Last year could hardly be called a failure for the Staples football team. The Wreckers went 7-3, reaching the state playoffs before being routed by eventual champion Darien in the opening round.
But coach Marce Petroccio holds his program to the highest standards, the result of five league and three state titles during his 23 years at the school. The trophy case has had no new additions since 2012.
That could change this fall. The Wreckers have their most experienced team in years, one that should compete for the best record in the FCIAC. The lone setback was the news last week that star running back Ethan Burger will sit out this season after suffering a torn ACL in the loss to the Blue Wave.
Staples will have to navigate a tough back-end schedule, but the pieces are in place to handle the challenge.
The Wreckers opted not to have spring practice and started conditioning practice on Monday. We caught up with Petroccio Monday night to discuss the state of the team.
The Ruden Report: You have been pretty upbeat talking to you several times in the past month. Are you a poker player holding a strong hand and not trying to hide it?
Marce Petroccio: We’re excited by the fact that we have a lot of returning starters on the offensive side of the ball. This group is hungry to try to prove something. Not that every other group is not hungry but they just go about it a little bit differently. I think the team chemistry is very good. These kids want to do well. We’re excited for the season to start.
TRR: Even though it is not with pads on is the first day of conditioning a big deal?
MP: We went to some camps and the conditioning today we did extra hard. We conditioned all summer and we put more on the kids and I think they responded well. It’s football and I’m excited that football is back. It seems like yesterday we just played Greenwich and Darien. I’m excited to be back, the coaches are excited to be back, the kids are excited. It’s a great feeling to go to practice every day.
TRR: Other than the injury to Ethan Burger we haven’t heard a lot out of Staples in the offseason. Have there been any major changes?
MP: We did a 7 on 7 in league in Norwalk and we had a lot of success there. What’s going on with our kids is we can take our time now and work on fundamentals. It was strange not having spring football but starting early is good for us. I’m excited to see how we compete. We are going to have a scrimmage with New Canaan, Hand and possibly Southington. We will see exactly where we stand. We have a lot of depth at a lot of positions.
TRR: Not in a cocky way but in recent weeks you have given off an air that you have a lot of confidence in what this team can do. Is that accurate?
MP: I do. Potential is just another word for haven’t done anything yet but listen, I think we have some experience at key positions. We haven’t had that in a while. This senior group with the senior leadership is special. The chemistry is just unbelievable. I have been coaching here 24 years and I can tell when that team has a certain kind of it factor going for it. Unless I am reading this thing wrong, which I could be, I think we are just a different football team than in past years.
We’re excited by the fact that we have a lot of returning starters on the offensive side of the ball. This group is hungry to try to prove something.
TRR: Now that you all have had a little time to digest it what is the feeling about losing Ethan?
MP: Everyone on this team including the staff thought that this could possibly happen. Everyone was prepared for it. There wasn’t a shock factor we just all felt bad for Ethan and what he is going through. He did everything the right way. He’s still part of our program. It’s just an unfortunate thing that the injury happened late in the season. Sometimes they go smooth and sometimes they don’t. He has a tremendous career in lacrosse. The doctor made a suggestion that he shouldn’t play. That’s fine. It’s a tough decision that he and his family had to make, we realize it was hard and we are really going to miss him. It’s really so unfortunate he can’t enjoy his senior year.
TRR: What part of your team right now that we don’t know that much about has the potential to be very strong?
MP: I think defensively we should be better than we’ve been in the past. We have some skill kids, the defensive line is going to be pretty deep. We have six kids to play four positions so we are going to keep moving them around to keep them fresh. The most surprising part for us will be our linebacking corp. They are going to be pretty good. If we play defense against some of these top teams we will have a chance to win.
TRR: You reached the state playoffs so you are not coming off a bad year but you measure success maybe a little differently than some of your colleagues based on what you’ve done in the past. Are you excited about the prospect of getting back to the playoffs and going farther than you did last year?
MP: We talked about the team goals today and one of those goals is getting back to that state championship game. We know it is a long road. There are a lot of good teams out there and a lot of them are in our league.