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 hasnt
posted a winning record in the last decade.
Bruza was looking to bring back a sense of
He was looking to bring back some tradition.
And hes 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. Hes
also been an assistant varsity wrestling coach. I grew up watching
The 2000 graduate who played fullback
and linebacker on the last Trojan team to make the playoffs
says its been difficult watching the program going through its
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 Im committed, not only
to the program but to them, he said. If they have family
problems, academic problems, we can help. Ive tried to show
a little compassion. Ive 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 schools alma
mater painted inside the teams 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 didnt 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
played a football game last Saturday and the 35-point mercy rule nearly took place.
Thats 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.
it was against Columbia-Montour Vo-Tech, but early in the third quarter Nanticoke
had a 40-12 lead. The Trojans just couldnt get seven more points to trigger
the mercy rule and had to settle for a 40-18 victory.
considering the state of the program recently, a victory is a victory. And the
win gave Nanticoke its first 2-0 start since 2005.
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.
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
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.
took over in 2008. He brought plenty of enthusiasm and desire, but both were drained
So now its new coach Ron Bruzas
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.
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
Trojans crush Meteors in coachs debut
Robinson - Times Leader
Nanticoke coach Ron Bruza
praised his teams blue-collar work ethic in its 33-12 win over Montrose
in a non-league football opener Friday night.
was for the kids, Bruza said. All they do is come to work every day.
work resulted in Nanticoke ending an eight-game losing streak and matching last
seasons win total in Bruzas debut.
apparent from the outset that both teams had an old-school mentality.
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.
Trojans appeared to be stalled in Meteors territory again with a fourth-and-9
at the Meteors 35 in the second quarter.
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.
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.
had a lot of offensive weapons, Bruza said.
Matulewski and Decker contributed to the second-half scoring.
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.
Montroses other touchdown
came late in the third when Isaac Bulkley scored on a 3-yard run.
Meteors, who were 1-9 last year, dropped their ninth straight.
At a glance
Coach: Ron Bruza (0-0) 1st
Division: WVC 2A-A
Returning starters: 8 offense/8 defense
School phone: 735-7781
location: Kosciuszko Street, Nanticoke
Key players lost:
Andrew Augustini, OL/LB; Jake Myers, OL/LB
2009 regular-season leaders
Zak Matulewski 14-of-67, 178 yds., 1 TD, 11 Ints.
Brian Maslowski 137-534, 3.9 avg., 2 TDs
Chris Chesla 4-88, 22 avg., 0 TD
SCORING: Brian Maslowski
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.
24 at Meyers 7 p.m.
Fri., Oct. 1 Wyoming Area 7 p.m.
Fri., Oct. 8 Holy Redeemer
Fri., Oct. 15 at Northwest 7 p.m.
Fri., Oct. 22 at Lake-Lehman 7
Fri., Oct. 29 GAR 7 p.m.
Fri., Nov. 5 Hanover Area 7 p.m.
Wyoming Area (2-8)
Old Forge (10-1)
Holy Redeemer (2-8)
are looking for a breakthrough
Nanticoke hopes to find success on the field
first step in rebuilding Nanticokes program started three years ago when
Ron Bruza took over the junior high program.
two years as junior high coach, the varsity team struggled but put another foot
forward in 2009 by snapping a 22-game losing streak.
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.
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.
the program begins with the current junior class, which consists of 17 players
who were all part of Bruzas 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.
kids come to work hard everyday. They want to get better, said Bruza. Theyre
sick of losing. The losing is eating away at them, and theyre 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.
(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. Youre
looking out not only for their athletic issue, but their academic issues as well.
Keeping them eligible; making sure theyre staying on the right track, things
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.
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 teams roster.
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.
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
Theyve been handling the
changes very good so I think it will benefit the team, Bruza said. Were
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.
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.