Having attended Amsterdam High School and not Bishop Scully, this has been a particularly difficult Top Ten List for me to complete. Fortunately, I’ve been able to receive some valuable assistance from Scully alumnae with intimate knowledge of which student athletes during their years at Scully deserved consideration for a spot on this list. Here’s my first five picks:
From its inception in 1966, Bishop Scully was a powerhouse in interscholastic sports. In fact, during that historic first year, the school’s varsity baseball, basketball and football teams all won their League Championships! The coach of all three of those teams was the one and only Francis “Dutch” Howlan and it was Howlan himself who designated Billy Whelly “the greatest all-around athlete I ever coached!” Dutch will get no argument from me. Whelly was an all-league running back and return man in football; a hard-hitting, slick fielding infielder in baseball and he scored over 700 points for Bishop Scully’s first two basketball teams, leading the Mohawks to a 37-6 record during that span.
Brian Niezgoda – Nicknamed “Nestor” this kid excelled at all three major sports during his days as a student athlete at the upper Church Street school but it was his four years carrying a football out of Scully’s backfield that made him a local legend. By the time he graduated he held the Section II records for scoring in a career, a single season and a single game. As a senior, Niezgoda rushed for 1,652 yards, scoring 27 touchdowns and 19 two-point conversions. It was the first time in Section II football history that a player had scored 200 points. This record stood for 14 years. Those 1,652 rushing yards were the standard in Section II for eight years. Niezgoda had also rushed for 1,285 yards, as a junior and again led Section II in scoring with 132 total points including 20 touchdowns. He was a pitcher in baseball and in basketball, he was the starting point guard on Scully’s outstanding 1980 team which won the Class B Section II championship. He went on to play one year of football at Alfred before suffering a career ending shoulder injury.
Cappy Wells was the first and only Bishop Scully basketball player to break the 1,000 career point mark when he reached that plateau during his senior season in 1974. He led all of Section II in scoring that year with 608 points and a lofty 29.3 points per game average. He was also a hard-running halfback on the Scully football team and made honorable mention on the Prep Football Magazine’s All American Team, also in his senior season. Those performances earned him a full sports scholarship to Colgate University, where Wells enjoyed a stellar career as a receiver.
Mike Skaradek was not very big physically but when he was on a pitchers mound or directing Scully’s offense on the basketball court he was big enough. One of the great southpaw pitchers in Amsterdam history, Skaradek seldom lost a decision and when Scully really needed an out, they’d put the ball in this guy’s hands. He only averaged about a dozen points per game as Scully’s varsity basketball point guard for two seasons but he made sure teammates like Bill Whelly, Hank Kelly, Mark Olbrycht and Joe Bialabok usually scored in double figures too.
Mike Wells was one of the most physically gifted athletes I’ve ever seen compete. He had great speed and strength and combined the two seamlessly during his years at Scully to star in both football and baseball. His best year on the gridiron was 1969 when he was runner-up for Recorder Player of the Year honors. Dutch Howlan rotated a lot of runners through his backfield that season but it was Wells who scored eight TDs to finish among area leaders in scoring. His forte however was as a kick returner. He was also a fleet footed outfielder on three Scully baseball teams, with a powerful arm and line drive producing bat.
Who are my five other choices for ten top athletes in Scull history? You’ll find out when my “Book of 50 Top Ten All-Time Amsterdam Lists,” is released later this year.
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