The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

April 15, 2013

Tony award

Jefferson's Chiacchiero, country's top player in 2012, decides Thiel is for him

As a junior on the 2011 Jefferson Falcons, Tony Chiacchiero didn’t see much playing time.

Sitting behind quarterback Connor Cleveland, the Star Beacon Ashtabula County Player of the Year that season, the junior didn’t know what his football future held for him.

Chiacchiero stepped into the fore primarily as a passer in an offense that was designed mainly as run first, pass never to help showcase the legs of Cleveland the Falcons talented stable of running backs.

But, that all changed in 2012 as Jefferson opened up the offense and allowed Chiacchiero to throw for a county-high 1,764 yards en route to becoming the Star Beacon Ashtabula County Player of the Year.

Now, the quarterback who led the Falcons to an 8-2 season will move on to the next level to play at Thiel.

He admits he didn’t anticipate playing in college during that junior season, and was still unsure about it after his impressive season under the gun this fall.

“(My interest) kind of developed a little later,” he admitted. “I honestly thought I wasn’t going to. I just started thinking about it and then decided that I could probably play and the more I thought about it, the more I changed my mind.”

Chiacchiero said his biggest draw to Thiel was the campus and the coaching staff.

“I was impressed with their campus, it was real nice, it felt very homey,” he said. “It’s also pretty cool that they have a dome there so in the winter, you can work in there and not have to worry about the weather.

“The coaches seemed real nice. Just everything across the board was great there.”

Chiacchiero said he enjoyed his last season not just for his own individual successes, which were impressive, but for the fun he and his teammates had.

“This past year has just been great,” he said. “Just being able to do so well for my first year playing and having such a great team and playing with all my friends. We just had a great season and had a a lot of chemistry so it was fun.”

While football season was a high point for Chiacchiero, he suffered a setback during basketball season.

During practice on Christmas Eve, the senior dislocated his knee cap and didn’t return for the rest of the season.

“It sucked, I just wanted to play,” he said. “Sitting there watching them practice and play, it was just frustrating.

“But I’m pretty healthy now. It was a setback but I’m lifting now and strengthening it back up.”

The Tomcats run a multiple style offense which could benefit Chiacchiero.

The Falcons were mostly a pro style offense his first three seasons before switching to a more spread passing attacking this season.

“I think our offense will help a lot,” she said. “We used to run a pro formation so I’m still used to that. I kind of got both and learned both offenses. I think that should really help.”

Chiacchiero listed several important influences throughout his playing career at Jefferson.

“Well, over the summer, Angelo Mirando came and worked out with us,” he said. “It kind of gave us a feel of what college coaching would be like. Coach (Rob) Mead was important. He was there all over the summer and spring working with us and lifting.

“Then, Coach (Jimmy) Henson was obviously important, letting us throw the ball this year was big.”

As far as favorite moments are concerned, Chiacchiero said there were two that stuck out.

His near-perfect performance against Edgewood last fall and the Falcons’ miraculous come-from-behind victory against Lakeview.

“The two that stick out are probably the Edgewood and Lakeview games, those were really fun games,” he said. “Just doing so well against Edgewood was awesome and the come-from-behind victory against Lakeview was great.”

The quarterback continues the recent trend of Jefferson players going on to play at the next level, something Chiacchiero said he takes pride in.

“We kind of felt like we rebuilt the whole program,” he said. “We did well in JV before I moved up, then this year, they went undefeated and we just felt like we built our program so much. The junior high teams are really good, too.

“It’s really all starting to come together now.”

The son of Joe and Kathy Chiacchiero said his parents were very helpful in nudging him in the right direction when it came to his college choice.

“They have just always been there for me and supported all my decision,” he said. “They kept on me about having to make my decision. They kept on me and made me plan for college and everything.”

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