Syracuse, NY – Senior forward Fayetteville-Manlius Antonino Pagano knew he would be one of the most watched players in Men’s Section III soccer this season.
He therefore decided to follow the path of all the great performers. He’s doing a show.
Pagano leads class AA scorers with 22 goals. This production earned him recognition as the SOS Star Athlete of the Week.
Those numbers aren’t exactly a revelation, as he produced 17 scores in 11 games last year. But with the demise of stars like his older brother Francesco and Ziad Abdul-Malak, Pagano has taken almost every step on the pitch this season, heavily clouded by the heightened attention of opposing defenses.
And yet, it makes scoring easier than ever.
“I feel like this year I’m more in the spotlight because we don’t have a lot of ghosts this year. So it’s more like me and a few other kids, ”Pagano said. “So I get more of the ball in better spaces and I have better opportunities. Children are looking for me more. I’m just able to put them away.
Hornets coach Jeff Hammond attributed Pagano’s job to the offseason by giving him the kind of engine he needed to move away from doubles teams.
“He worked so hard in the offseason. His level of fitness is incredible, ”said Hammond. “It’s hard to keep track of him. If you lose track of him for a second, he’ll charge you.
Pagano’s sensational play is one of the main reasons the Hornets are 12-0-1. It comes after a disappointing 2020 season in which FM got a perfect 11-0 but no further than the regular season as Covid canceled the playoffs.
“We always think about it as a team. We always talk about, what if we win states? What if we do that? What if we do that? Pagano said. “It’s so exciting to think about how we have such a good chance because we have such a good team this year. It’s crazy that this can happen.
It would also be a fitting crown for Pagano’s early departure from FM. He plans to graduate after the fall semester and join his brother in Syracuse. This will give Nino a head start in training ahead of his freshman year next fall and make it even easier to compare grades with Francesco.
“We talk every day. It doesn’t matter if he has a game or if I have a game, ”said Nino. “Whenever I don’t have a game, I go to his house, and whenever he doesn’t have a game, he goes to mine. We still talk as much as when he lived here, I just don’t see him that much. We have always fought in practice, or even at home when we are in the garden. We never stop trying to improve each other.
Before Nino runs at the same pace as his brother again, he will first have the chance to pull off something Francesco wouldn’t have been able to do if the Hornets are able to clinch a state title.
“We’re just going to think big. Keep this idea of winning states in mind, ”Nino said. “We are not going to deprive ourselves of it, and that is our goal.”
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