With a few small tweaks to the coaching staff, a slight adjustment to the offense game plan and the a new defensive scheme, head football coach Dominic Zarrella of the Saugerties Sawyers is optimistic. He believes his players can build on last year’s 7-2 record and maybe take a Section 9 title this year.
Speaking in the Saugerties High School weight room, where more than 20 players have spent time this summer, Zarrella talks about the reasons for his optimism for the coming year. He believes his team will be contenders for a Section 9 title. Halfway through his explanation, a cheer goes up from the players. Running back Jack Hindes has bench pressesed 315 pounds. A smile spreads over Zarrella’s face. This year’s projected star running back accepts his fellow players’ congratulations.
“That’s one of the reasons we have a good chance this year,” Zarrella says.
After a number of years of bad football that culminated in a 0-10 record, Zarrella, also the school’s athletic director, took over the team. In two short years, his team made football a must-see sport in Saugerties.
Last year’s team that surprised not only their opponents in Section 9, but also the fans in Saugerties. Its impressive 7-2 record brought many new supporters from the community.
Much of the success was due to the running of the teamn’s triumvirate of running backs, James Ball, Rob Trincelleto and Jack Hindes. Ball, the leader, and Trincelleto have graduated. It will be up to Hindes to carry the load, something he is looking forward to.
Hindes is a little more than 700 yards shy of reaching 1,000 for his career, a mark he believes he will be able to hit with the help of his offensive line. “I just can’t wait,” says Hindes who has grown to six feet two and has added ten more pounds of muscle. He’ll be hard for opposing players to bring down. He weighs 210 pounds.
“This is going to be a big year for us,” he says. “We have high expectations, and our offensive line is going to help take us there.”
New fullback Anthony “T.O.” Owens played only linebacker last year. “We’re moving T.O. into the fullback position,” Zarrella said, “but he’ll still play linebacker as well.”
“T.O. is going to be awesome as a fullback,” Hindes said. “He’ll be my lead blocker, but also get the ball in short-yardage situations.”
Owens is looking forward to his new position assignment. The hardnosed young man wants to continue to do what he does best as a linebacker, and that’s “hitting people.” Instead of being involved only on the defensive side of the ball, though, “it’s going to be great playing offense as well.”
With two of his big three running backs gone, Zarrella says he’s changing the offense a little. “We’ll still play some pro-sets, but we will also be playing a read-option offense as well,” Zarrella says.
When now-senior Matt Bucci took over the offense as quarterback last year, most of the time his first thought was for him to run. As a running quarterback he scored a number of touchdowns.
This year, Zarrella is hoping that Bucci will throw the ball a little more. “When he sets his feet to throw, he has a good arm,” Zarrella said. “We’re just trying to teach him that when he rolls out he doesn’t always have to run, that he can throw the ball as well, and part of that is working with him to read the defense better.”
A lot of the team’s success last year was its defensive play. Some lapses in defense were costly to the Sawyers, however. Opponents were able to make long gains with passes over the middle. Zarrella said the team is switching to a 4-4 and a 3-4 scheme with four or three down linemen, and four linebackers to stop other teams from springing receivers loose in the middle of the field.
In addition to changes in the play schemes, Zarrella has also made two coaching changes. Nick Bernard, who was the defense coach, has been moved to line coach. Drew Carpino, still the team’s strength and conditioning coach, is taking over the reins of the defense.
“It’s going to be a fun year, but after our success last year we’re not going to surprise any teams,” Zarrella predicted. “But I am looking forward to making it to the sectional championships.”