Friday nights at the swamp are a loved event for all South students. However, the football program dives much deeper than just Friday nights. The best part happens the days leading up to Friday nights. The hard hours at practice form the brotherhood between players. The long days spent in summer preseason are where starting spots are filled. With 50+ players and only 22 total spots to fill, players are constantly battling to earn the right to get onto the field come Friday night. “Work ethic is probably the key factor in determining in who starts and who doesn’t,” said Coach Nick Trezza. “A player’s work ethic drives them in the offseason to improve, whether it be [their] strength or conditioning or coordination. During the season, that player’s positive work ethic allows him or her to strive to be the best at their position, which in turn makes them stand out.”
Senior quarterback Ben Kinsella’s work ethic is exactly what earned him his right to lead the Eagles offense this year, and this responsibility comes with its fair share of pressure. However, Kinsella’s teammates have helped him. “Being quarterback does definitely come with some pressure but as the season has gone on I’ve been able to handle it and the rest of the team is a big help to that,” said Kinsella. “Everyone gets pregame jitters, but I know my teammates have my back and that makes it so much easier.”
Kinsella’s current teammates are not the only ones who have helped him fill the quarterback position: His previous quarterbacks helped mentor him just as he does to the current underclassmen. “Being a part of the state championship team gave me some great insight. Two years ago Matt Mosquera showed me how to play the quarterback position being a little on the short side. He taught me how to stay mobile and use my height to my advantage,” he said.
Senior linebacker and defensive leader Jake Krellin has been handling the starting pressures since he was a sophomore. “Football has played a huge role in my life, especially in my high school career,” he said. “It has taught me how to hold myself accountable and lead others. Sometimes, in rough games, I see my teammates losing hope and I know it’s my job to make sure they fight with me to the end of every game.” Krellin credits his ability to perform in high pressure games to two things. The first is the Middletown community. “It plays a huge role in our success on the field. Seeing the Nation packed always gets me amped up,” he explains. “The best part is running up and down the hill when the little kids are all trying to get high fives from us. It inspires me to make sure we give our fans a win.” The aspect aspect he credits is his incredible coaching staff. Krellin said, “Nooch is the ideal head coach. He always puts us in the right spots to win the game. He makes sure we always keep our composure and stay confident no matter what is going on in the game.”
Head Coach Steve Antonucci, known as Nooch to his players, has coached Middletown South for 20 years. He has brought an abundance of success to the program with his old-school coaching philosophy and love for the game itself. When asked how he would hope his players would describe him he said, “I would hope they would all have respect for me–guy who is passionate about the game and loves the game. I hope they want to learn from me and my experiences and trust me to lead them.” Antonucci always wants the best for his players and loves not just the big wins but every moment spent leading up to them. As Antonucci puts it, “I do not necessarily have a favorite moment. I [have] coached a lot of great young men who made it to college and pro football, and others who just succeeded in life. I’m proud of all of it. You can say the champs are most remembered. But I love it all. Running down the hill on a Friday night is my favorite thing about this job.”
Another important coach and role model is Trezza. In his own high school days, Trezza was a player at South. “It is truly an honor to coach at the school where I played,” he said. “Each day, each year I try and give my current players the same opportunities and experiences afforded me when I was a player.” One lesson Trezza puts above the rest for his players is the importance of hard work. “The answer to any problem is just to work harder,” he explained. “My head coach in high school, Dr. John Andl, conveyed those words to me when I was going through a tough time my senior year. They ring true throughout everything I do.” He said he would hope his players describe him as a coach in a very simple way: “Tough but fair. Fun but driven. And somewhat nuts.”
All of these players and coaches are just pieces of the overall puzzle that come together and make Friday nights so special. All players and coaches agree the game is never won on Friday night, but in the days of practice leading up to it. The Eagles will play Wall this Friday at home. With their extreme work ethic and community behind them, they expect to earn a victory.