Fall sports preview: Wreckers aim to continue winning football tradition
Updated 3:07 am, Friday, September 16, 2011
The bar is always set high for the Staples football team.
And for good reason -- Staples has made the state playoffs 10 out of the last 11 years, won three state titles, was a state runnerup three times, won two FCIAC titles and was the FCIAC runnerup twice.
Last year, the Wreckers were 9-2 and lost to Glastonbury 7-6 in the Class LL quarterfinals. What makes Staples a threat again this year is that its two losses were by a combined three points -- while using a backup quarterback -- then-freshman Jack Massie.
"We fell a little short last year and the fact we lost two [close] games with a freshman quarterback shows how much pride we have," Wreckers coach Marce Petroccio said. "Jack Massie now has game experience and worked hard in developing his game and is getting better as a quarterback."
Massie ably stepped in for Chet Pajolek, a First Team All-FCIAC selection who is now playing for Amherst College, and showed he has a strong arm. The current sophomore played well at quarterback in preseason scrimmages.
Replacing Pajolek isn't Staples' only difficult task. The Wreckers will also miss All-State tailback Tyler Jacobs, who is a teammate of Pajolek's, linebackers Matt Yeager and Rob Gau, lineman Mike Nicklas, Pat Murray (tight end and lineman) and Jason Mawicke (wide receiver and kicker). They will also miss Chris Coyne (tight end and lineman), Robby Herman (wide receiver and defensive back) and linemen Julian Gendels, Chris Giunta, Mike Giunta and Zack Ventura.
"The expectations here are always high," Petroccio said. "We have to replace a lot of football players but hopefully, the kids will step up and do the job. We have a lot of talent here and the preseason scrimmages are helping us get better. Only time will tell."
Staples historically has a strong running attack with athletic and quick tailbacks and this year isn't an exception. Senior Jon Heil and juniors Nick Kelly and Joey Zelkowitz give the Wreckers an explosive backfield.
When Massie doesn't hand off to his running backs, he'll throw to them or his wide receivers, seniors Zach Mitchell and Dan Horelick and juniors James Frusciante and Lance Lonergan. Senior tri-captain Peter Bonefant is also a receiving target at tight end as well as a blocker.
In addition to Bonefant, senior tri-captain guards Bo and Jack Gibson will provide senior leadership on the line in protecting Massie and opening up holes for the running backs. Juniors Will Patrick and Chris Speer are battling for the starting center position and junior Kyle Vaughn and sophomore Nick Ward are the tackles.
The Wreckers expect to be strong on defense. Bo Gibson, Vaughn and senior Mikell Washington are the defensive ends, and the defensive tackles are seniors Alec Caplan and Merjim Trdevaj and juniors Peter Hoetz, Jared Levi and Rich Eldh. Bonefant, seniors Robbie Wolf, Austin Lazar and Chris Chu along with junior Kevin Kearney and Lonergan will vie for time at linebacker.
In the secondary, seniors Ben Platt and Eric Lederer, junior Greg Strauss and Frusciante will see time at cornerback and Zelkowitz, Kelly, senior Vasili Tziolis and junior Zack Speranza will split time at safety.
Heil, Zelkowitz and Kelly will spark the special teams as kickoff and punt returners. Wolf is the place kicker and Heil will do the punting.
"We got a lot of new faces, we practice hard and mesh well together," Bonefant said. "It's hard not to have a lot of veterans but we have good senior leadership and know how to work hard."
Jack Gibson said, "I'm excited. We're working and practicing hard. We hope to have a great season."
Bo Gibson said, "We got a lot of positions to fill and don't know all of our starters, which is a good because it makes us fight harder for playing time. We improved defensively from the first scrimmage. Offensively, we weren't as good but we'll get there."
Overall, Staples is confident about the season
"The goal is compete every day and play for championships," Petroccio said. "We're young and inexperienced and when you're inexperienced, you'll have good days and bad days. We're working on improving and getting consistent."