HARWICH – Larry Souza is well aware of the revolving-door situation regarding head coaches and Monomoy football. He's been on the sidelines with three different coaches in as many seasons, which is why, as the program's fifth head coach since its inception, Souza is planning on sticking around for a good while.
Football has been in Souza's blood for ages, his passion blooming when he first laced up cleats as a youth player in the Dennis-Yarmouth area, later suiting up for the D-Y Dolphins. For the past three seasons he's been a fixture on the sidelines of Monomoy games, but wasn't ready to throw his hat into the head coaching ring.
Since Souza's son Zach was a key player on the Shark squad, Souza felt it better to be in a supporting role until Zach graduated, which he did with the Class of 2018. Just last week Zach joined former teammate and longtime friend Gavin Viera in making the trek to Bridgton Academy in Maine, a post-graduate college prep school where both will be continuing their football careers.
With his son having made the transition from Shark to Wolverine, the time was right for Souza to make a play for the head coaching position, which opened once again at the end of the last school year when former head coach Brandon Perry resigned.
“Having my son move on to play at the next level, I felt like I was ready to be involved as head coach,” Souza said. “I never wanted to be the head coach of his team.”
But he does want to lead the current collective of Sharks to further success.
“The big thing was bringing stability to the program,” said Souza. “We have a really good crop of kids, and a really good bunch of new kids who've never played before who did pretty well this summer in the 7-on-7s, and I think we have a real chance to do very well this season.”
Souza also has a solid support staff behind him, including returnees defensive coordinator Peter Hall and assistant coach Jake Sumner, who are joined by offensive coordinator Chris Barabe, who previously served as assistant coach to former head coach Ross Jatkola, now head of the Barnstable program, Rich Oldach, a former Princeton player and graduate, and Nick Christian, assistant coach who previously worked with the St. John Paul II program.
“I have a great coaching staff with a lot of experience,” Souza said. “Our hopes are to go far.”
To get there Souza is placing heavy emphasis on showing up and dedicating oneself to the team. Upon noticing missing players at a recent conditioning session, Souza urged prospective captains to get in touch with them, impressing upon them the importance of making it to practices.
“I'm very big on accountability and commitment to the program,” Souza said. “Now that the season has started I'm pushing the kids really hard for the commitment, getting in the weight room in the morning, getting out here to practice and keeping up attendance.”
Though Souza is technically a new head coach, he said his experience as assistant coach helped prepare him for the leading role.
“I don't find it challenging because I'm just doing my own thing,” he said. “I've been here through three other coaches and have learned a little bit from all of them, so I know what to expect and the kids know what to expect from me, so it was a pretty easy transition.”
Souza is especially grateful to serve Monomoy both as head football coach and as a teacher in the school's technology department, something he feels has helped grow the team's numbers and foster strong bonds between himself and his players.
“For so many years I had offers to coach but couldn't because I didn't have a job that afforded me the time frame to coach,” he said. “But as soon as I began teaching I started to coach youth football and then high school. I like spending time with the kids. It keeps me young and I think sharing something that I'm really passionate about and enjoy is really important. Because I'm a teacher…I get to have a much stronger connection to the kids. I think that's how we were able to get a lot of kids out that we hadn't gotten out in the past. I'm here in the building and I can talk to the kids. I see them in the hall.”
Being a part of the Monomoy community has definitely enriched Souza's coaching experiences, he said.
“The first two years I was teaching at Nauset and I didn't get here until after practice started. I would miss things, and I also didn't have as good a connection with the kids,” Souza said. “Now I have a lot of them in class so I make a really good connection with them, and it's easier for the kids to be invested when they know the coach is there all the time.”
So what will be different about Monomoy football in 2018? Souza didn't want to give up too much information, but he has high hopes for the team.
“Without giving away too much I think people will notice a big difference in the offense,” he said. “I think it's going to be much more exciting to watch Monomoy football this season. The kids are really committed to being successful this year and we're going to work hard to make them successful. I think there will be some exciting games. We have a challenging schedule, a lot of the same teams we've played in past years, but also we're taking a trip down to Nauset to face a higher division team. But it's going to be fun. The kids are up to it. And then opening night, we've kind of started a little rivalry with Cape Cod Tech.”
Souza is referring to the team's official home and season opener slated for Sept. 7 against Cape Cod Tech with a start time of 6:30 p.m.
“I think every coach has had a different offensive or defensive philosophy,” Souza said. “Now it's another year where they're having to learn something new, but the hope is that what they're learning now they'll stick with for years to come. I'm not planning on going anywhere. I work here. I teach here. This is where I am.”