Tonawanda News — North Tonawanda football coach Tony Truilizio thought he knew what he was getting into as he prepared for his first-ever T-NT Classic last season.
But now, looking back, the second-year coach said he had no idea.
“When I looked into the stands after the game started, and I looked and it was surrounded with blue and red on one side and burgundy and white on the other side — that’s when I knew,” he said. “There was no parking, and truthfully my wife had to get an escort in. That’s high school football at its best right there. I wish every game was that packed and surrounded. But it was exciting to be in that game. That’s when it was like, ‘holy cow’ for me.”
This season, as the rivalry shifts back across the canal to George Vetter Stadium, Truilizio knows exactly what to expect and what the rivalry means.
“I’m a little bit more prepared and I know what to expect now,” he said. “I didn’t realize — and I’m not saying that negatively, people say ‘you knew about it’ — but now I know. It’s not a deer in the headlight type of situation. I know what it means to the community.”
Truilizio has been making his presence felt in the community ever since he took the job. He started with his players, the people he had direct contact with, to build a relationship based on trust and respect.
NT lineman Ryan Osborn’s victory over cancer wasn’t lost on Truilziio when he took over, and he’s made sure his players and coaches support each other in everything they do, on and off the field. It’s why there were over 30 member of the NT football team at a recent fashion show at Salvatore’s fundraiser for Camp Good Days and Special Times, which is a not for profit dedicated to improving the quality of life for children, adults and families dealing with cancer.
Truilizio said he is grateful for the way the team embraced him and made him feel like a member of the community.
“I see more and more faces, but what’s funny is more and more people are recognizing who I am,” he said. “I realize now that there is something invested between myself and the community. The community is really positive and I’ve heard that throughout the season, even when we’ve struggled. It’s a warmer feeling than last year.
“The charity event we did we did out of our hearts. That’s just the type of team we have and that’s the type of team North Tonawanda has. They are wonderful kids who step up to the plate when they’re asked to, and they don’t ask questions. It shows what this community and this team is about.”
As far as the game goes, Truilizio is expecting a fight from the Warriors. He saw first hand how much they want to win last season, but he said his team always kept its composure and that’s something he’ll expect out of the Jacks again this season — no matter what happens.
“For us it was steady as you go. We didn’t think about the scoreboard because we don’t look at it,” he said. “When you’re down 35-7 you ask what’s going on, but either team can win. You even go back to our game against Starpoint — we’re up 28-0 and they score and now they get it back on onside kick, they can go down and score and make it 28-14.”
The Jacks are approaching the T-NT game like any other game — as much as that’s possible anyway. Truilizio knows the Warriors aren’t going to lay down.
“You go into a game thinking you won, and you’re done. You can’t stop and you can’t take your foot off the pedal,” he said. “They have some threats this year and we’re taking them very seriously.”Find @tonanewssports and sports editor @MattParrino on Twitter for complete high school sports coverage.