The Staples football team began training camp this week with the same expectations that have surrounded the program since head coach Marce Petroccio's arrival 22 years ago.
There was one notable absence from proceedings, however. The departure of former standout quarterback Jack Massie has left a colossal void at the most important position on the field.
It's a void that incumbent starter Teddy Coogan poised to fill.
Because most football players have a short career with the varsity team Petroccio is still adjusting to life without Massie.
"I got a full dose of (reality) in spring ball," Petroccio said. "(Massie) was basically a three-and-a-half year starter; all of a sudden it's different. It's a little strange; I'd been looking at his face in the huddle for a while."
Massie's first appearance under center came in a relief effort on Oct 30, 2010. Massie spent the next three-plus years carving out a long-lasting legacy in Wreckers colors.
"We've had some great (quarterbacks) and he's right up there," Petroccio said. "The great thing about Jack was no matter how much he got hit, he always got back up. He was a tremendous competitor."
Massie, who accounted for 76 touchdowns in his four-year varsity career, threw for 5,014 yards and rushed for 1,741 more in 41 games as he led Staples to back-to-back FCIAC titles in 2011 and 2012. The Wreckers posted a 29-8 record in Massie's 37 starts.
Petroccio is confident Coogan has all the tools to follow in Massie's footsteps. Coogan, a senior, played in the Westport PAL system as a youth. Petroccio first spotted Coogan at a football camp in sixth grade.
Coogan was used primarily as a wide receiver and defensive back last year and moved to quarterback at the end of blowout victories. Fellow senior Trevor Shearer will spell Coogan and the pair may be on the field in the same time in certain formations, according to Petroccio.
"I think (Coogan) will be fine, he played a lot last year; he's been in the mix," Petroccio said. "Honestly I think he's been dying for this opportunity. I don't think there's any pressure, more anticipation."
Coogan will line up with two new starters in the backfield as well. Leading rushers Patrick Lesch and Jack Greenwald have graduated and Petroccio plans to use a running back-by-committee initially. Tyler Tsang, Owen Burke, Jack Griffin, Charles Lomanto, Connor Adrian and Ethan Burger are all in the mix for carries.
"Coogan has done a great job in the offseason," Petroccio said. "He's a little bit faster than (Massie). He's a tremendous, dynamic player and we're looking forward to unleashing him on the league.
"He's a great leader; he'll follow in Jack's footsteps that way. He adds an added dimension as a running back. Right now we really are working on getting his accuracy down; he's got a great arm."
Petroccio was recently voted into the Connecticut High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony will take place Nov. 20 in Southington. Petroccio owns a 185-56 record in his time in Westport and has coached the sport for 33 years.
"It was tremendous, I was in shock to be honest," Petroccio said. "I'm humbled by the honor; it's an honor where a lot of people deserve credit. I share with it my wife and my children who sacrificed and allowed me to do this."