CANFIELD, Ohio (WKBN) – No matter what adversity South Range quarterback Aniello Buzzacco faces this year, it will never compare to what he and the whole Buzzacco family faced back in July of 2015.
Aniello’s mother Christine passed away after a courageous battle with colon cancer, shortly after being diagnosed on February 13th of that same year. The cancer spread quickly leaving her husband and best friend Dave, along with her children David, Danielle, Mario, and Aniello facing a life changing situation.
Aniello was just about to start football practice before his sophomore year, while brother Mario was entering his senior year as a lineman with the Raiders. What was supposed to be a special year for the Buzzacco brothers and the whole family took a much different path.
“Being honest, it was all kind of like a blur,” Aniello admitted. “We were both starting that year and it was really just a blur. I remember games and stuff. Football was just my big release. I had a lot of built up anger toward everything and a lot of frustration.”
“I went into my practices and hit some kids and kind of relieved everything. Football is definitely my release. I’m not the most vocal when it comes to stuff like that. I don’t really talk about it.”
“He’s part of our family,” Raiders coach Dan Yeagley explained. “When any of our kids have problems, we all deal with them. That’s how it has to be. I think it brought all of us together as a team, and especially his classmate’s were brought closer together. They were here for him and afterward they were still there for him. And he knows that. That’s so important.”
Yeagley also pointed out that not only was the team helping to lift up Aniello, his older brother Mario was also grieving, “There was the other class. Two classes, your senior class, and your sophomore class and we really came together that season and we are still close today because of that.”
“A lot of that is because of Aniello. Because of how important he is to our team and how important he is to his classmates,” Yeagley added.
An already tough season in 2015 became even more disappointing in the year’s finale when Aniello suffered a concussion on the Raiders first possession of a league championship game with East Palestine. Aniello and Mario had both hoped to win the league title as a token of appreciation for their mother. Unfortunately, East Palestine would score a late touchdown to win the game and finish the Raiders season.
“I obviously don’t really remember that game because of everything (concussion). I have seen pictures and I see my brother hugging me and all. My dad said I was crying because I wanted to get back in and play for my mom. Playing with my big brother it was just devastating because I couldn’t finish out the year with him for mom. We started out that season together and I wanted to end it with him. It was just unfortunate.”
Aniello admitted that he has written mom with a heart on all his football gear as a reminder of his mother while out on the field, “I mean everything I do, I play for my mom. I have it on my towel. I have it on my wrist. I have it everywhere.”
Mario graduated in 2016 and is currently attending YSU. Sister Danielle graduated from South Range in 2014 and attends Walsh College, while eldest brother David, who also played quarterback for the Raiders, graduated in 2011. He also played football at Westminster, and currently, serves as a football coach for the South Range middle school team.
Aniello explained that his family is very close and that has helped these past two years,” My family, we always talk. That’s what I love about my family, we always communicate. All of us. We’re always talking with each other. And my girlfriend, I talk with her all the time. She’s my biggest helper.”
“It was hard to go through because you go home and expect to see your mom,” Aniello said. “But I just had to adjust. That was probably the biggest thing. Adjusting knowing that when you hear the door open it’s not going to be her. The emotions were pretty uncontrollable.”
“He’s a great team player,” Yeagley said about Aniello. “He is very intense. He wants to perform well and he cares about his teammates. He’s just a great kid.”
In 2017, as an independent school, many people may think South Range’s only motivation on Friday nights is to win enough games to make the playoffs. But for the Raider team, it’s about playing for their senior quarterback and winning each game for mom – Christine Buzzacco.