Determined to bring back long-lost pride dave konopki opinion

Two wins in two games is a very nice way to begin a football coaching career.
But Nanticoke head coach Ron Bruza was looking for more than just a few wins when he took over a program that had won just once in the last three seasons. A program that hasn’t posted a winning record in the last decade.
Bruza was looking to bring back a sense of pride.
He was looking to bring back some tradition.
And he’s been able to do both.
“There are a lot of positives right now,” said Bruza, who was hired in February to inject some life into a program that entered this season with almost as many head coaches – four – as wins – eight – in the last seven years.
“Everything is upbeat. From day one, our motto has been for the kids to believe in themselves. Then the rest of the school will believe. Then the community will believe. Then the rest of the conference will believe.”
The Trojans, who started the season with road victories at Montrose and Columbia-Montour Vo-Tech, host Susquehanna (2-0) at 7 p.m. today in their home opener.
A lifelong Nanticoke resident and former Trojan football player and wrestler, Bruza knows all about the rich tradition of Nanticoke sports.
“I can still remember us loading up the car and going to the football games every Friday night,” said Bruza, 29, who teaches fifth grade in the school district. He’s also been an assistant varsity wrestling coach. “I grew up watching Trojan football.”
The 2000 graduate – who played fullback and linebacker on the last Trojan team to make the playoffs – says it’s been difficult watching the program going through its recent struggles.
“Nanticoke is a community that loves its sports,” said Bruza, a former member of the Pennsylvania National Guard who served more than a year in Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom II in 2005. “But the football program lacked a commitment from the players and the community. Losing became an epidemic. We wanted to turn things around.”
That started with Bruza showing the players he cares about them as people – and not just football players.
“They know I’m committed, not only to the program but to them,” he said. “If they have family problems, academic problems, we can help. I’ve tried to show a little compassion. I’ve tried to show a little understanding.”
He also revived a few Trojan football traditions.
The stadium bell – which players touch as they walk single-file into the stadium – is back. The navy blue game uniform pants have also made a return, replacing red ones that were worn in recent years. And new traditions have been started.
Bruza had the words to the school’s alma mater painted inside the team’s locker room. After each game, the players walk over to the marching band and student body to sing the school song.
“Most of the kids didn’t know the words to the alma mater,” he said. “I wanted to bring some pride back to the program and bring back some tradition.
“I love Nanticoke football.”

Positive signs for hard-luck Nanticoke
John Erzar NOTEBOOK - Times Leader

Nanticoke played a football game last Saturday and the 35-point mercy rule nearly took place. That’s really nothing new with Nanticoke football over the past three years, but this case was quite different.
Nanticoke was close to being the perpetrator rather than the victim.
Granted it was against Columbia-Montour Vo-Tech, but early in the third quarter Nanticoke had a 40-12 lead. The Trojans just couldn’t get seven more points to trigger the mercy rule and had to settle for a 40-18 victory.
But considering the state of the program recently, a victory is a victory. And the win gave Nanticoke its first 2-0 start since 2005.
Since opening 2005 with two victories, Nanticoke won only four more times in its next 48 games. The Trojans have been outscored 1,252-179 the last three years, with the mercy rule occurring in a majority of those losses.
The coaching carrousel became both sad and comical. Len Butczynski called it quits after the 2004 season and consecutive 1-9 finishes, citing the lack of players that at times required him to use garbage cans on the field at practice to simulate opponents’ formations.
Then came 1972 grad Bob Colatosti and five wins over three seasons. Like Butczynski, his situation deteriorated. After a 42-16 early season loss to Meyers in 2007, he pulled a sheet of paper from his pocket and read all the problems his program endured during the week. There were so many, he wrote them down so not to miss any. By the way, Meyers led 42-0 midway through the second quarter.
Lou Cella took over in 2008. He brought plenty of enthusiasm and desire, but both were drained quickly.
So now it’s new coach Ron Bruza’s turn. So far, so good. The preseason roster had 35 players, the most in recent years, and the 2-0 start guarantees Nanticoke its best record in four years.
Of course, there will be more losses than wins this year with Susquehanna likely the first to defeat Nanticoke on Friday. And it will take a few more years to be competitive on a weekly basis.
But maybe this time the program can finally see a light – however faint – at the end of the tunnel.

Old-school Trojans crush Meteors in coach’s debut
Mark Robinson - Times Leader

Nanticoke coach Ron Bruza praised his team’s blue-collar work ethic in its 33-12 win over Montrose in a non-league football opener Friday night.
“This was for the kids,” Bruza said. “All they do is come to work every day.”
That work resulted in Nanticoke ending an eight-game losing streak and matching last season’s win total in Bruza’s debut.
It was apparent from the outset that both teams had an old-school mentality.
Montrose never threw a pass and Nanticoke turned to its running game from the start, driving to the Montrose 9 on its first possession. But the drive stalled.
The Trojans appeared to be stalled in Meteors territory again with a fourth-and-9 at the Meteors 35 in the second quarter.
However, Brian Maslowski took off from punt formation, rolled to his left and hit Zak Matulewski for a touchdown with 8:33 left in the half. Jeff Jezewski added the first of his three kicks for a 7-0 lead.
Montrose answered on the ensuing drive. The Meteors moved 72 yards in 10 plays and scored when Brett Johnson ran 37 yards on a quarterback keeper. A fumbled snap ruined the two-point conversion attempt and kept the Trojans in front. 7-6.
Another fumbled snap by Montrose was the first of two turnovers that allowed Nanticoke to score twice in the final minute of the half and break open the game. The Trojans scored in three plays each time.
Josh Decker passed 16 yards to Matulewski, Rob Kotz ran for 9 and Maslowski went 14 yards to score in three plays.
Maslowski, who rushed for 140 yards, added an 8-yard touchdown run after Montrose muffed the kickoff.
“We had a lot of offensive weapons,” Bruza said.
Kotz, Matulewski and Decker contributed to the second-half scoring.
Kotz, who added 64 yards on 12 carries, scored on a 28-yard run less than two minutes into the second half.
Matulewski led the team with four catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns, including a 28-yard score from Decker in the fourth quarter.
Montrose’s other touchdown came late in the third when Isaac Bulkley scored on a 3-yard run.
The Meteors, who were 1-9 last year, dropped their ninth straight.

At a glance
Times Leader

Coach: Ron Bruza (0-0) 1st year
Division: WVC 2A-A
PIAA Class: 2A
Returning starters: 8 offense/8 defense
Male enrollment: 288
School phone: 735-7781
Stadium location: Kosciuszko Street, Nanticoke
Key players lost: Andrew Augustini, OL/LB; Jake Myers, OL/LB
2009 regular-season leaders
PASSING: Zak Matulewski 14-of-67, 178 yds., 1 TD, 11 Ints.
RUSHING: Brian Maslowski 137-534, 3.9 avg., 2 TDs
RECEIVING: Chris Chesla 4-88, 22 avg., 0 TD
SCORING: Brian Maslowski 30 pts.

Fri., Sept. 3 at Montrose 7 p.m.
Sat., Sept. 11 at Col-Mont Vo-Tech 7 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 17 Susquehanna 7 p.m.
Fri., Sept. 24 at Meyers 7 p.m.
Fri., Oct. 1 Wyoming Area 7 p.m.
Fri., Oct. 8 Holy Redeemer 7 p.m.
Fri., Oct. 15 at Northwest 7 p.m.
Fri., Oct. 22 at Lake-Lehman 7 p.m.
Fri., Oct. 29 GAR 7 p.m.
Fri., Nov. 5 Hanover Area 7 p.m.

2009 Results (1-9)
Wyoming Area (2-8)…L 42-6
Columbia-Montour Vo-Tech (5-6)…W 25-8
Meyers (4-7)…L 46-0
Mid Valley (7-4)…L 47-8
Old Forge (10-1)…L 54-0
Northwest (9-4)…L 53-0
Lake-Lehman (4-6)…L 40-12
GAR (8-3)…L 41-12
Holy Redeemer (2-8)…L 26-6
Hanover Area (6-6)…L 35-0

Trojans are looking for a breakthrough
Nanticoke hopes to find success on the field

The first step in rebuilding Nanticoke’s program started three years ago when Ron Bruza took over the junior high program.
In his two years as junior high coach, the varsity team struggled but put another foot forward in 2009 by snapping a 22-game losing streak.
Now, Bruza takes over the varsity with the mindset of winning more than one game, keeping the program moving in the right direction and continuing to build confidence.
“What makes football fun is winning,” the rookie head coach said. “You get a couple wins, things start going our way instead of the other way that could change a game, which could change a season, which could change a program.”
Changing the program begins with the current junior class, which consists of 17 players who were all part of Bruza’s first junior high team. Those players have become dedicated on and off the field and could lead to big things in the future. The entire roster is made up of 35 players, the highest number in recent memory. According to Bruza, the team ended 2009 with just 18 members.
“The kids come to work hard everyday. They want to get better,” said Bruza. “They’re sick of losing. The losing is eating away at them, and they’re putting in the time to do something about it.”
Being a teacher in the school district, Bruza also has a connection with the students some coaches might not possess. In addition to being a teacher, he is assistant wrestling coach and a 2000 grad from the school. All three aspects could be more reasons why he seems to be the perfect fit for the struggling program.
“Working (as teacher) in the school district no matter what the sport is a great aspect to have,” the coach noted. “You keep the kids in line in school. You’re looking out not only for their athletic issue, but their academic issues as well. Keeping them eligible; making sure they’re staying on the right track, things like that.”
Bruza has implemented the Wing-T offense for the Trojans, a change from the teams past. The wing backfield will consist of Edwin Agosto at wingback, Brian Maslowski at fullback and Rob Kotz – who missed the 2009 season – returns at tailback.
Alex Lieby and Joe Badowski return to bolster the offensive line, while Zak Matulewski moves from quarterback to start at receiver. Sophomore Nate Siese and junior Josh Decker are listed as quarterbacks on the team’s roster.
“We have a nice nucleus of young athletes on our offense,” Bruza noted.
Another change for Nanticoke comes on the defensive side of the ball where the unit changes to a 4-3. Bruza said that he plans to use a lot of different fronts, something that might change frequently.
Lieby and Rich Badowski, who have seen significant playing time in the past, anchor the line. In the secondary, Matulewski, Rich Badowski and Edwin Agosto are the main competitors.
“They’ve been handling the changes very good so I think it will benefit the team,” Bruza said. “We’re going to be a lot different than the Nanticoke team in the past. We have a lot of different ideas.”
After several dismal years, the Trojans finally appear to be moving in the right direction. Several of the Trojans’ opponents seem to be in the same rebuilding mode as Nanticoke.
If the Trojans can build confidence early in the year, the win total from 2009 can be tripled or better. Either way, no matter what happens in the next three months, the team is set up for success in 2011 and beyond.