Their spring and summer workouts were supplemented by trips to board meetings and heated discussions over who would coach the team come fall. For the Horace Greeley players, enough was enough.
“During the whole summer, the politics made me sick,” junior captain Billy Marino said. “To be able to just play football again was really great.”
The Quakers returned to normalcy for the first day of practice, albeit without longtime Bill Tribou, who has been suspended from school for an undisclosed violation. Tim Sullivan, Tribou’s assistant for 17 seasons, stepped in as the interim coach and nearly two weeks since the start of camp, has kept the program humming by changing little.
“We’re on track,” Sullivan said.
Of course, Greeley camp was decidedly quieter without Tribou around Tuesday afternoon. But the team will remain remarkably similar under Sullivan. He’ll stick to the same general offensive and defensive schemes of his predecessor.
“I’d be stupid if I didn’t do a lot of the things he did,” Sullivan said. “He was my mentor. I learned a lot from him.”
Even if Tribou had returned, Greeley would be in line for retooling. The team that reached the 2010 Class A championship game is almost all gone. Key linemen graduated following that season; now, the Quakers must replace three-year QB Justin Ciero, a two-time Super 11 selection.
Ciero’s replacement is junior QB Brett Mester, who Sullivan said was smart, focused and capable of running and passing. He’ll be joined in the backfield by two returning starters in senior captains Cory Ekstrom and Teddy Graves.
(Ciero’s younger brother, Cameron, who was a freshman backup QB on the varsity last season, is now on the JV.)
When I asked Sullivan how the Greeley would counteract the loss of Ciero’s production, the answer was simple: “We’re going to use the whole offense,” he said.
Translation? Just be more balanced.
“We have a lot of offensive weapons,” Graves said. “Teams are going to have to pick their poison against us. You can’t just focus on one player.”
Luckily, the team’s strength might be its offensive line. What proved to be a young group last year is now an experienced one. Marino, in his third year of varsity, has been able to shift from C to TE. Fellow captain Brent Lobien is back at T, and Nick Paleo and Tim Bloom anchor the middle of a senior-heavy line.
Marino, Lobien and Paleo should all start at LB. DBs Graves and Ekstrom will join them as two-way starers. Sophomore Will Rothchild, who Sullivan deemed “an animal,” will head the rotation up front on defense.
The players on Greeley know they aren’t known throughout the section. Take that for what it’s worth, but they hope to use that anonymity and lowered expectations to their advantage.
“Everyone’s counting us out,” Marino said. “Everyone’s wondering, who are they going to be without Tribou? Who are they going to be without Justin?”
“We’re going to surprise a lot of teams,” Graves said.