HARWICH ─ Members of the Monomoy High School football team had an opportunity to meet their new head coach, Brandon Perry, on Monday. While most were excited and hopeful upon meeting their fourth coach in as many years, some were more reserved, the almost constant change having left an impression. What will see them through, they said, is what has always seen them through: each other.
“It's pretty tough on us players but it makes us unite more as a team,” said Connor Santoni, who is heading into his senior year with the Sharks.
The problem, Santoni said and which was echoed by teammates, is that the changes make it difficult for players to form a real bond with their head coach. When Monomoy Regional High School opened, Terence Roche was at the helm of the team, stepping down shortly after the 2014 season, in which the Sharks went 1-9, came to an end.
Next to take the reins was Ross Jatkola, formerly an assistant coach for Dennis-Yarmouth. After one year with the program that saw Monomoy improve to 3-7, Jatkola left to take an assistant coaching position with Cheshire Academy in Connecticut.
The program then saw a familiar face in the head coaching position when Paul “Spanky” Demanche, former Harwich High athletic director and football coach, stepped onto the sidelines once again, this time leading the Sharks to their winningest record so far at 5-5. This summer Demanche announced that he had taken a new job as athletic director of Plymouth North High School and would therefore be stepping down as Monomoy's head coach, meaning more change for those on the team.
Santoni, a four-year member of the team, said connecting with a head coach has been challenging since each one has left after a year. The team, however, has remained dedicated, forming something of a brotherhood determined to rise above their challenges, though they all share Santoni's hope regarding their new leader.
“I hope for a person who would stay, first off,” said Santoni. “Then I hope that he really helps the young kids out and gets them to build more of a program. Most youth players will see four different coaches in four years and say, 'I don't want to go there.' So I hope he builds a program with all the young kids.”
Fellow senior Gavin Viera said he hopes having a new coach in charge will translate to further opportunities for players.
“Honestly, I'd say with all the coaching changes, I think it's just more opportunities,” he said. “Our new coach could be better than our last coach. I just hope that he is more open to us practicing new things that we want to do, like the triple option and things like that.”
What matters, said Viera, is the team's bond.
“As long as we stick together as a team, all of us guys out there, I think we'll be good this year,” he said.
Junior Isaac Hart has been working diligently this summer to prepare for his new role as quarterback for the team. He, too, hopes for open-mindedness in his new coach, along with a good knowledge of the game and a desire to help the team and the program improve.
“Someone who really wants to improve all of us, because we really haven't had a consistent coach,” he said. “We've had a change each year. That's rough.”
Viera echoed the team bonding sentiment.
“I think the team in general, we're staying together and doing good,” he said. “We've really bonded over this time so I think we'll be fine.”
Senior Riley Demanche, Spanky's son, said the team's seniors have been a big part of keeping everyone motivated.
“It really comes down to camaraderie,” he said. “Our senior class is the biggest we've had in school history, and we've really stuck together and worked the hardest, in my opinion, and I really think that is what's going to get us through.”
Demanche hopes that Perry will bring stability to the program.
“Hopefully our work ethic carries over to the next class,” he said.
Eli Nickerson, also a senior, urged his teammates to keep working.
“You just have to motivate yourself and definitely motivate your teammates,” he said. “Don't let them slack off and make sure they're working as hard as they can and doing what they can to better the team. I think the diversity and constant change has brought us closer together into one big family and one giant group of friends.”
Senior Jake Wisniewski also feels the team's support of each other will prove instrumental in their progress this season under Perry.
“I think the most important factor is that we've been able to come together more as a family,” he said. “Once each coach leaves everyone gets kind of depressed, but it takes us all as a family to come together and keep doing what we're doing. We're a family in the weight room. We're still a family on the field. That's the key part, being a family.”
While conditioning sessions and weekly 7-on-7 games between area teams are voluntary, Perry said Monday that he intends to be on the sidelines, forging relationships with his team before his official start in mid-August. Look for a profile on the new head coach in next week's Chronicle.