By Matt Parrino firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — The North Tonawanda football team and its brand new coach Tony Truilizio barely had time for introductions before the start of last season.
Truilizio was hired in March and didn’t finish filling out his coaching staff until late May. He then had only a few short months to get to know his players and implement his system. Offseason training and conditioning took a back seat and by the start of the season four starters had suffered major injuries and the Lumberjacks stumbled to a 2-5 record before winning their final two games in the Chuck Funke Bowl Series postseason tournament.
This year has already been much different for NT.
“We had a strong offseason with a lot of guys showing a dedication to the program,” said senior lineman Ryan Osborn. “There’s been a lot more camaraderie between the players and there is a lot more faith in the system after a couple of switches between coaches.”
Osborn and Truilizio both said that the familiarity between players and coaches has been evident by the cohesiveness of both the offense and defense throughout camp and in the team’s scrimmage.
The Jacks also enter the 2013 season with only one serious injury, but that one injury will have a big impact on both sides of the ball. Junior running back Nehemiah Stone suffered a strained ACL injury early in camp and is expected to be out until Week 3, which is good news for Truilizio and NT because early rumors were that Stone would be unavailable this season.
Truilizio said Stone is a big contributor for the Jacks and his explosive running ability will be missed until he returns.
“He’s a game changer. Nehemiah is a tremendous athlete for us and I think he’s an All-Western New York player,” Truilizio said. “Not having him on both offense and defense, you’ll notice a difference there.”
But in Stone’s absence, senior Christian Mahoe and Junior Tyjier Brandy, a JV standout last season, have proved to be capable replacements. Mahoe began last season as the Jacks’ starter before running into some injury issues later in the season. Truilizio also expects young speedster Cody Sikora to make an impact once he gets comfortable playing varsity football.
Returning under center is Chris Woodard, who brings a talented all-around package to the quarterback position for the Jacks. He threw for 684 yards and five touchdowns, while rushing for 333 yards.
Truilizio said he has already noticed the development of Woodard over the course of the offseason and especially in the film of the team’s scrimmage. He called Woodard a “high-caliber player.”
“He is smart, has great footwork and, in my opinion right now, he could be a Division 1 quarterback as a junior,” Truilizio said. “Colleges have to start looking at him, he’s that good. He needs to stay healthy and I think he’ll be competing for some All-Western New York stats.”
Truilizio loves Woodard’s leadership abilities and thinks he has the total package as a football player.
Woodard said last season provided the necessary experience for him to grow as a player. He has adjusted to the speed of the game and now is confident in his ability to see the play before it happens and react naturally to everything the defense throws at him.
“I come up to the line and I already know what’s going to happen from the defense, where as last year it was more confusing,” he said. “We know the plays more and I think that helps a lot too.”
“Last year when I didn’t see my first read I’d take off and run. This year I’ve gotten better at looking through my second and third read, and if they’re not there, checking down to my running back. I think that’s going to help us a lot more in the passing game.”
At the point of contact the Jacks normally strong on the line, and Truilizio hopes a young offensive line will be able to continue that tradition. Osborn and junior Alex Molik return as starters on the line and both have stepped into leadership roles after watching Jacob Clare, Chris Mellott and Taylor Eckstein graduate last June.
The running game was the shining jewel of the NT program last year, but wide receiver Ian Gilhousen made his share of big plays. Going into this season Truilizio expressed some concern as to who was going to pick up the load in the passing game.
Andrew Krantz has eased his coach’s reservations.
“I’ve been pleasantly shocked with Krantz, who is making some tremendous catches as a junior,” Truilizio said. “He played JV last year and he’s really helping us on offense. We have another group of guys that are fighting for that No. 2 position — (Jake Ferry), Anthony Tripi, Ryan McDonough and Nate Wilkerson.”
The defense is led by Mellott, who made his presence felt as only a sophomore last season. He is a hard-hitting linebacker with great field vision, Truilizio said. Brandy and Mahoe will line up at cornerback and Truilizio believes the Jacks will be better against the run because of the speed on the outside and in the secondary.
The Jacks open up tonight against Lake Shore, a team they beat, 33-6, in last season’s finale.
“I’m not taking Lake Shore lightly at all,” Truilizio said. “They have a new coach and a new attitude, and they will remember last year’s game and that’s enough said about them. They’re a respectable team. ... They changed their offense, but I expect them to power the ball and try to hold on to the ball. We’ve been preparing for them as a double wing team and hopefully we’re ready.”
Find Tonawanda News sports @tonanewssports and the sports editor @MattParrino on Twitter for complete high school sports coverage.2013 Lumberjacks HEAD COACH: Tony Truilizio 2012 RECORD: 4-5 KEY PLAYERS: Nehemiah Stone, Jr. RB, Chris Woodard, Jr. QB, Alex Molik, Jr. OL/DL, Taylor Mellott, Jr. LB/OL, Ryan Osborn, Sr. OL. KEY LOSSES: Ian Gilhousen, WR, Luke Topalski, DB, Jacob Clare, OL, Chris Mellott, DL/OL, Taylor Eckstein, OL. NT 2013 Schedule 9/6 at Lake Shore 6:30 p.m 9/13 Grand Island 7 p.m. 9/21 at Ken East 2 p.m. 9/28 at Sweet Home 2 p.m. 10/4 Starpoint 7 p.m. 10/12 at Nia-Wheatfield 2 p.m. 10/18 Tonawanda 6 p.m.