From the day Marce Petroccio resigned as coach back in January, no FCIAC team has had to contend with more distractions than Staples. The players were without a coach until early June. Then, in the preseason, an assistant was suspended in a dispute that was not settled until last week.
Through it all, the players persevered.
That focus has been rewarded with a 2-0 start following Friday’s 37-12 win over Wilton.
“They’re great. They’re into football, they are asking for more and more,” said Phil Treglia, the former Archbishop Stepinac offensive coordinator hired to replace Petroccio, who in 25 years had built the program into one of the most respected in the state. “These are easy kids to coach. Players who are self-motivated, who are smart, who love the game. It is easy to be a coach when you have players like that.”
Led by a strong defensive front and an offense that so far has performed well, the Wreckers have shown great resiliency.
“We’re doing what we’re supposed to be doing, the kids are playing well, there’s still a lot of areas for improvement and that’s what we’re focusing on in practice,” Treglia said. “We had a nice start so far.”
In a game against an opponent that also won its opener behind a first-year coach, the Wreckers jumped on Wilton early and built a 31-0 lead. Perhaps most satisfying was the contributions that came from a number of players.
The defense, as expected, has flourished behind linemen George Harrington and Blake Runkle and linebacker Cole Blackwell.
“I think our defense has been playing well,” Treglia said. “Running to the ball and tackling as a unit. That’s what we’re trying to teach. We’re just trying to do our assignments. We have a strong front seven and that’s been helpful.”
On offense, new quarterback Jake Thaw threw for two touchdowns and ran for another against Wilton. Kevin Rabacs, the team’s most dangerous offensive weapon, scored on a long play and Tim Luciano is off to a good start at running back.
“On offense we’re taking care of the football and trying to take what the defense is giving us,” Treglia said. “Our offensive line is coming together. They’re gelling. That’s No. 1. Our quarterback is playing well. We have a lot of different players touching the ball so we’re spreading the ball out. It has been working so far.”
Treglia said he has been impressed by the mettle the Wreckers have displayed both on and off the field. The loss of Petroccio was shocking and then the delay in finding his replacement proved a source of frustration.
Late in training camp, an assistant coach was suspended while school administrators looked into a pair of allegations. He will be allowed to return on Saturday, a day after the Wreckers play Brien McMahon.
“They’re laser focused on football,” Treglia said. “The kids are great. All that other stuff is for the adults. The kids just want to have fun and play football. Friday night lights, that’s what it is all about.”
Treglia said there are still areas where he would like to see improvement.
“We left some points on the field so we always want to work on execution,” Treglia said. “Just refining that in practice.”
Staples’ biggest issue again will be the schedule. It has jumped out to hot starts the last few years and then slumped in the second half, solely because the opposition was simply superior. The Wreckers still have to play Darien, St. Joseph and Greenwich, where they will be heavy underdogs.
“When adversity hits we will see how we respond, and that’s how we’ll know what type of team we have,” Treglia said. “We still have to get better each week. That’s what we’re focusing on. Just ourselves. We’re just taking it really one day at a time, one game at a time. We have to play who’s on our schedule. We don’t have any control over that. We just focus on ourselves and what we can control. Right now we have McMahon and that’s what we’re focusing on.”
— It is hard to imagine there will be a worse weekend in the FCIAC then this past one. Take away Bridgeport Central’s non-league loss and the average margin of victory in the eight games was 36 points. Staples’ 25-point win over Wilton was the closest game. Clocks were running everywhere in the second half.
Part of the problem is the increased polarization. There are four state playoff contenders, about a half dozen weak teams and a middle class that will shake itself out as the season goes on.
— One promising trend: students seem to be coming out to support their schools again. Ridgefield had a huge crowd for its home opener against Stamford. Two weeks ago St. Joseph brought a lot of fans out for the showdown with New Canaan. Darien and New Canaan drew well for their home openers.
And that is just touching on some of the schools I am aware of. Hopefully this will continue throughout the year. I have encountered a few of the leaders for their student fan bases and there appears to be a much greater level of enthusiasm.
1. Greenwich (2-0). The best aspect of the Cardinals’ rout of Trinity Catholic was the reduction in penalties. Right now it is all systems go.
2. St. Joseph (2-0). Two weeks after being No. 3 in the state poll and getting a visit from the No. 1 team, the Cadets are No. 1 and getting a visit from No. 3 Darien.
3. Darien (2-0). The Blue Wave get their first big test of the season. A win at St. Joseph would certainly be an answer to those who think they will take a slight dip this fall.
4. New Canaan (1-1). The Rams rebounded from their season-opening loss by toppling Danbury. Hopefully the increase in penalties will prove an aberration.
5. Norwalk (2-0). Norwalk or Staples? The Wreckers had the better win this week, but the Bears did nothing with their decisive victory over Westhill to drop from this spot.