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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Sports > General

20/20 on 2020 senior athletes: Sullivan West's Gabe Campanelli

May 18, 2020

By Richard Ross - reporter/photographer

Gabe Campanelli rises up for two points as a pair of S.S. Seward defenders fail to stop his ascension to the rim.
LAKE HUNTINGTON -- “Give yourself permission to live a big life. Step into who you were meant to be. Stop playing small. You were meant for greater things.”
The essence of those oft-quoted anonymous pieces of advice has been delivered to Sullivan West senior quarterback and basketball low post presence Gabe Campanelli by key people at the most opportune times in his life.
The result: the coming of age of a fearsome, tough quarterback in football and a monster in the paint on the hardwood.
When it came to football, a sport Campanelli has been playing since his Red Dawg days in fourth grade right up through his senior year in high school, the message from his dad Tony has always been more than encouraging, it's been inspirational and designed to build self-confidence. “Be the best you can be and play with respect but remember that your opponent is just a kid like you.”
Campanelli came up through the ranks of modified football not quite sold on that dominant role he was later to assume, but rather thinking he was mostly playing to make his dad happy. “He's a big football fan and always wanted to see his four sons succeed in sports,” says Gabe, the third Campanelli kid following his older brothers Nick and Joe and a year ahead of his younger brother and teammate Chris.
Campanelli got his start at quarterback in eighth grade when his dad suggested to modified coach John Hauschild to try him out at the position. After exactly half of one practice, Campanelli got the very next start against Liberty and held down the position for the rest of the season. In his freshman year he graduated to varsity but served as the backup QB to standout junior Colin Hauschild. Campanelli earned his stripes principally on defense that year playing at different spots and demonstrating his toughness and great instincts that would ultimately make him a standout defensive end in his junior and senior varsity seasons. “My job was to seal off my end of the field and either stop the play or force it out of bounds.”
Campanelli became one of the team's leading tacklers. “I like playing defense. It lets you take out any pent-up aggression,” he notes. Playing both sides of the ball can be tiring but more often than not, it's a fact of life in smaller school football. In his sophomore season, the juniors and seniors went to Roscoe to combine with the Blue Devils. That was Hauschild's graduating year and a stellar one at that. Meanwhile, Campanelli stayed behind to quarterback the junior varsity to a successful season.
In the fall of his junior year he won the starting QB position over a few other candidates. The coaches were impressed by his size and strength, but mostly by his tough running. Opposing teams would soon discover his mobility and the difficulty of bringing him to the turf. Campanelli was starting to “play big.” As such he began to really relish his role as quarterback. “I liked the opportunity to control the game and I loved the challenge of the contact.”
His favorite game of this past season was the Homecoming game versus Fallsburg. “We played really well that night,” he notes. As in any sports endeavor, there are apt to be frustrating moments too such as when the team didn't execute well or adjust to different defenses. Campanelli was not considered by many to be as great a threat for his throwing as he was for his running. An idea he takes issue with. “I have no problem throwing,” he avers. “It's often about players not running their routes correctly. It's a matter of timing.” In his junior year he showed his throwing acumen in successful completions to wideout James DeAveiro. This past fall Hunter Mall was his principal target.
The end of football meant the start of basketball, the sport Campanelli rates as his favorite. Campanelli began playing basketball in third grade in the Saturday morning program held in the town of Callicoon. He spent two years in modified and two year in Junior varsity. His J.V coach Derek Hahn would become a major influence on the way he played the game. Hahn was a great post player in his day.
“You never have to back down. If you have the ball you can do anything you want with it,” Hahn instructed Campanelli. He modeled the correct footwork and how to spin correctly in the post. Campanelli also benefited from varsity coach John Meyer's influence. “He's very knowledgeable about all aspects of the game. He taught me a lot about defense and developed my shot-blocking ability,” says Campanelli. “I love the intensity of the game. There are only five men on the team and one person can make a huge impact.” Campanelli is a sterling rebounder who knows how to use his body, boxing out his opponents to get position in the paint.
Offensively he is a threat to drive to the rim and score or draw fouls. He enjoyed the rivalry with Tri-Valley in which the Bulldogs swept the Bears during the season, partial payback for T-V's vanquishing of SW in football.
In spring, Campanelli takes a break from sports but not from activity or conditioning. Working on the poultry farm, which is his family's business, Campanelli builds muscle hefting hay and tending to the livestock. His heavy lifting on the farm makes trips to the weight room unnecessary. Campanelli is heading to Sullivan County Community College in the fall to study Business Management and Marketing. He wants to stay in the area, continue in the family business and aspires to be his own boss.
Campanelli enjoyed great support from his mom Deborah. Though she couldn't attend every game she was always upbeat about his efforts win or lose. His brother Chris was a force in both football and basketball. “I wanted my senior year to be just as good for him as it was for me. We play well together,” he attests.
In football and basketball, size is a factor and Campanelli certainly has that. But playing big was something he grew into. In the large footprint he leaves behind from his Sullivan West fall and winter endeavors, it is clear that whoever steps in to replace him will have big shoes to fill.

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