By MATT PARRINO
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Ian Gilhousen watched with youthful wonder when the Lumberjacks won the state championship.
He was only a freshman, but what he saw gave him hope. He always knew he’d be an impact player for the North Tonawanda football team — he’s been playing football since he was 6 — but seeing what that team accomplished motivated him.
The 2012 Jacks are inexperienced and Gilhousen is the only returning starter on defense from a year ago. He didn’t even think twice about stepping into a leadership role with the team because he likes setting an example for the younger players. He wants to give them something the 2009 seniors gave him.
“It’s a good task and I like taking it on,” Gilhousen said. “Between football and basketball I’m one of a handful of seniors and it’s definitely something I like taking a hold of — I like being a leader. I like setting an example for the younger kids and helping to show them what to expect when they get in my shoes.”
When new coach Tony Truilizio started, he was in search of a few players that could help him mesh with the team. He was an outsider and needed the Jacks to hear his message.
Gilhousen became one of those players.
“Not knowing anybody as a new coach, Ian did step up and was sort of the bridge between myself and the team,” Truilizio said. “He has a strong personality and he’s a really good kid.”
Gilhousen had a defensive coming out party in the Jacks’ Week 2 loss against Grand Island. Truilizio moved the 6-foot-3 cornerback to linebacker last week to help fill in for injured players.
Ten solo tackles later, Gilhousen has emerged as the most dominant man on the defensive side of the ball for the Jacks.
Gilhousen played some safety last year and had a few big games on both sides of the ball. He specifically remembers the game against Starpoint (a 7-0 victory for the Jacks) when he scored the team’s only touchdown and secured a victory with a late-game interception.
Truilizio said he’s excited to see what Gilhousen is capable of in his new role, especially as he builds more confidence on the defensive side.
“He’s been a phenomenal asset to the defense,” Truilizio said. “I think he’s a heck of a defensive player. ... That just shows what kind of athlete he is.”
Playing offense, defense and special teams has been an adjustment for Gilhousen, who said his body is worn down by the end of a game. But he’s added that to his list of challenges and is looking to become a better player because of the increased time on the field.
In this his final season, Gilhousen has been maintaining a mantra and a mission for his team. He’s hoping those around him have taken note and are ready to win a few more games before he graduates.
“I tell them to go hard and to not give up,” Gilhousen said. “Every game, even a loss — we can learn something and we have to take what we did good out of every game and apply it the next week. Keep getting better and don’t settle for anything but being the best.”