Staples' Petroccio values spring time for young players
WESTPORT -- Scholastic football has evolved into a near 12-month cycle. There is offseason weight training and 7-on-7 tournaments. Lapses, at least in the minds of coaches, can mean an edge for an opponent once August rolls around.
So it could be easy to see how Staples coach Marce Petroccio, with a number of key players absent because of commitments to other sports, would consider the past two weeks partially wasted.
You would be wrong.
"In my opinion, starters right now, while they have to get coached, don't need it the same as the younger players," Petroccio said as he sat in his office Thursday afternoon, on the eve of the Wreckers' annual spring game.
"I'm not concerned if a Joey Zelkowitz is coached up right now," said Petroccio, referring to his star running back and a co-captain, who has missed workouts while playing for the school's lacrosse team. "I'm more concerned about the younger kids not grasping what we do, or the techniques we use."
While schools are now given the option of foregoing spring workouts for added days in the fall, Petroccio said he would never consider altering his schedule.
"I don't know how you can survive without it," Petroccio said. "There is so much technique you go over. So much teaching going on. We don't care if kids are playing baseball or lacrosse. It gives us a chance to really spend time with the younger kids. You can coach without the stress or pressure of a game. Without an FCIAC opponent down the road. You can put in base plays and get back in a football mode."
The Wreckers won their sixth conference title last fall, but fell short of their first state title since 2005.
Though it graduated a number of key players, Staples has eight players back on offense, including the quarterback, four members of the offensive line and three skill players. On defense, there are two linemen, one linebacker and three members of the backfield.
"It's not hard getting back into football," said Greg Strauss, a returning safety and one of the Wreckers' six co-captains. "It's great to be back with your teammates again. You look forward to it."
Another captain, running back Nick Kelly, echoed his coach's sentiments.
"You've got younger kids getting into the program," Kelly said. "Once August comes around you want to be able to go full speed."
The Wreckers rolled through last season unbeaten before running into Xavier in the Class LL final, a 42-7 loss.
Before that game, the fewest points they had scored in a game was 21 -- in the season opener. They scored 35 or more points seven times.
Staples has the potential to be equally explosive this season, with Jack Massie back at quarterback, Zelkowitz and Kelly running the ball and James Frusciante at wide receiver. The line is a major strength.
"We are almost a totally two-platoon system right now," Petroccio said.
Petroccio said the philosophy of Friday night's spring game was simple.
"We want to run our base plays, go after each other, stay healthy and give the younger kids a chance to play."
Petroccio said the only certainty is he will leave the field feeling good about what has been accomplished the past two weeks.
"We even give out all the equipment to get that out of the way," Petroccio said. "This has been good because the young kids had no idea what a varsity practice was like. Our freshmen coaches do a good job, but it's just not the same thing. This is so much more in-depth. You don't have to hurry or rush to get things done."
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Head coach: Marce Petroccio (20th season)
Key returnees: RB Joey Zelkowitz, RB Nick Kelly, QB Jack Massie, WR/CB James Frusciante, OY Kyle Vaughn, S Greg Strauss, DL Pieter Hoets
Spring standout: RB/LB Zach Speranza. "He's done a tremendous job this spring on both sides of the ball, and we're excited to give him the opportunity to get on both sides of the field," Petroccio said. "He's a hard worker, a yes-sir, no-sir kind of kid."
Coach's quote: "It's really good for us having spring football. It is June 8 and we are in football mode now."
-- Dave Ruden