last 40 years, if you named the top 10 running backs at Staples High School, George would definitely be in the top 10,” Lane said.
Lane, the head track coach, also coached Chappa in the spring. Displaying the speed that made him a dangerous threat on the gridiron, Chappa ran the 100 and 220 yard dashes on the track team, finishing in fourth place in the 100 at the state championship meet at UConn his senior year. As a junior, he helped the mile and half-mile relay teams win state titles.
Chappa also played one season on the Staples golf team, which was coached by his father, the late Mike Chappa, one of Staples’ all-time great athletes who later started the golf program there. One of the most prestigious tournaments of the high school golf season every spring is the “Chappa,” a statewide best two-ball tournament at Longshore that draws the best golfers from almost every school in the state. The tournament, which began in 1970, honors the memory of Mike Chappa.
The younger Chappa, however, only played golf his sophomore year before switching to track.
“One year was enough to play for my father,” he joked. “That was all I could take.”
He did share three memorable football seasons at Staples with his father, who was the line coach while his son ran the ball.
“His father opened the holes for him,” Lane pointed out.
Chappa, who was born in North Africa, where his father was stationed during World War II, played soccer in his early years before moving to Westport when he was seven years-old.
“I didn’t know the language when I came here and I had to learn it quick,” he said. “I figured the best way to make friends was to play sports and that’s how I ended up playing football. Then little by little I learned the language.
Chappa also played baseball growing up in Westport, hitting .425 one summer in the PAL. The following spring he made the baseball team at Staples, but gave both baseball and golf up to concentrate on track.
Football, however, would always be his main sport and Chappa earned a scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania, where he played two years before transferring and graduating from UConn in 1961.
Chappa retired in 2008 as a vice president with the American Heart Association in Wallingford. Prior to that he was the director of the capital campaign at New York Presbyterian Hospital, vice president of Institutional Development and Public Relations at Sacred Heart University, assistant national director at the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, and a vice president of United Way of Tri-State.
Chappa, who still resides in Westport, has two daughters, Karen and Kristen. His wife, the former Marguerite Marie Gugliere, passed away in 2007.
For more than four decades, Jim
Deegan has been a prominent part of the Westport sports scene, first as a player
and then as a successful coach. The Sportsmen Award winner’s journey in local
athletics began 45 years ago in the Westport Little League when he played second
base for the Mustangs and helped them win the National League championship and
the 1964 Town of Westport World Series.
He played the next three seasons for the Bombers, who were coached by his father, Bill Deegan Sr., and in 1967 made the National League all-star team. In the fall, Deegan played in the Westport Pop Warner Football program as a running back and wide receiver.
Deegan was a three-sport athlete at Bedford Junior High School where he was a forward on the soccer team for coach Bob Byiteck, a guard on the basketball team coached by Ed Hall, and a second baseman on the baseball team for Byiteck.
The versatile Deegan moved up to Staples High School in the fall of 1969 and would play one season of football and soccer for the Wreckers. But he would make his mark in basketball where he played three seasons for coach Brian Kelley and was a point guard on teams that starred Bob Uly and Mark Cizynski.
Deegan put up some pretty impressive numbers himself as a senior during the 1971-72 season, scoring a game-high 20 points in the season opener to lead Staples to a record-breaking 110-78 win over visiting Bullard Havens.
Then in the state quarterfinals, Deegan again led Staples in scoring with a career-high 23 points as the eighth-seeded Westporters upset No. 4 Danbury before a capacity crowd at the Wilton Field house. He capped off his scholastic career by tossing in 15 points, again leading all scorers, as Staples lost to No. 2 Hartford Public in the Class LL state semifinals to finish with a 17-6 record.
But Deegan’s love for baseball never veered and throughout his junior high and high school years, from 1968-72, he played second base in the Westport Junior (13-15 years-old) and Senior (16-18) Babe Ruth leagues and made the all-star team.
Following his graduation from Staples, Deegan played basketball at nearby Sacred Heart University, where he made the junior varsity as a freshman walk-on. He would later play in the Westport YMCA Men’s Senior Basketball league where he was the point guard on the Ye Olde Bridge Grill team that won back to back league championships.
Deegan remained active in sports through the late 1980s. He was back at his familiar second base position, this time in softball, as he helped Ye Olde Bridge Grille and the Titans each win Westport Men’s ‘A’ League championships.
In addition, from 1986-88, Deegan played wide receiver and defensive back in both the Norwalk Recreation Touch Football ‘A’ League and in the Westport Men’s Flag Football League. He was among the top touchdown receivers in both leagues as he helped Partners Café win the Norwalk league title and the Saugatuck Saints the Westport town championship.
Shortly after he was done competing in sports himself, Deegan turned to coaching. He actually began his coaching career during his senior year in high school when he guided the Saugatuck School All-Stars to the Westport Recreational Basketball League championship. His assistant coach was the late Scott ‘Hoover’ Wilder, his friend and Staples teammate.
It would be 18 years – and two daughters – later before Deegan returned to the coaching sidelines. From 1990-92, he coached the Kittens to three straight undefeated championship seasons in the Westport Girls Instructional Softball League.
He also coached girls softball in the Westport Major League. In fact, in 1992 he coached teams in both leagues, winning the Instructional League with the Kittens while leading the Dinosaurs to the Major League championship game and finishing runner-up.
That would be the Dinosaurs’ last loss as they won three straight regular-season and playoff championships from 1993-95, compiling a remarkable 42-0 record during that span.
In fact, Deegan performed double-duty again in ’95 as he coached two different teams to league titles, also winning the Westport Senior Girls Softball League with the first-year expansion Blazers. He would lead the Blazers to another league title in 1997, while in 1996 he was an assistant coach with the Staples freshmen softball team that went undefeated.
Deegan also coached girls’ basketball in town, capturing the Wakeman Girls Basketball League championship in 1994 with Sullivan’s Flower Shop. He then won back to back titles in 1995 and ’96 in the Westport Parks and Recreation League with the Celtics seventh and eighth grade teams, going 8-2 and 10-0, respectively.
He also helped establish and coach the seventh and eighth grade Westport YMCA girls travel basketball team with Jeff Allen, compiling a record of 31-13 from 1994-96.
Deegan, who has worked in the publishing industry, is married to the former Judy Smith. They reside in Westport and have two daughters, Erin and Maureen ‘Mo’ Deegan, both former Staples High School athletes.
After years of giving back to his
community, Al DiGuido will be on the receiving end for a change tonight when he
becomes only the fifth recipient of the William A. Krause Jr. Humanitarian
Award. DiGuido is best known for his passionate work with “Al’s Angels,” the
non-profit organization he founded in 2004 which is dedicated to providing
moments of joy and comfort to critically ill children stricken with cancer,
serious blood disorders and AIDS, as well as those who have been victims of
domestic violence and poverty. As CEO and president, DiGuido and his Angels
provide more than a thousand families with holiday meals and gifts during the
In fact, tonight is not the first time DiGuido is receiving a humanitarian award. In May 1999 he received one from the Tomorrows Children’s Fund honoring his dedication and service to all children. DiGuido’s work with the charitable organization includes the coordination of several annual events and fundraising projects that have generated millions of dollars in contributions. Then in June 2007, Tomorrows Children’s Fund honored DiGuido with the dedication of the “Al DiGuido Treatment Room” for his support and compassion to children with cancer and blood disorders.
Born in Brooklyn in 1956, DiGuido went to work at the age of 13 after school and weekends to help support his family of seven siblings. This left little time to participate in sports, although he did play baseball at Holy Innocents Grammar School as well as intramural basketball and softball at Nazareth High School. DiGuido also likes to point out that as a stickball player on the streets of Brooklyn, he earned the reputation for breaking the most windows in his neighborhood. He continued to work to put himself through college and attended St. Francis College in Brooklyn, where he earned his B.A. in Political Science. During his years there he remained close to sports as the public address announcer at basketball games from 1972-74. DiGuido also participated in the theater group – his other love – at St. Francis and appeared in many plays as well as directing. One of his starring roles was in “Witness for the Prosecution.”
After relocating to Westport, DiGuido became involved with local youth sports, serving as a coach on his daughter’s soccer team and an assistant with his son’s Little League team. Years later, he was an avid supporter of all three of his children – Rosie, George and Diana – as they competed in sports at Staples High School. DiGuido could always be found cheering for the Wreckers at girls softball games, boys and girls volleyball matches, and boys and girls swim meets. He was also a swim parent with the Westport Water Rats and helped sponsor the Westport YMCA Kids Triathlon held at Staples. And at the age of 48, DiGuido, displaying his own athletic ability, competed and completed the New York City Marathon for the first time.
DiGuido is also very active with the Westport Sons of Italy and its annual Festival Italiano, where he works in “Mama’s” food booth and oversees “Lucky Al’s Wheel of Fortune.”
In addition to the humanitarian award he received for the Tomorrows Children’s Fund, DiGuido was presented the Bronze Good Citizenship Medal from the Sons of the American Revolution, and last June received the Rotary Sunrise Award/Paul Harris Fellowship.
DiGuido is currently CEO and President of Zeta Interactive, a digital marketing services company. Recognized as one of the industry’s premier innovators and a pioneer in email communications, DiGuido has over 20 years of marketing, sales, management and operations expertise.
He previously served as vice president and advertising director for Sports, Inc., the sports business magazine published by the Sporting News division of Times Mirror. He also held senior management positions at Children’s Television Network’s magazine division and at Parade Magazine.
DiGuido and his wife, Chris, reside in Westport.
This year’s recipient of the PAL Award
has spent the last eight years serving in a number of roles for the Westport PAL
from coaching to board member. Rick Giunta, a Special Police Officer with the
Westport Police Department since 1980, began his involvement with the local
organization in 2002 as a coach in the Westport PAL Youth Football. That season
he coached the Wreckers Bantam Blue team to a 6-2 record and a runner-up finish.
The following season, Giunta led the same team to a 7-1 mark and the league championship. That would be the first of three straight titles for Giunta, who led the Wreckers Junior 5th grade team to an 8-0 record in 2004, and the Wreckers Junior 6th graders to another 8-0 season in ’05. In addition to the back to back unbeaten seasons, Giunta’s three championship clubs compiled a remarkable record of 23-1. He continued to coach in the league even after his own two sons were done playing, and last fall completed his seventh season.
“I’m still involved. It’s a great niche for me,” he said. “I love to be with the kids.”
So much so that in only his second year with the local youth organization, Giunta started the successful Westport PAL Flag Football League for first and second graders.
“We wanted to give kids an introduction to football in a non-contact environment,” Giunta explained. “Then when they get to third grade they can hop into our tackle football program.
“We had 40 kids when we first started, and now it’s grown to about 125 kids.”
Giunta’s coaching experience hasn’t been limited to just football, however. He also coached in the Westport Lacrosse Association, which is now a part of the Westport PAL. As coach of the Westport 6th grade team in 2005 and again with the 8th grade team in 2007, Giunta won the CONNY (Connecticut-New York Youth Lacrosse Association) championship.
Giunta has also been very involved as an administrator with the Westport PAL, serving as a board member and treasurer with both the football and wrestling programs. He is also a member of the Westport PAL Board of Trustees.
“He works hard. Whenever something needs to be done, Rick is always there,” past president Alphonse “Buck” Iannacone, now in his 56th year with the Westport PAL, said. “He’s one of the young guys who we know will keep our organization going strong for many years.”
A lifelong Westport resident, Giunta wrestled in junior high school for the Bedford Bears and coach John Chacho in 1975. He later played softball in the Stamford Industrial League from 1984-2000 with Champion International, a Fortune 100 paper company where he was employed during that time.
He also worked for the META Group from 2000-05 and with Pitney Bowes from 2005-07. Since 2007, Giunta has been an administrative manager with the Westport Parks and Recreation Department.
A 1979 graduate of Staples High School and later the University of Bridgeport, Giunta is still a staunch supporter of the Wreckers as a sponsor in both the Staples Gridiron Club and Staples Matmen Club.
Many of his former football players with the Westport PAL program have gone on to play at Staples and contribute to the Wreckers’ success. In fact, when asked what his most important accomplishment in sports was, Giunta answered “Providing a positive experience to a kid I’ve coached.”
There have certainly been many over the past eight years, including his own twin sons, Mike and Chris, who are both sophomores at Staples and were members of the football team last fall. They also wrestled for the Wreckers the last two years and have already been named captains of next year’s Staples wrestling team as juniors.
Giunta is married to the former Karen McKeon.
Compensating for his early lack of
height with excellent ball-handling and passing skills, Jeff Lavaty practically
defined the point guard position in basketball when he played for Staples High
School during the 1950s. In fact, he played varsity basketball at SHS for three
years and started his last two seasons in 1956 and ’57 when his superb
playmaking ability helped lead the Westporters to the postseason. But he almost
didn’t even make the team.
“I was the last player to be selected for the varsity team in 1955,” Lavaty recalled. “I was short. I was a little squirt, but Paul Lane, the assistant coach at the time, convinced Albie Loeffler, the head coach, to keep me on the team because of my quickness.
“Paul said ‘Maybe he’ll grow,’ and I did. I grew a couple of inches over the summer. My father was tall and my mother was short, so I guess I finally got some of my father’s height.”
By time he was a senior, Lavaty was nearly 5-foot-11. And after coming off the bench as a sophomore, he started his junior and senior years, helping Staples reach the state semifinals in 1956 while the ’57 team was ranked No. 1 in the state at one point during the season.
“The thing is they never kept track of assists back then,” Lavaty pointed out. “That was my thing. I did score, but most of time it was passing. I was out there feeding the other four guys. If they double teamed any of them, I would take a shot.”
And when he had to, Lavaty could put the ball in the basket.
“My best game was against New Canaan when they had Wilky Gilmore,” Lavaty said of the all-state center who led NCHS to consecutive Class C state crowns. “I think I once scored 21 points against them. I just missed being the high scorer in the game. Someone else had 22.
“So I could score when I had to, but I didn’t have to. We had four guys who were big and my job was to get them the ball.”
Which he did quite effectively, setting up teammates like Jack Mitchell, Bruce Cummings, John Birely and Hugo Papstein, the top scorers on those successful Staples teams.
Following his career at Staples, Lavaty was recruited to play basketball at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. He made the team his freshmen year, but did not continue to play. From 1961-63 he played for his U.S. Army company team at Fort Dix, N.J. and then at Camp Drum, N.Y.
Upon returning home to Westport, Lavaty played basketball for a variety of local all-star teams from 1964-68, including one organized by Junior Bieling that won the War Memorial Tournament championship in Danbury. Among the players on that team were Gilmore from New Canaan, ‘Sparks’ Spears of Norwalk and Emil Garoffolo of Fairfield, all standout players.
“Again, I fed the ball to all those players,” Lavaty said.
Born in New York City in 1939, Lavaty moved to Westport with his family when he was in fourth grade and attended Bedford Elementary School. He also had the distinction of playing and starring on the Hornets in the first year the Westport Little League was in existence.
Following his basketball days, Lavaty would go on to enjoy a successful advertising career, working as an account executive for several agencies and also selling radio time. He later embarked on a new career as a self-employed artist agent, which he continues to do.
He and his wife, Ebba, currently reside in Wilton.
Dennis Murphy had no idea when he
slipped on a Staples High School soccer jersey for the first time back in the
fall of 1970 that he was ushering in a new era in what was fast becoming the
most storied program in the state.
The 1970s were known as the “Murphy Years” on North Avenue and Dennis Murphy, the oldest of four soccer-playing brothers, kicked it off from 1970-72. Eddie, who played from 1971-73, was next, followed by Kenny from 1973-75 and then Kevin from 1974-76. Four brothers, who in their seven years at Staples, were part of six FCIAC championship clubs and four state title teams. On five of those seven teams, there were two Murphys on the roster, and between them the four brothers won a combined 11 FCIAC crowns and seven state tournaments.
Dennis, one of tonight’s Sportsmen Award honorees, was a member of FCIAC and state championship teams in each of his three seasons at Staples. But none was more memorable than the 1972 state title when, playing in his final scholastic game, he scored the only goal 30 seconds into the contest on a shot from 15 feet in front of the net, to give the top-ranked Wreckers a 1-0 win over No. 2 Conard in the Class L final.
Staples had won its first two state-tournament games in sudden death overtime before beating New Canaan on penalty kicks in the semifinal. Murphy’s goal gave the Westporters their only regulation-time win and capped off an 18-0-1 season. It was Staples’ fourth straight state title and sixth overall.
The goal was Murphy’s seventh of the season to go with six assists and his 13 points was third most on the team as he earned a spot on the All-FCIAC second team. While in high school, Murphy was also a member of three straight state-title teams during the summer with the Westport Soccer Club, a forerunner to the Westport Soccer Association. In addition, he played six years with the Bridge Grille FC and won two more state championships.
Following his graduation from Staples in 1973, Murphy played at Southern Connecticut State College. After manning the left wing position in high school, the Owls converted Murphy to a midfielder where he also excelled. He was named captain of the team as both a junior and senior in 1976 and ’77 just as Southern was beginning to gain national recognition.
In fact, Murphy spent the next two seasons as an assistant coach with the Owls, who reached the NCAA Division II Final Four for the first two times in school history.
He returned to Staples the following year as an assistant and coached five seasons from 1980-82 and ’85-86, and was part of two more FCIAC and state championship teams. In between, he coached soccer at Coleytown Junior High in 1983 and ’84.
Murphy also won several state championships during a nine-year run as a coach with Bridge Grille FC, and led FC Delco to the U-15 state championship in 2008. He spent 15 years coaching in the Westport Soccer Association, advancing to the U-18 regional finals one year. On two other occasions he was selected to coach a travel team from Westport that played in West Germany.
Besides soccer, Murphy spent time coaching baseball in the Westport Little League, where he was an assistant coach for his father, Ed Murphy, with the Raiders. He also served as the chief umpire in the Westport Babe Ruth League in 1978 and ’79.
Murphy now resides in Kennett Square, Pa., and is a sales associate with Nike, Inc., overseeing the Mid-Atlantic licensing territory. His responsibilities include the sale of Nike licensed MLB merchandise to concessionaires with the Phillies, Orioles, Nationals and Pirates. He also provides Nike merchandise to college book stores and spirit shops at Penn State, Villanova, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and Navy.
Murphy and his wife, the former Kathleen Mangini, have two children, Jillian, 19, and Shane, 16.
In a standout soccer career that has
spanned over three decades, Sportsmen Award winner Kenny Murphy has excelled at
every level from high school to college to the professional ranks and eventually
coaching. The third oldest of the four Murphy brothers to play at Staples, Kenny
was a member of three straight FCIAC championship teams from 1973-75, earning
All-FCIAC first-team honors as a midfielder his final two seasons.
As a sophomore, Murphy was on the Wreckers’ 1973 state championship team while as a junior and senior he was named all-state. He capped off his outstanding scholastic career by being selected to the 1975 All-New England team. During those years, Murphy also played with the Westport PAL Soccer Club that won three Maguire Cup state championships and was a national regional finalist in 1975. He also found time to play right wing for the Staples hockey team and was a two-time All-FCIAC Honorable Mention.
Following his graduation from Staples in 1976, Murphy played at the University of Connecticut, where he helped the Huskies win a pair of Yankee Conference championships, three New England crowns, and reach the NCAA tournament Elite Eight twice and Sweet 16 once. Murphy played a key role in that successful run as he was named All-Yankee Conference his final three seasons, All-New England and All-NEISL twice, and was selected to play in the 1980 Senior Bowl. Also during his high school and college years, Murphy played seven seasons, from 1973-79, with the Bridge Grille FC, which won five U-23 state championships.
Murphy’s talents also caught the eye of several professional teams and he was drafted by both the Hartford Hellions of the Major Indoor Soccer League and the Detroit Express of the North American Soccer League. He ended up signing and playing with the Express from 1979-81 before hooking up with the Washington Diplomats for the 1981 season, where one of his teammates was Johan Cryuff, known as the “Dutch Master” and considered by many to be the greatest player to come out of Europe.
After his playing days were over, Murphy eventually returned to his favorite sport as a coach, spending 10 seasons (1994-2003) coaching youth soccer in the Fairfield Soccer Association. In 2003, Murphy joined the coaching staff at Brown University as an assistant, and during his seven seasons in Providence the Bears compiled a record of 64-30-12, won Ivy League championships in 2003, ’05 and ’07, and qualified for four NCAA tournaments. In addition to having seven players drafted in the MLS Draft, Brown was recognized by the NCAA for being in the top 10 percent of the country academically from 2006-08.
The 2008 season would be Murphy’s final campaign at Brown. On April 1, he embarked on a new chapter in his career, taking over as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator with the men’s soccer program at Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey, which lost in the NCAA Division III finals last year on penalty kicks.
With that move, Murphy also stepped down as coach of the Bruno United Futbol Club, a non-profit premier youth team in Providence that he had coached since 2003 and led to three state championships.
After professional soccer and prior to coaching, Murphy worked in the accounting field at ABC and CBS Records in New York City, as well as for E.F. Hutton in 1987, and from 1988-2003 as a broker for several commodity energy shops.
While at Brown and even now with his new coaching duties in New Jersey, Murphy has continued to make his home in Fairfield. He and his wife of 27 years, the former Pam D’Amico, have two daughters, Kahley and Erin.
It’s no coincidence the run of
success the Staples High School girls basketball program has enjoyed for the
past quarter of a century began with the arrival of Courtney Sutherland.
The Lady Wreckers finished 7-13 during the 1983-84 season when Sutherland started as a freshman center the first year SHS had a ninth-grade class. That would also be the last time a Staples girls basketball team did not qualify for the CIAC state tournament.
The following season, with Sutherland averaging a team-high 15.3 points a game, the Wreckers went 9-11 during the regular season to return to the postseason. That started a remarkable run of 25 straight state-tournament appearances through this past season, one of the longest existing streaks by any girls basketball program. It also laid the foundation that eventually saw Staples become an FCIAC and state power. By Sutherland’s senior year, the Wreckers had improved to 16-6, won the East Division championship, and advanced to the FCIAC finals.
“She spearheaded the drive to get us to the FCIAC finals for the first time,” veteran head coach Ed Huydic, who just completed his 30th season, said. “Courtney’s era was representative of our breakthrough years. That propelled us to the quality years when we won four FCIAC championships in six years.
“We were just on the upswing when Courtney played and she was our first real high-profile player.”
Indeed, by the time the talented Sutherland had completed her outstanding four-year scholastic career, she was Staples High School’s all-time leading scorer with 1,272 points and top rebounder with 1,041.
And while her scoring record has been topped a couple of times over the past two decades, Sutherland still holds a very special place in the Wreckers’ record book.
“She is still to this day the only player to score 1,000 points and pull down 1,000 rebounds,” Huydic, who retired her uniform, pointed out.
Sutherland’s 15.3 average as a sophomore was eighth best in the FCIAC that season and landed her a spot on the All-East Division team.
As a junior, the 5-foot-10 center averaged a career-best 19.6 points a game, scoring double figures in all 21 games, including a season-high 29 points in a 50-36 win over Ridgefield. She also scored 27 points in two other games, 26 points three times, and topped the 20 mark a total of eight times.
Staples, 12-9 that season, returned to the state tournament and also made the FCIAC playoffs. Sutherland was named First-Team All-FCIAC, All-State Honorable Mention, and MVP of the Stamford Christmas Tournament which the Wreckers won. She also received the Staples Block ‘S’ Award as team MVP and was named to the Bridgeport Post All-Star team.
The 1986-87 season was an even bigger one for Sutherland and the Wreckers. The senior captain finished fourth in the FCIAC in scoring with an 18.5 average in 13 conference games, while her 19.3 overall average in 22 games led the 16-6 Wreckers in scoring for the third straight season.
She scored in double figures in 21 of those 22 games, including a career-high 31 points in a 58-18 win over Bullard-Havens the second game of the season, and tallied 20 or more points 11 times.
“She was the prototypical turnaround jump shooter from the low block. That was her shot,” Huydic said. “There were not many who did that back then. She also had great hands and was a strong rebounder, especially on the offensive boards.
“Her turnaround jump and offensive rebounding are the two things that strike me about her, even today.”
With Sutherland leading the way, the Wreckers won the East Division with a 10-3 conference record and then knocked off a 12-1 Norwalk High team 47-45 in the FCIAC semifinals before falling to Greenwich in the title game.
In addition to being named All-FCIAC for the second year in a row, Sutherland was selected to the Class LL All-State team, made the Bridgeport Post All-Star team again, and earned another Block ‘S’ team MVP award. Her basketball exploits were also mentioned in the sports section of USA Today.
Basketball wasn’t the only sport Sutherland excelled in while at Staples. She played one season of field hockey and was the goalie on an undefeated freshmen team. She also played four years of tennis and was captain as a junior and senior. She would later win the Town of Westport singles championship as well as the Patterson Club singles and doubles titles in Fairfield.
In fact, Sutherland did so well on the tennis courts that after playing one season of basketball at St. Leo’s College in Florida, her athletic scholarship was switched to tennis. During her college years, she also served as director of the town of Westport summer tennis program at Longshore.
“That was my summer job for five years,” she said. “I taught tennis to anyone from five years-old to 60.”
She still plays tennis at the Shorehaven Golf Club in Norwalk, where she is a member, as well as golf in the Ladies 9-Hole League at Shorehaven.
A native of New York City, Courtney- Petti is married and living in Fairfield, where she and her husband John have seven children.
“I have my own team now,” she says with a laugh.
It seems almost fitting that only a
few months after the Staples High School boys soccer program celebrated its 50th
anniversary by winning another FCIAC championship, Dan Woog would receive the
2009 Coaching Award from the Sportsmen of Westport. Woog has been a big part of
that storied Staples soccer history, including the last six years as head coach
of the Wreckers. The FCIAC title this past fall was his second as a head coach
and first outright championship after sharing the crown in 2006. It also marked
the second time Staples won the Ralph King Cup for the best regular-season
record in the FCIAC.
Under Woog’s guidance, the Wreckers have also won three division titles in his six years, finished runner-up in the state in 2006 (losing 2-1 in overtime to Simsbury in the Class LL final), and advanced to the state semifinals twice. In seven years, he has compiled an overall record of 86-22-1 for a .796 winning percentage, including a school-record 21 wins in 2008. Woog has been a member of the Staples coaching staff for the past 26 seasons. He served as coach of both the junior varsity and freshmen teams for 12 years (1983-94), during which time his teams went 108-16-12 (.871) and enjoyed three undefeated seasons.
During those years, Woog helped oversee the development of future varsity players who would help Staples win five FCIAC titles and a state championship in 1993, while finishing state runner-up in ’92.
He moved up to the varsity as an assistant coach in 1995 and in his eight seasons in that role the Wreckers won FCIAC championships in 1996 and 2000 while reaching the Class LL state finals in ’96 where it lost to Guilford 1-0 in overtime.
In 2003, Woog became only the third permanent head coach in Staples soccer history, leading the Wreckers to the Central Division title in only his second season. By his fourth year, Woog was named the 2006 FCIAC Coach of the Year as well as the Connecticut Post Coach of the Year after winning another division crown and the FCIAC co-championship.
Woog’s association with the Staples soccer program, however, goes back even farther. He was a reserve on back to back state championship teams in 1969 and ’70 as well as part of an FCIAC-title winning team his senior year.
But besides his 29 combined years as a player and coach at Staples, Woog is considered the official historian of the tradition-rich soccer program that has claimed a record 25 FCIAC championships and 11 state titles in its first half-century. In fact, he even wrote a book on the history of Staples soccer titled “Goals and Glory” and last fall helped organize the weekend-long golden anniversary celebration of the program which included the return of many former players to Westport.
A native of Buffalo, N.Y., Woog’s love of soccer began in the Westport Recreation Soccer League when he was in fifth grade and then at Long Lots Junior High School. After his three years at Staples, Woog went to Brown University, and while he didn’t play there, he covered the soccer team for the college newspaper and traveled around the country with the Bears, including a trip to the NCAA Final Four.
Following his graduation from Brown, Woog helped started the Westport Soccer Association in 1975, which became one of the strongest youth organizations in the state. He also began his coaching career that year at the age of 22, and over the next 14 years he won 10 state championships with the Westport Under-19, Under-16 and Under-14 travel teams, while one of his teams also reached the finals of the U.S. Region I tournament. He was the first-ever coach of both the U-16 and U-14 teams.
Woog also organized and led 12 trips to Europe and Australia, using soccer as a vehicle for helping young people discover the world. He was named the Connecticut Junior Soccer Association Coach of the Year in 1980, while in 1991 the National Soccer Coaches Association of America selected Woog as its National Youth Coach of the Year. Woog’s tireless work on both the youth and high school levels earned him a place in the Connecticut Soccer Hall of Fame in 2000.
In addition to his duties with the WSA, Woog doubled as the soccer coach at Long Lots Junior High from 1978-82 and won two league championships. He also served as the head wrestling coach at Long Lots and later was a varsity assistant at Staples.
But soccer has always been his No. 1 love and Woog managed to stay close to the sport through his work as an award-winning freelance writer. He was the executive editor of Soccer America’s Youth Soccer Letter for nearly two decades, and has written a total of six books about soccer. He has also written soccer videotapes and edited soccer newsletters for Brown, the University of Connecticut, Soccer Plus Goalkeepers and the Connecticut Junior Soccer Association.
Woog has won 15 writing awards from the National Soccer Coaches Association of America and Professional Soccer Reporters Association. He also served as director of media relations for an international game between Italy and Portugal at the Yale Bowl, and was an actor and consultant in the soccer movie “Manny’s Orphans.”
He actually began his writing career in 1969 as a sophomore at Staples covering sports for the Westport News, something he continued to do through 2002. A part-time educator at Staples since 1983, Woog has served on the Westport Youth Commission since 2002, was involved with TEAM Westport from 2004-08, and was a co-founder of the youth group “Outspoken” which he has been involved with since its inception in 1993.
“I am so grateful that soccer has been part of my life and that I grew up in Westport, a town that allowed me to learn and love the sport at a very early age,” Woog said. “The people I have met, and the associations I have made, through soccer have enriched my life beyond measure. I may not be around for another 50 years of Staples, and Westport, soccer, but I know it will continue to grow and flourish here to the betterment of countless young men and women.”
Nancy R. Coley
Bob & Ann Driscoll
Staples Class of ’49
John Bieling “JR”
Joe & Lorraine DeFelice
John & Lucille Chacho
Junior & Carol Bieling
Iain Bruce & Family
June & Jerry Bieling
JoAnn & Fran DeLuca
Joan Romano & Family
Angelo “Cookup” Veno
Buddy & Joan Perrottelli
Marty & Celeste Rogers
Peter & Roz Palmer
Jeff & Cathy Arciola
M & M Shoe Repair
Joe & Beverly Valiante
Joe & Lucille Saponare