Tonawanda News — The first day the Tonawanda Warriors stepped foot onto the turf at the new Clinton Small Stadium adjacent to the high school last week, coach Rob Gross didn’t have anything planned for practice. He just wanted his players to get out on the field and soak it all in.
“It’s starting to become reality for all of us as we get on this field and think about actually playing here,” he said. “It would be too cliche and too much of an understatement to say that it’s special.
“This team will experience something that no one else will get to. There is going to be generations of football teams that play on this field but only one team that will be the first one. They’re very proud of that and they feel a responsibility because of that.”
The stadium is new and improved, but the team motto is the same as it’s been since Gross took over four years ago: protect the tradition.
Tonawanda plays its opening game in its inaugural season as a member of the Class C North division today against the JFK Bears, the division’s defending regular season champion.
The Warriors graduated 16 seniors off last season’s 2-7 squad, including eight starters. QB Clayton Hess, the 2012 News football Player of the Year, will be missed on both sides of the ball, but Gross has been grooming his replacement since last season.
Junior Tristan Boling takes over the reins of the Tonawanda offense. He played at wide receiver last year and tied a school record with 34 receptions.
Gross said that in his individual workouts, Boling has spent more time at QB than receiver since the start of camp in 2012. He’s took reps at QB last season and Gross feels he’s ready to lead the Warriors.