TRUMBULL — The Trumbull football team finished at .500 with a majority of senior starters during Marce Petroccio’s debut season at Trumbull.
Can the Eagles improve on that mark with an abundance of first-year players? That is the question hanging over the program this fall.
Coach Marce Petroccio’s initial season at Trumbull played out close to expectations. The Eagles were 0-4 against the teams that qualified for the state playoffs and 5-1 against the rest of the league. A 21-17 loss to Norwalk was the difference in a winning record, but there was an impressive early rout of Fairfield Ludlowe, which would go on to become the FCIAC’s surprise team.
But this year will be the beginning of determining how successful last year was because wins and losses shared the top line on Petroccio’s agenda.
“The kids can now speak the same language the coaching staff speaks,” said Petroccio, who joined his alma mater after leading Staples to its greatest period of winning in program history. “They know how we’re supposed to practice now. They know our expectations. They’ve done a tremendous job. It’s very different. I was very fortunate last year that the seniors who left here set a really good foundation. The kids this year have picked up the torch.”
Last season the Eagles had a veteran team with a new coach. Now the equation has tilted.
“I think it was tough for Coach P coming in the first year because it was a whole new offense and defense,” said Nolan Shay, a receiver and defensive back. “Now all the installation is in so now it’s just executing. The atmosphere is a lot different than it was a year ago.”
There were heavy losses on both sides of the ball for the Eagles, which will make for an interesting dynamic.
“Our senior class is not really big,” Petroccio said. “We have some leaders there and some great football players and at any point in time we could have seven or eight underclassmen on the field at once. They are doing a great job of showing the kids what they should be doing.”
Junior Riley Simpson replaces Colton Nicholas at quarterback. Simpson will be backed up by Hunter Fitzgibbons, who sustained an injury in preseason.
The Eagles’ biggest weapon is Mileeq Green, who is finally healthy. Green is a game breaker who will get touches in a variety of ways.
“Mileeq is going to be a big part of what we do,” Petroccio said. “The best thing about Mileeq is he is going to make teams be honest. You can’t just try to come up with crazy defenses to disrupt the passing game because he’s a threat at running back. He’s a threat as a receiver. He’s the type of kid you are really going to keep an eye on because if you don’t he will burn you.”
Green’s productivity may hinge on the performance of an offensive line that is both inexperienced but big — in size and potential.
“I’m really impressed with them,” said linebacker Cole Smith. “The younger kids are stepping up. This offseason was a huge step.”
The defense is in a similar position.
“We have some young guys who can play,” Petroccio said. “We are excited. Last year we gave up too many big plays.”
Player To Watch
Ray Leonzi. Petroccio is high on Leonzi, a junior H-back, slot receiver and cornerback. Leonzi in two years will be playing baseball at Fairfield University.
“He’s a tremendous athlete,” Petroccio said. “He worked his rear end off in the weight room. He’s a great kid in the classroom and he’s a leader. A real leader. He’s a very impressive kid. You’re going to hear his name quite a bit.”
The Eagles may be the one team in the league whose record will be most impacted by the schedule. It is both demanding — the toughest in the FCIAC if not the state — and bizarre.
Trumbull against must face the four league powers: St. Joseph, New Canaan, Darien and Greenwich. Lets just for argument sake say the Eagles end up losing all four games. To surpass last year’s mark they would have to run the table in their remaining games.
At midseason they go back to back against Danbury, everyone’s preseason sleeper, and Norwalk, which is improved from a year ago, when it defeated the Eagles.
Then there is the way the schedule plays out. The Eagles don’t leave town for the first month. Five of their first six games are at home. And then they turn into road warriors for the final four games.
“We’re going to get better but it is going to be a work in progress,” Petroccio said.
Sept. 13 BRIDGEPORT CENTRAL 7 p.m.
Sept. 20 GREENWICH 7 p.m.
Sept. 27 TRINITY/WRIGHT TECH 7 p.m.
Oct. 4 DARIEN 7 p.m.
Oct. 19 at Danbury 7 p.m.
Oct. 25 NORWALK 1 p.m.
Nov. 1 at Fairfield Ludlowe 6 p.m.
Nov. 8 at New Canaan 7 p.m.
Nov. 16 at Westhill 1 p.m.
Nov. 28 St. Joseph 10:30 a.m.