When you go winless, it’s easy to come up with excuses for failure.
From blaming injuries to a coaching change, it can be hard not to play the “it’s not our fault” card as the year progresses. And if any team wanted to play that card, it would be the Bishop Timon-St. Jude Tigers.
The Tigers went 0-8 a year ago under first-year head coach Joe Licata, who was hired a little more than a month before the season started. From players graduating to transfers out of the school, the Tigers’ already small roster was left even emptier heading into 2017.
A depleted roster and a brand-new coach only spelled disaster for Timon.
Now, a year later, Licata and his team are ready to turn things around for a program with a long and rich football history.
“We’re lightyears ahead of where we were last year,” Licata said. “We had a full offseason to really talk about what we wanted to do schematically, and really to put our stamp on it as a program.”
Hired on July 14, 2017 as both Athletic Director and Head Coach of the football team, Licata was thrown to the wolves of a program that had just lost a head coach that took them to multiple Monsignor Martin Championship Games.
On top of trying to put together a plan for the season seemingly overnight, Licata saw a number of talented players leave the program. It was a transition that resulted in some confusion and a lack of trust from the players still on the team.
“They were a little hesitant at first last year to trust anybody,” Licata said of the aftermath of the moves. “When enough people leave like that, it happens. The first thing we were trying to do was build trust. You can’t succeed, you can’t build anything, without trust.
“The kids need to know that you care about them, and that we’re in it with them. I think they really understand that.”
With the team now believing in the message of Licata and his staff, it’s time for a winless team to make a turn towards contention in a tough Monsignor Martin Athletic Association (MMAA).
Building a game plan that utilizes the strengths of the near 30 players that make up the Tigers roster, Licata feels that the growth he’s seen just off the field is a sign of good things to come on the field this year.
Both his players and staff, he said, will be given a lot more trust in year two. With an understanding of what’s expected, Licata is hopeful that everyone within the program will be up to the task.
Two of those people are captains DE / LT Connor Dean and quarterback Mitchell Theal.
Dean, a 6’4″, 230lb lineman is viewed as one of the leaders on the team both on the field and in the locker room.
Theal, the team’s starter, has a lot of qualities that Licata likes in a QB. From his arm strength to ability to maneuver in the pocket, the offense is expected to go as far as Theal is able to take it.
“I’m excited to hand him the keys to the offense this year,” Licata said. “When I played QB, I liked having the freedom to call some plays. I have so much trust and faith in Mitchell’s ability to adapt, and know what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Of course, success won’t be had if not every player is on the same page throughout the year. For Timon to compete with the likes of Canisius and St. Francis, the players must be ready to fight for everything on the field. He didn’t see it at the start of last year, but Licata is adamant that he’s got a team ready to roll in 2018.
“The kids have bought in,” he said.
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