By TYLER CADY
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Tonawanda hasn’t beaten its rival to the north since 2000, and Warriors defensive end Steven Warthling needs no reminder.
In his third year with the Warriors, he’s been around the program and experienced the struggles.
When Rob Gross took over as head coach three years ago, he talked about changing the culture of Tonawanda football — Steven Warthling has been the change Gross envisioned.
”I’ll always be grateful to Steven for being one of the guys that set the foundation for this program,” Gross said. “He is the example that the younger guys will follow after he’s gone.”
While Warthling may be a key to long-term success for the program, this year the reigning All-Class B first-team defensive end is looking to end more than a decade of disappointment in the annual rivalry game.
While the Warriors have only managed a 9-15 record over the past three seasons, Warthling has never given up on his team and as a leader he makes sure his teammates know that.
”You have to keep guys going,” Warthling said. “You need to tell them we’re only a couple plays away and keep pushing through and we’ll get the wins.”
Gross is appreciative of that leadership role that Warthling has grown into during his tenure with the Warriors, and he’s received a special thrill out of watching him grow and mature as a young man.
“When you’re 15 years old it’s tough to be sure of yourself in some scenarios, especially as a young guy playing varsity football,” Gross said. “To see someone like Steven not just expand but to be a leader and to dominate — it’s tremendously gratifying and rewarding.”
Warthling has become an additional set of eyes for the coaching staff while on the field for Gross, who takes input on what’s happening from Warthling and others, like fellow senior Tyler Hughes.
”It’s been amazing watching Steven talk about football on a level that seemed unimaginable three years ago,” Gross said. “He makes calls at the line and he makes suggestions to me, even.”