BY JEFF FALK
The Palmyra football team is such a close-knit group of players that it almost seems like one big family. But some Cougars are closer to one another than others.
How about the Faiolas, for instance? The Palmyra roster features not one, not two, but three Faiolas – Dom, Dino and Anthony. Dom, a senior, and Anthony, a sophomore, are brothers and Dino, a junior, is their first cousin.
Because the game corses through their veins, the Faiolas have been playing football together for most of their natural lives. Now that dedication to the sport – and to one another – is paying off for them, and for Palmyra as well.
“This year has been awesome,” said Dom, the Faiola Family’s unofficial spokesperson. “You can’t get closer than we are. Everybody says playing football is like family, but we really are family.”
On Friday night at West Shore Stadium, Palmyra and the Faiolas will take on Red Land in the quartefinals of the District Three Class AAA playoffs. Last week, the Cougars defeated Manheim Central 34-31 in three overtimes, in their first postseason game in program history.
“I was nine years old when I started playing football, so I’ve been playing ten years,” said Dom Faiola. “Dino and I were on the same midget team and we’ve been playing together ever since. We’ve all been playing for a long time. It’s always been like, if one of us does it, the others will follow. I got to see Dino’s older brother play, that made me want to play and it just continued after that.”
“They’re all really good football players,” said Palmyra head coach Chris Pope. “They each have their own unique qualities. But when I think of a Faiola, I think of a football player.”
Dom spells star runningback Preston Bare when Bare needs a breather. But perhaps his most important role on the team is as a safety, directing Palmyra’s defensive secondary.
“I’ve been a three-year starter on defense,” said Dom, “and I’ve been calling plays since I was a sophomore. Everybody knows about Jon (Hicks) and he calls the defensive plays, but I call the plays in the secondary. I see myself as the technician.”
“Offically, Dom’s a safety, so he’s the leader of the secondary,” said Pope. “Beyond that, Dom has a charisma. People respond to Dom. When he’s on the field, he makes things happen.”
Dino Faiola used to play a similar position on the Cougar defense. That is until one day at practice when the Palmyra coaches gave him a shot at defensive tackle. He’s been there ever since, despite the fact that he’s 5-8 and 165 pounds.
“He’s just a hard-nosed football player,” said Dom Faiola of his cousin. “He works so hard it’s crazy. He goes up against bigger players and Dino just out works them. He’s got a motor that won’t stop.”
“Dino is probably one of the toughest kids on the football team,” said Pope. “The thing that sticks out to me is he just has a motor that doesn’t stop running. Watching him on film and how much he hustles, it’s amazing.
“He was a safety and an outside linebacker and we threw him down there (defensive line)” Pope continued, “and he put some moves on our starting offense. He just wanted to play.”
Anthony Faiola, a running back/defensive back, is the prototypical younger brother, waiting in the wings for his turn. He has the luxury of watching the older Faiolas and learning from their examples.
“In the Middletown game Anthony scored his first touchdown,” said Dom Faiola. “And me and Dino were on the sidelines and we were more pumped up than the people in the stands. He’s a starter on the JV team, but you’ve got to earn your stripes.”
“Anthony’s a sophomore and he plays mostly on the JV team,” said Pope. “His years are to come. He’s doing a great job, he really is. I believe he’ll develop into a really good football player.”
So there are some qualities that the Faiolas share. While all a bit undersized, each displays a passion for the game, they all put teammates ahead of themselves and they’re all physical players.
“We’re all hard workers,” said Dom Faiola “Dino’s really under-sized and I’m under-sized. We’re always going to put our heads down and keep rolling. We’re hard-working football players.
“I’m going to be selfish and say I’m the best athlete, just because I’m the oldest,” Dom Faiola continued. “Our family’s always been athletic. People know the Faiolas in this area. I’d like to think that’s going to continue with Dino and Anthony.”
Dom Faiola seems accutely aware of the fact that he is living a dream and making memories.
“It’s been an incredible year for Palmyra in general,” said Dom Faiola. “For us seniors, it’s just been great. It’s awesome to be able to play with my cousin and my brother. But everyone’s a family on our team. I couldn’t have dreamed of anything like this happening.
“Thinking ten years ahead, we’re going to be able to sit around and talk about when I was a senior and Dino was a junior and Anthony was a sophomore and we played on the best Palmyra football team ever,” Dom Faiola added. “It’s going to be something I always remember. And what made it even more special was I did it with my family.”
“They’re a very close football team,” said Pope. “We work on it and I think we’ve made some strides in that area. When you’re really close you’re willing to play harder for one another and go the extra mile.”