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Neck now OK, Somers' speedy Abatecola draws college scouts

Posted Saturday, September 06, 2014 by Carolyn Fazzinga
 http://www.lohud.com/story/sports/2014/09/06/neck-now-ok-somers-speedy-abatecola-draws-college-scouts/1517879

Chris Abatecola was a solid football player. Solid enough that, at only 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds, he'd attracted the attention of college coaches.

Now, if anything, that interest has grown, despite the fact the 17-year-old missed nearly half the 2013 season with a neck injury.

After getting hurt, Somers' senior running back/free safety went from frustrated to resolved in about as fast as it takes him to run a 40-yard dash.

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That would be 4.58 seconds.

That clocking, down from the high 4.8s, comes after last spring's stint running mostly the 100 meters on the school track team and follows a summer of intense workouts.

Abatecola suffered a compressed spine and a spinal contusion while making the all-too-common mistake of tackling with his head down.

After his injury, coach Tony DeMatteo used him only "here and there," although he received more playing time in the sectional champs' regional final loss to Cornwall.

"It wasn't anything serious. We were just afraid to take a chance," DeMatteo said.

DeMatteo probably would have been satisfied to have gotten the pre-injured Abatecola back this season.

Instead, "he's improved immensely. … He's become very explosive," he said.

The injury became a positive of sorts. Abatecola talked of his desire to "fight through."

"I think it definitely improved my physical and mental motivation. … If not for the injury, I don't think I would have done track," he said. "It just pushed me to my outermost limits."

Abatecola went to all three summer football camps attended by Somers players and participated in the 6-to-7:30 a.m. optional team workouts school trainer Kevin Mullen ran for 3 1/2 weeks this summer.

"Clearly, it paid off," said Abatecola, who remarked of Mullen, "He's awesome. He does everything for us."

DeMatteo thinks his two-way player is pretty awesome, too.

"He's one of the kids with the best attitude," he said, citing Abatecola's work ethic.

In Friday night's opener vs. Tappan Zee, Abatecola started at free safety and rotated in the backfield, where the Tuskers use six running backs. He scored a touchdown in the Tuskers' 34-7 victory.

"He can't go to Notre Dame or Alabama," DeMatteo said, indicating Abatecola isn't a big-program, FBS prospect. Football Championship Subdivision Bryant University, a school in Rhode Island that Abatecola's dad, Robert, attended, and Division II Pace are among the schools interested in him.

"He's fast enough to be looked at," DeMatteo said.

Abatecola won't list tackles, carries, or yardage among his personal goals, saying he's merely focused on staying healthy and doing whatever he can to help his team. The specific goal he does cite is Somers' winning the sectional championship for a third straight time, then making a "good run for the state championship."

No matter how far the Tuskers advance, DeMatteo is looking for Abatecola to go out on a high note.

"I'd love to see him have a big year after he picked himself up off the floor," he said.

Twitter: @HaggertyNancy

 

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