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Saturday, September 14 Sports

Staples football preview: New coach, same high expectations

For the second time in as many years, Staples has undergone a change at the top, with Adam Behrends taking over as the new head coach of the storied football program.

While a period of transition could be expected, Behrends said the Wreckers haven’t skipped a beat.

“The transition has been a lot easier because there was a good culture in place,” Behrends said. “(Associate head coach/head performance coach) Jon Zames was the key carryover coach from last year’s staff. He did a great job as strength and conditioning coach in the off-season. These kids are very smart. All I’ve done is give them a set of expectations.”

Dealing with change was handled well last year when Phil Tregila took over as head coach for Marce Petroccio, who had led the Wreckers for 25 years. Tregila’s team went 7-3 and just missed qualifying for the CIAC Class LL playoffs.

Behrends now joins the program after coaching nine years at the IMG Academy (Fla.), including six with the IMG National Varsity squad.

Staples lost a lot on the defensive side with the graduation of linemen George Harrington and Matt Almansi, defensive end Blake Runkle, and linebacker Cole Brockwell, among others.

There’s plenty of talent returning, however, including on an offensive line which boasts size and experience.

“The offensive line will be the strength of the team and the tackle position will be a strength with their size and technique,” Behrends said. “All five are very intelligent and work well together.”

Three of those linemen — Harvard-commit Jacob Rizy (6-4, 283), Ben Howard (6-1, 200), and Andrew Goldberg (6-2, 221) — are senior co-captains, and they’ll play alongside junior Sam Milberg (6-4, 291).

Senior co-captain Jake Thaw, who started at quarterback last year, has shifted to wide receiver for the offense and will again play and in the secondary for the defense.

“Jake Thaw will play multiple positions and is looking to be a big contributor on defense,” Behrends said.

With Thaw at wide receiver, the quarterback job is open, with juniors Jackson Zager, who played at IMG and has now moved back to Westport, and Kyle Chamberlin in contention.

Senior Robenson Hall and junior Henry Beck take over at running back for last year’s lead rusher Tim Luciano.

The offense took a hit during the preseason when senior wide receiver Adam Petro went down with a season-ending injury.

The loss of Petro will be one of the tests of the team’s depth.

“I feel good about the team as a whole and all the units,” Behrends said. “We’re inexperienced at the skill positions and need to continue developing across the board.”

The Wreckers’ schedule is difficult, as they’ll take on perennial FCIAC powers Ridgefield, New Canaan, St. Joseph and Greenwich, along with Scheduling Alliance games vs. New Britain out of the CCC, a Class LL playoff qualifier last year, and North Haven, another perennial playoff contender out of the SCC.

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“I think the best teams in the league will be the teams who have historically done well,” Behrends said. “I’m looking forward to competing against all the teams on the schedule.”

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