Gloucester football head coach Paul Ingram describes preseason practices as such: “It’s a drudgery.”
Soon enough the Fisherman will embark on their quest to defend their Division IA Super Bowl title.
Is there a chance for a letdown? Not likely.
Are they looking past preparation toward the season ahead? Not so much.
But expectations are high and Ingram’s team has emerged from the summer doldrums focused on the tasks at hand.
In a moment of candor, Ingram remarked to a question related to his defense, “Maybe we can do a little better than we did last year.”
That’s a tall agenda to set for a team coming off a 13-0 season. But Ingram’s answer was an honest response.
He believes in his group — not in a cocky or haughty way — but because he believes in his players. After all, there’s no such thing as perfection. Things can always be better. That can only be accomplished by a group that is not only talented, but innately driven.
“They have the skills,” Ingram said. “We can teach them blocking and all of those things, but they’re the ones who just seem to have the vision to play, the toughness. They work incredibly hard as a group.”
Lately, there just seems to be an endless pipeline of football players who call Gloucester home.
No Conor Ressel? There’s Gilbert Brown to step into the backfield. The senior running back and linebacker runs a 4.6 40; he’s also gotten bigger and stronger entering his final season.
Gus Margiotta was the backbone of the Gloucester offensive and defensive lines in 2009. This year, Anthony Latassa will take over the center position and Bryan Ingersoll fills the hole at nose tackle.
One of the Fishermen’s best players, tight end and defensive end Chris Unis, didn’t even play last year due to an arm injury. But the 6-foot-2, 225-pound senior captain is healthy now and creates a formidable pair of defensive bookends with the athletic 6-foot-4 Andrew Mizzoni.
Maybe there’s something in the water.
Whatever it is, the Fishermen come to compete every year.
“What happens from year to year is that the kids see opening for the upcoming year and know they’re going to get a chance to play or get a good shot at it,” Ingram said. “Every year, we have kids that come into camp and play better than we’d have projected they would.”
Even though his group is focused, Ingram admits it’s easy for them to get caught up in the monotony of two-a-days and summer practices. So they’re itching to get back to meaningful play.
As the hours click away to opening day, Gloucester looks ready to go.
“It’s tough keeping kids focused through it all,” Ingram said, “but I think we’re further along than we’ve been coming back as we have in a long time.”
GLOUCESTER AT A GLANCE
2009: 13-0 (5-0 NEC Large)
Coach: Paul Ingram (eighth year, 71-10)
Players to watch: Chris Unis, Sr., TE/DE, 6-2, 225 lbs.; Andrew Mizzoni, Sr., OT/DE, 6-4, 220 lbs.; Gilbert Brown, RB/LB, 5-11, 185 lbs.; Mike Tomaino, Sr., TE/S, 6-2, 180 lbs.; Anthony Latassa, Sr., C/DL, 6-0, 210 lbs.; Bryan Ingersoll, Sr., NT, 6-2, 250 lbs.
Strengths: Knowledge of offensive and defensive schemes, team unity.
Weaknesses: Experience at quarterback and cornerback.
Outlook: There wasn’t much that could be improved upon from last year’s Super Bowl squad, but the Fishermen will be without a couple of key contributors who have moved on. Brown will take a majority of the carries that Ressel saw last year. Also gone is quarterback Brett Cahill. It will fall to senior Joe Avila to take the reins of the Gloucester Wing-T. “I’d say that he’s won the job so far,” Ingram said. “He has a good arm and he’s really quick. He’s also done a good job of managing the team in practice and managing the game.” Although it will have a slightly different look, the offensive line will have Zach Bettencourt Chris Burke, and Marc Sutera stepping in beside Latassa and Mizzoni. The Fishermen return many of key contributors to last year’s defense. And Ingram likes what he’s seen thus far. “It’s like we never missed a beat from last year. It’s been a lot of fun for the coaches. This has certainly been fun for us because we can install some more advanced looks early because they already know the system.”