By Rob Potter
CALLICOON Anyone who attended a Sullivan West football game this season couldn’t help but notice Tom Mootz.
When the Bulldogs were on offense, there was No. 21 carrying the ball for positive yardage, rolling out of the backfield to catch a pass or throwing a key block to help a teammate advance the ball upfield.
When the Bulldogs were on defense, No. 21 was bringing down the opposing ballcarriers on a regular basis or coming on a blitz to sack the quarterback for a loss.
It’s no surprise that Mootz, a senior running back/linebacker, ended the season as the Bulldogs’ leading rusher and top tackler. He ran the ball 126 times for 827 yards, which averages out to 6.56 yards per carry. He also caught two passes for 53 yards.
Mootz was also the Bulldogs’ leading scorer. He scored 12 touchdowns (11 rushing, 1 receiving) this autumn.
He recorded a team-high 125 tackles, an average of 13.9 per game. He also had 3.5 quarterback sacks.
For being so valuable to his team on both sides of the ball, Mootz has been chosen as the 2011 Sullivan County Democrat High School Football Player of the Year.
“I just wanted to work hard all season,” said the 17-year-old Mootz, who served as one of the SW team captains. “I wanted to do my best to help our team win and make my family, coaches and teammates proud.”
Count Sullivan West Head Coach Ron Bauer among the impressed.
“Tom had a great year,” Bauer said. “He worked very hard.
“He worked well with his teammates and listened to the coaches,” Bauer added. “The biggest thing with Tom is that he left it all out on the field. He always gave 100 percent, whether it was in a practice or in a game.”
Mootz noted that his favorite game of the season was the Bulldogs’ 21-20 overtime victory against the visiting Liberty Indians in a Section IX Class C Division I game on Oct. 6. With the win, the Bulldogs clinched a spot in the Class C semifinals.
“Being able to win that game was the best feeling in the world,” he said. “Both teams played hard and it was a great game. We really wanted to beat them because they defeated us the past two years.
“It was the first time I had three touchdowns in one game,” Mootz added.
This was Mootz’s third season on the SW varsity football team. When he was a freshman, he played for the JV team and also suited up for varsity games. Prior to that, he was a member of the Bulldogs’ modified team in seventh grade and eighth grade.
But Mootz’s football career started well before seventh grade. He played youth football for two seasons with the Rockland Raiders and for four seasons with the Fremont Red Dogs. In 2004, Mootz and his Red Dogs teammates enjoyed an undefeated season. A few of his high school teammates, including Kitt Borowski, Sawyer Erlwein and E.J. Franskevicz, were also members of that unbeaten Red Dogs team.
Although football is his favorite sport, Mootz played on the SW junior varsity baseball team as a sophomore. He is thinking about playing for the Bulldogs’ varsity baseball team in the spring.
The athletic field is not the only place where Mootz works hard. He is very happy to be among the 12 players who helped the SW football team earn Scholar-Athlete Team status this autumn from the New York State Public High School Athletic Association for achieving a 90 or higher grade point average.
By his own admission, Mootz has buckled down in his studies.
“Last year, I slacked off with some of my schoolwork,” he said. “This year, I am more focused and concentrating on academics. I feel like focusing in the classroom makes everything easier.”
After graduation in June, Mootz plans to continue his education at either Alfred State, a two-year school, or SUNY Morrisville, a four-year school. He plans to major in Heavy Equipment Diesel Mechanics. His career goal is to work with the Sandhogs, who drill tunnels and subways in New York City.
Mootz would also like to play college football. His older brother Nick, a 2009 SW graduate, played football the past two seasons at Alfred State. Nick graduated from Alfred State this spring and now works for Asplundh, a tree service company in Pennsylvania.
When he is not practicing, playing or in school, Tom Mootz enjoys staying busy with work or helping the community. He is a member of the Kenoza Lake Fire Department and during the summer he worked for Roseo Farms in Roscoe and had several lawn mowing jobs. Currently, he works after school at ASA Precision in Jeffersonville.
He also likes to be in the outdoors.
“I am a major hunter,” the Kenoza Lake resident said. “I love to hunt and fish.”
Mootz’s family members, parents Tom Sr. and Michelle, and Nick were pleased to see him do so well on gridiron this autumn. Michelle noted that “it’s been a nice season” for her son.
“Tom is a great young man,” Michelle said. “We are very proud of him.
“Tom gives it everything on the field,” she added. “He’s 5-7 and 175 pounds and he’s all heart.”
Michelle explained that one of Tom’s important off the field activities is helping The St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a volunteer-driven charity which strives to fund the most promising research to find cures for childhood cancers. The Mootz family became involved with St. Baldrick’s a few years ago when Nick was diagnosed with cancer.
“Tom knows about the importance of giving back,” Michelle said. “He saw how St. Baldrick’s helped us when Nick was going through his treatments. I hope Tom and Nick continue to work with St. Baldrick’s for many years.”
Game by Game
9/3 at Tri-Valley: 10 carries for 58 yards, 2 tackles, .5 sacks
9/9 vs. Chester: 14 carries for 158 yards, 2 TDs, 10 tackles
9/16 vs. Ellenville: 17 carries for 90 yards, 17 tackles, 2 sacks
9/23 at James I. O’Neill: 20 carries for 80 yards, 2 TDs, 18 tackles
10/1 at LMR: 9 carries for 131 yards, 2 TDs, 18 tackles, 1 sack
10/6 vs. Liberty: 20 carries for 110 yards, 3 TDs, 10 tackles
10/14 vs. Rondout Valley: 11 carries, 83 yards, 1 TD, 19 tackles
10/22 at John S. Burke: 9 carries, 64 yards, 1 TD, 23 tackles
10/28 vs. John S. Burke (Section IX Class C Semifinal): 17 carries, 61 yards, 8 tackles