WESTPORT — The Staples football team opens the season with a new coach for the second straight year. Phil Treglia, citing travel issues from Westchester, resigned after leading the Wreckers to a 7-3 record.
Forced to again make a hire up against spring practice, the school has turned to Adam Behrends from the IMG program in Florida.
Behrends is just one of many new faces as the Wreckers were hit hard by graduation, especially on defense.
Despite having a new coach hired late in the spring and a number of logistical issues, the Wreckers were the best team in the FCIAC outside of the four state playoff entrants. Their wins were comfortable, the closest by 18 and the biggest by 31 points.
Staples was shut out both by Darien and Greenwich. The game it would like to have back was a 17-14 loss to eventual Class M champion St. Joseph, a defensive struggle that could have gone either way.
“I think we had a great season last year but we’re trying not to think about last season,” said Jake Thaw, who was the Wreckers’ quarterback. “The goals are 10-0. That’s what we say every time we step on the field, 1-0 every time we step on the field. I think the key is we have to come out and play clean football, play together and I’m really confident about our chances.”
After visiting a conditioning session last week, what stood out most to me was the energy. Players were bouncing around as if on trampolines, urged on by Behrends, who was reveling in his first head coaching job.
“It has been nice not having to get guys going,” Behrends said. “They just show up and they’re ready. They are all fired up about playing football. It has been fun. We have hard-working kids.”
Thaw, who will be making the biggest transition, said thus far there has been a different feeling during practices.
“It’s been awesome,” Thaw said. “Coach Adam brings great enthusiasm and it spreads across the board. You saw that today. We have a bunch of characters on our team and we’re a really close-knit team. It has just been a blast so far. I think we’ve always had a lot of enthusiasm in the past. Last year was a really close-knit group as well. There’s something about this year that just feels special. It has been really good.”
Right now the plan is to move Thaw from full-time quarterback duties and have him play both receiver and in the secondary.
“We can bounce him around at a multitude of positions on offense and on defense as well,” Behrends said. “We’ll probably put him at safety where I know he’s a guy that can lock somebody up. He brings a lot of value there. He’s got a strong arm, good footwork and he can obviously pull the ball down and run.”
Jackson Zager, who moved back to Westport after time at IMG, and Kyle Chamberlin are contending for the quarterback spot.
“Sophomore year I was a receiver and defensive back so it’s nice to kind of get back to that while also throwing the ball, and we have a bunch of good quarterbacks,” Thaw said. “It has been good to get the ball in a bunch of different facets and be a big part of the offense.”
The Wreckers will be big on the lines, led by Harvard commit Jake Rizy and Sam Milberg, who are back. But there are many new starters, especially on what was a solid defense.
Player To Watch
Nick Armentano. The Wreckers had more yards on the ground than through the air last season. Depth at receiver was an issue.
Behrends hopes that problem will be solved in part by the addition of Armentano, a player no one outside of Westport is familiar with.
“He’s a kid that was really valuable to the freshman team last year,” Behrends said. “He’s a little firecracker at receiver. He can scoot, he can jump, he’s already made a couple of good catches.”
The Wreckers have one of the league’s most difficult schedules. They face Ridgefield early, then New Canaan, St. Joseph, Greenwich and non-league power North Haven are among the final six opponents.
With so many unknowns, it is hard to assess how Staples is equipped to navigate this difficult path. There is uncertainty at quarterback and on defense. Will other playmakers step up so defenses can’t focus so much on containing Thaw? And Behrends’ coaching style remains to be seen.
“I think it is just going to come down to discipline and doing things the right way,” Behrends said. “I think the talent is there. These kids have the ability. They’ve shown what they’re capable of.”
One thing is certain. If teams are judged by positive mojo, the Wreckers will finish high in the standings.
Sept. 13 at Stamford 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 NEW BRITAIN (at Norwalk) 6 p.m.
Sept. 27 RIDGEFIELD 7 p.m.
Oct. 4 at McMahon 7 p.m.
Oct. 18 at North Haven 7 p.m.
Oct. 25 NEW CANAAN 7 p.m.
Nov. 1 at Wilton 7 p.m.
Nov. 8 FAIRFIELD WARDE 7 p.m.
Nov. 16 at St. Joseph 1:30 p.m.
Nov. 28 GREENWICH 10 a.m.