Transcendent Tusker Named Male Athlete of Year
Having covered Somers High School and Section 1 sports for nearly three decades, this scribe could safely make an argument for outgoing senior Matt Pires as one of the finest three-sport athletes in Tusker history: All-NYS in football, All-League baseball, and the starting point guard in basketball. Most student athletes would take one of those honors and find fulfillment, but Pires was a piece of work in all three; a leader and a producer in three prime-time sports.
Game-breaking, game-changing, a man among boys… these were just some of the thoughts echoed frequently by his coaches, and those who opposed Pires, particularly in football. It was these thoughts, these accolades and the numbers he put up in three sports that led to his being named the Northern Westchester/Putnam Examiner Male Athlete of the Year. (Yorktown’s lax/football standouts Jose Boyer and Brett Makar were strongly considered)
It would have been hard to argue against the University of Rhode Island-bound Pires after football season alone; when he co-orchestrated – with RB Messiah Horne — a masterpiece that led to a 12-1 season and Somers’ only Section 1, Region 1 and NYSPHSAA Class A championships last November.
When Somers’ legendary coach Tony DeMatteo calls you one of the best players, top five, in fact, that he’s ever coached over the course of 40-plus seasons, folks take notice. When you go for 32.3 yards a catch as a flanker and another 18.2 yards per carry as a jet-sweeping running back and score a combined 25 touchdowns for the Tuskers, including 13 of them on just 27 receptions, folks take notice. When you are honored as the co-state player of the year in Class A by the New York State Sportswriters Association, folks notice. When you are among the most explosive/elusive players in Section 1 football history, folks detect a player of mind-blowing ilk, and that’s what Somers had in Pires, a slithering electric eel in pads.
“I’ve coached a lot of great players, some who went on to play in the NFL, and I don’t think I’ve had anyone who could do more with the touches he had than Matty Pires,” said Coach DeMatteo, who is 30 wins away from becoming the winningest coach in NYS history. “This kid deserves every award he gets.”
The awards began to mount shortly after a two-touchdown, 125-yard effort in the Tuskers’ shocking 42-6 Section 1 championship beatdown of top-seeded Yorktown in a crosstown showdown that was supposed to be the game of the decade. Somers made sure it wasn’t and the legend of Pires blossomed. It went viral in the state tournament where Pires would score five touchdowns in three games, including two in the 25-15 state championship win over Greece-Athena.
On the baseball diamond, Pires led Coach Joe Wootten’s Tuskers in hits, runs, homers, steals, OBP%, SLUG%, walks and doubles while securing team MVP honors. The Tuskers were anything but contenders in 2017, but it wasn’t for lack of effort from Pires, a shortstop with great range and a cannon.
“Matt had all the tools to be a successful high school baseball player,” Wootten said. “His speed and overall athletic ability set Matt apart. His aggressive approach, bat speed and trained eye allowed Matt to have a solid year at the plate.”
On the hardwood, Pires, a point guard, led the 10th-seeded Somers to a solid season (12-11), reaching the Class A quarterfinals before falling to No.2 Tappan Zee in a game where Pires dropped a team-high 16 points. Pires got a late start in hoops due to Somers’ football season going through the end of November, but he didn’t skip a beat, averaging 6.6 PPG, 3 RPG, 3 APG and one steal. Pires was a force at both ends of the floor for Coach Chris DiCintio, who said Pires was the plug-and-play competitor in any sport.
“I had the privilege of coaching Matty for three years,” DiCintio said. “Matty is one of those rare kids that can play any sport and succeed at the highest level with it. He’s a tremendously competitive individual that always raises his game when the spotlight is on him. Although he’s a quiet leader in the locker room, other players always gravitate towards him. His ability to get other players to raise their game is enjoyable to watch and when Matty gets it going, there’s no stopping him.
“Off the court, he’s well-liked by anyone that knows him,” the coach added. “He is easy going, laid back and very humble. He doesn’t get to emotional when things are thrown his way, which enables him to always play in the moment in addition to enjoying life for what it has to offer.”
What Pires will offer Rhode Island should be pretty special. Coach DeMatteo expects him to burst onto the DI-AA scene and become a Colonial Athletic Association force to be reckoned with, as he and Horne reunite as freshmen for the Rams.
“There’s no doubt in my mind, barring injury, that Matty will be special at the next level,” said DeMatteo, who has 334 career wins between Somers and Roosevelt.
In this day and age of specialization, Pires could have rested on his football laurels and rode off into the sunset after football season, but he chose a route fewer and fewer student athletes are going down these days; a three-sport path he’ll look back fondly upon for the rest of his life.
“I just never wanted to stop playing,” Pires said. “I love to compete and play sports with my friends. I didn’t play football my freshman year because I thought I needed a sport off, but I regretted it. There’s nothing better than high school sports, and I just wanted to play as much as possible for this town. By playing all three sports, it definitely made me better at the others; just by having the mental and physical ability to play them all. I’m going to miss playing all three sports all the time, but I’m ready to compete in just football and hopefully be successful at the collegiate level.”
DeMatteo believes he will, Somers believes in his future and chances are he’ll be taking one back to the house in much the same manner he did in high school, cutting across the gridiron with a distinctive combination of burst and power Somers has rarely seen.