By Matt Parrino
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — North Tonawanda football coach Tony Truilizio’s first year as head Lumberjack was a bit bumpy, as NT finished the season 2-5 and 1-5 in A North.
But after the recent unveiling of the 2013 Section VI football schedule, Truilizio is looking ahead to the upcoming season with excitement and hope.
“We’ve got a year under our belt, and we’re one year older; one year stronger,” he said.
The Jacks only play three home games for the second-straight season. Six of NT’s seven opponents this season will look a bit familiar, as the Jacks battled each one at some point last season. The only new team on the docket is Niagara-Wheatfield on the road in Week 6.
“It’ll be nice because we know what they do a little bit more now,” Truilizio said of the teams on NT’s schedule.
In Week 1 the Jacks open up on the road against Lake Shore, a team NT defeated last season in a consolation playoff game, 33-6.
Then NT hosts Grand Island in Week 2 for its home opener, followed by a trip across town to play Kenmore East in Week 3. The Jacks and Bulldogs played a classic last season that went down to the wire before NT pulled out a late-game comeback victory, 31-28, in front of its home crowd.
The schedule gets tougher as the season progresses, as NT hosts Starpoint in Week 5 (Jacks lost 48-7 to the Spartans last season) and goes on the road to face perennial Class A power Sweet Home in Week 6.
The Jacks finish off their regular season with the 104th annual T-NT game against Tonawanda — this year being played at North Tonawanda.
Truilizio is still adjusting to life on the NT sideline, but he said the biggest adjustments took place last season and now the players know what to expect from the coaching staff.
“I think the biggest part of this is that guys know what to expect from us now in terms of work ethic and what needs to be done,” he said. “They have been working hard this offseason. We have been in the gym every other day since the season was over.”
Because of budget restrictions NT doesn’t employ a strength and conditioning coach, so Truilizio has advised most of his players to get personal trainers to help prepare each one of them for the physical grind of the season. He said that with all the injuries the team suffered last season, he realized that the kids need to be stronger so they are safe on the field.
Running back Christian Mahoe has put on roughly 20 pounds of muscle, which Truilizio said should be huge for the Jacks. Mahoe is slated to split carries with sophomore sensation Nehemiah Stone next season, and the extra muscle should help him stay healthy.
With the departure of wide receiver Ian Gilhousen, Truilizio is hoping a pass catcher or two emerges to help make up for the lost production. He was happy with the way the offense played last season.
“Our system worked great offensively last year,” Truilizio said. “We’ve been doing a lot of offseason training with catching and throwing. I told the guys back in December, two guys have to come out and learn how to catch the ball or we are going to be a Power-I team and option, and that’s going to be horrible because there will be 10 or 11 guys in the box.
“We have a nice guy (quarterback Chris Woodard) delivering the football, but we need guys to catch it; otherwise, we have a Lamborghini with no gas.”North Tonawanda 2013 Football Schedule Week 1 -- at Lake Shore, 6:30 p.m. Week 2 -- Grand Island, 7 p.m. Week 3 -- at Ken East, 7 p.m. Week 4 -- at Sweet Home, 7 p.m. Week 5 -- Starpoint, 7 p.m. Week 6 -- at Nia.-Wheatfield, 7 p.m. Week 7 -- Tonawanda, 7 p.m. Contact sports editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda News sports on Twitter @tonanewssports.