When asked what his main goal is for his team this year, Mike Collodi answered with a year.
“Nineteen eighty-six,” he said before explaining, “In the history of our program, we have won exactly one football conference title and it was in 1986.
“Ultimately, we would like to make it two.”
He continued about the history of the program and what he wants to do moving forward.
“Over the last 20 years, the program has averaged three or so wins per year,” he said. “So for us to win five a year ago is a great attribute to our players.
“We lost some tough games, but we have grown and the best is yet to come and we want to put football back into the community and the school.”
A good start for Elizabeth Forward, who plays in Class AAA, is the number of returning starters and the positive energy coming out of the offseason.
“We have everyone back on each side of the ball and that is a huge plus,” Collodi said. “Things went well in the weight room and we are bigger, faster, stronger, and I hope better.”
Junior quarterback Zach Benedict was second-team all-conference a year ago and junior tackle AJ Ackerman was a first-team all-conference selection.
“I am excited to have Zach back as he is an excellent leader,” Collodi said. “With AJ, Syracuse and MAC schools are showing interest.”
The other five returning starters are seniors in running back Brian Malloy, wide receiver Gavin Martik, tight end Tyler Osilka, and guards Dillon Tyner and Ricky Cialone.
Osilka is back at defensive end, Cialone returns as an all-conference honorable mention defensive tackle, Tyner and senior Nick Wardropper return at inside linebacker, senior Garrett Stanley is back at outside linebacker, junior Chase Bodzer is back at cornerback and Martick returns as a safety.
“We were a young team that has become a veteran team,” Collodi said. “We are looking to improve our record from 5-4 last year, but we know there is work to do as the conference is tough.
“However, it is up for grabs even though Derry is solid, Mount Pleasant annually is really good, and both South Park and Yough have everyone back.”
The Warriors are thrown right into the fire as they host Derry in a conference game.
“Hopefully, all of the experience these guys got as young kids will pay off,” Collodi said. “They were thrown into the fire as freshmen and sophomores and after taking some lumps, we hope they will reap the benefit of getting 20 to 30 games under their belt.”
Collodi talked about what it will take for his team to get back to the playoffs after missing them for the last three years.
“I believe in my team and think we will do really well, but any team can beat any team on any given Friday and for us to be successful, we have to play fast, physical and smart football,” he said. “I preach that to the players and if we do that, we will end up on top just about every single time.”