Like other schools in the area, the Dunkirk Marauders held their first varsity football practice on Monday.
Unlike other schools in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties, the Marauders opened their practice with a head coach no one was expecting to be there when the 2012 season began.
After Mike Sarratori, who took over the football program in May, resigned in July, the powers that be at Dunkirk had to scramble to find someone to take over Dunkirk's football program. The man they decided on was Rob Genco. The same Rob Genco that helped lead the Silver Creek Black Knights' boys' varsity basketball team to the brink of a Section 6 Class C title this past winter.
OBSERVER?Photo by Gib Snyder III
New Dunkirk varsity football coach Rob Genco instructs his players during practice Monday, at Karl Hoeppner Field.
Genco, who has been itching for his shot to be the head coach of a varsity football team, was excited to get things going on Monday.
"There was 24 kids here (Sunday) night running," Genco said. "We did a team camp, we were in a passing league, so they had four Saturdays of passing-league games, they had a week at the (Erie Community College) camp and they ran two days a week. So they're excited, and they're refocused and ready to go."
With the resignation of Sarratori and the quick hire of Genco, the Marauder players had little time to adjust to what was going on with the leadership of their team.
"It's adversity," Genco said. "That kind of stuff prepares you and just makes you stronger. And it's something they couldn't control and it's nothing we can focus on. All I did was get them refocused and excited and that was easy, because they want it. They're a group of kids that just wants to have fun, play football and learn."
There were a couple of familiar faces at practice Monday, as coaches Mario Muscarella and Jim Quinn were two holdovers from the 2011 coaching staff to stick around and help Genco out this season. The fact that Muscarella and Quinn stuck around was something Genco noted was important to him.
"I've said if from day one that I think it's important that we have guys that live in the town and take pride in the community and work in the school district," Genco said. "I think it's important because it's ownership right away. This is what they are, they're Marauders.
"I felt that it was important to keep guys on," Genco continued. "My wife and Coach Muscarella played Fredonia State (women's) basketball together, so we've known each other and Coach Quinn was here last year coaching special teams. And they're good people, they're good human beings and that's exactly what I need right now around the kids with the system that I'm going to run."
Like all sports, football is about preparation and making sure you are ready to go when the season begins and on game days. Despite not having a normal amount of time to get all of his ducks in a row, Genco feels he was as prepared as he could be for practices to begin.
"I don't think you need too much time," Genco said of preparing for the season. "But it's a whole new system. The day I was appointed, I was back in town two days later and we were running and the kids have been committed as I am, so they've made it easy getting ready for this day and opening day.
"They've put just as much time in as any team I've ever been associated with, so that made it easy," Genco continued.
With the players not able to take part in full-contact drills until Saturday, Genco noted that it made no difference to him whether his players were in helmets or full pads.
"It's all football to me," Genco said. "I couldn't sleep (Sunday) night, I was up all night. I'm pumped. This is what I do and this is what I'm passionate about. It's fun, it's another platform that I can use to help kids. There's not another platform in my mind out there than coaching to help people."
With the success he's had at Silver Creek, Genco will undoubtedly be looking forward to matching what he's done with the Black Knights with the Marauders.
Even though he's been successful at Silver Creek and he loves coaching the game of basketball, Monday marked a day Genco had been waiting for for a long time.
"This is something I've always wanted and always wanted to do," Genco said. "So opening day of football, me, as a head coach of a football team, there's never been one before, so right now, I'm more excited about this. In this moment and time, this is where I am and this is what I'm most excited about."