Wreckers hope to win titles

Winning the FCIAC and Class LL titles are the goals for the Staples football team. Last year, Staples won the FCIAC title and was the Class LL runnerup in compiling a 12-1 record. This year, despite losing so many key players, the team is optimistic it will equal or better last year's success.

"We have great senior leadership and the kids have worked hard in the offseason to make themselves better and the younger kids have rallied around the seniors," Wreckers Coach Marce Petroccio said. "I'm happy with the progress we made. I expect us to compete every week and play hard in every game."

Staples lost eight players who were First Team All-FCIAC selections and who are now playing at college. Quarterback Brandon Pacilio, wide receiver Brendan Rankowitz, tailback Matt Kelly, linebacker Jake Santora, linemen Devin Graber, Connor Bohling and Cody Laszlo and place kicker Santiago Cuartas are the eight All-FCIAC players who the team will especially miss. The Wreckers will also miss Keith Gelman, Ryan Vaughn, Alex Mullin and Jack Ambrose.

One variable that will determine Staples' level of success is the maturation of 6-foot, 2-inch senior starting quarterback Chet Pajolek.

"I think Chet has improved in every scrimmage and we have a stable of running backs and athletes on the field," Petroccio said.

Losing 1,000-yard rusher Ryan Burke to an ACL injury for most of the year (he hopes to be back for the Thanksgiving game against Greenwich) also hurts the Wreckers. Burke, a senior captain this year, formed a lethal backfield with Kelly and they ran on all teams.

"We lose a lot of good kids every year but Coach P figures out how to get past it with new players," senior captain Chris Coyne said. "Chet has the tools to be successful. We lose guys like Kelly and Burke, which hurts, but we have good backs and we hope to get Burke back by Thanksgiving. The one key for us to do well is following our assignments. Coach P can turn average players into All-Staters if they are coachable."

Senior Tyler Jacobs, junior John Heil and sophomore Nick Kelly (Matt's brother) are expected to fill the void left by Burke's injury. Kelly is the backup quarterback. Also expected to see a lot of touches is senior captain fullback Rob Gau.

"It's really tough because I played with the guys for a couple of years and I'd do anything to help out," Burke said. "As far as the compensating for the injury goes, there is no time for tears and we have to step it up."

Starting at wide receiver are seniors Jason Mawicki and Robby Herman. Mawicki transferred to Staples from St. Joseph and will be doing the place kicking and punting for the Wreckers. Senior captains Chris Coyne and Pat Murray will start at tight end.

Petroccio plans on rotating kids in and out on the offensive line. Senior Chris Giunta starts at center and classmate Julian Gendels starts at right guard. Left guard will be manned by seniors Mike Giunta and Andrew Spector and juniors Bo and Jack Gibson. Starting at left tackle is senior Mike Nicklas and at right tackle, senior Zach Ventura will rotate with sophomore Kyle Vaughn.

On the defensive line, Nicklas will rotate at nose tackle with the Giunta twins and Gendels. Coyne and Murray start at tackle and defensive end, respectively. After starting at strong safety for two years, senior captain Matt Yeager starts at outside linebacker. Gau and senior Greg Lewis starts at inside linebacker.

In the secondary, Jacobs starts at safety. Sophomore Josh Kozel and Kelly will rotate at the other safety position. Sophomore Greg Strauss and Herman start at cornerback and sophomore Joey Zelkowitz will also see some playing time in the secondary.

"It should be a good season because we have a lot of returning talent," Murray said. "We have a lot of juniors and sophomores filling in and we have a good senior line."

Gau said, "It should be a great year and I can't wait to have our first game against Trinity Catholic on Sept. 17. We accomplished half of what we wanted to accomplish last year. This year, we hope to win FCIACs and States."

Yeager said, "The most important part of our success is staying unified as a team. We have a lot of team camaraderie and we work well together."