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Bartoszek’s ‘Care For Kids’ Shows Up On And Off The Field

CHAD BARTOSZEK

In August 1999, I was assigned to do a story for The Post-Journal’s Gridiron, the preseason football magazine. The cover photo — accompanied by a headline that read, “Backyard Boys” — featured five members of the University at Buffalo team, who were all from the newspaper’s circulation area.

They included Pine Valley alum Josh Roth; Brian Johnessee and Chris Gray of Frewsburg; Joe McKoy of Jamestown; and Chad Bartoszek, a freshman from Salamanca.

Bartoszek had established quite a resume during his high school years, including setting records for most receptions and touchdowns in a season and career, and earning first-team All-State and first-team All-Western New York honors. He also lettered three years in baseball and two years in basketball.

When I spoke to him that summer afternoon on the UB campus, he was just getting acclimated to his first college season, although he had already shown the Bulls’ coaches his athleticism during training camp.

“I hope to keep getting better, bigger, stronger, faster,” the 6-foot-5, 230-pound tight end said that day. “If everything falls into place, I’ll be able to help this team.”

Bartoszek’s words proved prophetic as he collected 87 receptions in his last two seasons, which ultimately earned him training camp invites with the Indianapolis Colts on two separate occasions and an opportunity to catch passes from a guy named Peyton Manning.

But I’d be willing to bet Bartoszek, the head football coach at his high school alma mater, liked the quarterback-tight end connection between Maddox Isaac and Payton Bradley on Saturday afternoon a heck of a lot more than being on the receiving end of tosses from an NFL legend.

Because the 16-yard touchdown pass with six seconds remaining in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C Far West Regional at Williamsville South High School propelled the Warriors to a 21-13 victory over Section V’s Le Roy and into this weekend’s state semifinals against Waverly at Cicero North Syracuse High School.

That never-to-be-forgotten TD had been in their playbook for all of five days.

“It was incredible execution,” said Adam Bennett, Salamanca’s boys basketball coach who was watching from the sidelines. “When you’re in runs like this as a coach, you take a moment after the game to enjoy it, and then flip the switch to the next challenge.”

Bartoszek, who is the director of health, physical education and recreation, as well as the athletic director at Salamanca, has never backed down from challenges.

“He does the right thing in every situation,” said Bennett, who is the school’s assistant AD. “I’m fortunate to work with him daily. I’ve seen him in stressful situations and I’ve seen him celebrating success. In every way, he keeps a professional demeanor, handles himself with class and integrity, and he does things the right way all the time. I’m just fortunate to be around that every day.”

Bennett believes that Bartoszek’s players are fortunate, too.

“They play exceptionally hard for him,” Bennett said. “He cares deeply about the football program and restoring our program to the tradition that it’s had over the years. More importantly, he cares about the kids, cares about doing things the right way. He’s a natural leader, who finds a way to galvanize people. … It’s just so evident how much he cares about Salamanca, about our community and how proud he is about being a Warrior, and it’s really contagious.”

That pride was evident a couple weeks ago when Bartoszek and selected members of his team attended Section VI media day at Highmark Stadium in Orchard Park. As he stood on the turf, Bartoszek was asked if it was emotional for him to return to the home of the Buffalo Bills, a place where he had twice played as a high schooler for legendary coach George Whitcher.

Bartoszek admitted that it was.

“If I think about (the sectional semifinal win over Portville) and when the whistle finally sounded, it rushed quickly to how long it’s been and how much work we’ve put in to give these kids an opportunity,” he said. “It’s really about them and how they get to experience what we talk about.

“This is awesome for us. We’re proud and it’s a generation of kids who are getting to experience it. They’re going to set the tone for possibly our (children), and now maybe we recycle some of this stuff and we get back into a place where expectations are elevated.”

Come noon Saturday, expectations will ratchet up even more.

“It’s been fun to see the last two games,” Bennett said. “Chad doesn’t show a ton of emotion, but you can see it in his eyes how he feels about his team.”

Knowing that, it’s only appropriate then that Bartoszek and his players will take the field in central New York two days after Thanksgiving, because the guy who is on the Mount Rushmore of all-time Salamanca greats has plenty for which to be thankful.

“He was born to do this,” Bennett said. “When somebody does that the right way and has that kind of success, it makes it all the more fulfilling.”

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