Tricarico, Fitton give Staples strong kicking game
If the Staples football team finds itself in close games where field position and special teams are the difference between winning and losing, the odds of those game tilting in the Wreckers favor are pretty high.
Owning the best kicker-punter combination in the state is one of the main reasons why.
Senior Paul Tricarico is coming off a season in which he tied the state record for most made field goals, and junior Ryan Fitton has a powerful leg capable of producing 50-yard punts. Tricarico went 12-for-17 last season on field goals and converted 37-of-38 PAT attempts, and Fitton consistently pinned opposing defenses deep in their own territory.
“They are phenomenal and they’ve worked hard this summer to make themselves better,” Staples coach Marce Petroccio said. “Who in the state has a punter and a kicker like that? We really like the two we have.”
Tricarico stopped playing soccer after his sophomore season, and was unsure whether his athletic career would continue. A friend asked him if he had ever tried kicking a football, and when he hadn’t a practice was scheduled with Tricarico and assistant coach Jesse McCray.
“I didn’t know if I was doing well or not, coach McCray isn’t much of a talker,” Tricarico recalled. “After about an hour they brought me back in and he said he’s our new starting kicker. I was like, ‘I guess so.’”
This came just two days before Staples’ 2013 opener with Xavier, leaving little time for Tricarico to prepare his new duties.
“I was confused as to whether I would be playing, and when it was time for the kickoff they said ‘Tricarico you’re in.,’” Tricarico said. “It was my first time ever putting a helmet on. I kicked off and actually had to make a tackle; it was less of a tackle and more of him hitting me and tripping over my body.”
Tricarico mainly focused on kickoffs that season before taking off full-time kick duties in 2014. His 12 makes tied a state record with former Staples standout Santiago Cuartas, and a 48-yard kick against Trumbull was a school record.
“I didn’t really see how long of a kick it was because I remember being there and coach yelling go,” Tricarico said. “I remember kicking it and going in; I was pretty excited; I was happy having a school record.”
Now Tricarico practices with a kicking coach and is looking to kick in college.
“It’s pretty crazy and lucky,” Tricarico said. “I’m happy I made the switch to football; it was definitely something that came really fast and instatntly loved and wanted to more and pursue.
While Tricarico has made kicking a full-time passion, Fitton’s role as a punter is secondary. The 6-foot-5, 230 pound tight end who will add pass rusher to his resume this season understands the role changing field position has on the game.
“For me it’s definitely big for the defense,” Fitton said. “If I can get it really far downfield; instead of going 40 yards, it’s 60 and that’s big for them. With the offense not being as close they can stop them from scoring points.”
“Usually the best punters are the best athletes,” Petroccio added.
Fitton had a 68-yard punt against Bridgeport Central, among the 20 longest kicks in state history. The baseball pitcher hones the kicking skill weekly.
“There’s a lot of technique, I remember doing it in the spring during baseball and I wasn’t punting too good,” Fitton said. “Once you get all your technique down, you remember where to drop it, how high and where you put it on your foot.”
With the rushing attack generating most of the offense, Fitton caught 15 passes at tight end in 2014. His last game was his finest though, hauling a pair of touchdowns in a Thanksgiving win over Greenwich. Fitton is being recruited by several FCS and FBS schools to play tight end. He shares the No. 87 jersey number with Patriots star Rob Gronkowski.
Fitton also played defensive line in middle school and will look to add an element to the Wreckers pass rush this fall. One of the best athletes on the team, he will be tested to fit a variety of roles the coaching staff has for him.
“The fact that he’s only a junior; he’s a great athlete,” Petroccio said. “He can punt, he’s worked hard on his blocking and his receiving skills and we’ll see if he can play a little defense this year.”