by Tom Pedulla –
Dobbs Ferry football coach Joe Cox paid senior captain Thomas Palicz the ultimate compliment when he said of him, “He’s wanted to be great.”
Palicz dreamed of playing for the Eagles at a young age. When the opportunity finally arrived, he not only wanted to play for them but to make his mark.
He was given the large responsibility of being the starting center as a freshman. He has since become a 6-3, 230-pound mainstay on the offensive and defensive lines as a right tackle and defensive tackle.
“For being on the offensive line and defensive line, your mentality is just push, go right through them, do not get pushed back at all,” Palicz said.
He pushes teammates to have the same desire. That mentality helped Dobbs Ferry win the Section 1 Class C championship in two of his first three years and to play for the state title last season. But it is probably best not to mention that finale at Syracuse’s Carrier Dome to Palicz.
He loved the setting, not the outcome. The Eagles suffered a lopsided defeat that adds to Palicz’s fire.
“I walked into this season with the biggest chip on my shoulder that I ever had in my life,” he said. “It gives me motivation every day to try to go back and have a second chance.”
Palicz said he remembers the stinging setback “like it was yesterday.” It helped him to realize how precious such opportunities are.
“All that time you spent in the weight room, how much you worked for it, obviously it didn’t go your way,” he said. “The seniors’ last year, they didn’t have another chance. But I’d like to be the guy who gives some more hope to this team.”
Palicz is among the players others looked to when adversity struck this season in the form of injuries to two key players. Prolific running back Thomas Ritch has been working his way back from a high ankle sprain while fullback Jack Fessler hurt his collarbone.
At times of uncertainty, players know they can look to Palicz to steady them.
“He knows pretty much every position, every responsibility,” said senior Tyler Sepinski. “If you don’t know something, you can pretty much go and ask him.” The versatile Sepinski has shifted from tight end to guard to fullback to meet the team’s needs.
Cox is in his first year as head coach after previously serving on the staff of Jim Moran, his predecessor. He has come to rely on Palicz’s ability to make in-game adjustments.
“He’s like having another coach on the field,” Cox said. “His ability to understand everything that is going on with the offensive line in particular and be able to correct things that he sees that I might not see, that sort of extension of the coaching staff is something we are so lucky to have.”
It is difficult for any player to be a four-year varsity starter, especially at a well-established program such as Dobbs Ferry’s. Most freshmen lack the size and strength to meet the demands of varsity competition.
Palicz always offered size as an advantage. He soon added strength to become an imposing figure on both lines.
“He was a really good football player from a young age, and he’s gotten better every year he’s been with us. He’s been an incredibly hard worker,” Cox said.
Palicz also does well academically and aspires to play in college. He mentioned Columbia as one possibility.
“I definitely think he belongs at the next level,” Cox said.