As they have all season long, the Grand Street Campus Wolves fought valiantly last Sunday, turning in a gritty performance that would make any coach proud. But as they have all season, the Wolves lost, this time 38-6 to Boys and Girls High School.
And with that, a disappointing season that saw them fall from the heights of an 8-1 record in 2007 to the depths of 0-9 was over.
Perhaps nothing better symbolized the snakebitten Wolves better that the team photo, which, when developed, was too dark to make out any of the players’ faces. But Coach Ed Gazzillo believes this year was merely the darkest hour before the dawn of a new era of excellence for this historically strong program, which draws its players from the three schools that comprise Grand Street Campus.
“We will definitely be better next year,” Gazzillo said, explaining that the Wolves will return seven of eleven starters each on both offense and defense.
“We’ll use this experience to work harder in the weight room, on the field, and in the classroom.”
The most obvious culprit for the winless season was the 13 senior starters the team lost to graduation. On offense and defense, these starters comprised 20 of the 22 starting positions.
It was an inexperienced group that took the field for Gazzillo this year, but one whose steadfast effort in the face of repeated failure made him proud and laid the groundwork for future success.
“To their credit, they never stopped coming to practice. Win or lose, they come to play football and do what they love to do,” he said.
“The attitude is no different than from day one. The kids came into every game looking to win and played real hard.”
But the season took an emotional toll on Gazzillo, who guided the Wolves to unbeaten seasons in 2002 and 2004 after launching the program at the East Williamsburg school in 1999.
“I’m a little disappointed in myself that I couldn’t find a way to get these kids some success. To go in week in and week out, to put in the time and do the work, you want to succeed. It’s definitely hard,” he said.
He added, “But we’re football coaches, and we get the opportunity to coach these fine young men. We enjoy the moment.”
In the absence of wins, Gazzillo has encouraged his team to strive for what he calls “small victories,” such as improved tackling or blocking. He says his team has improved drastically since the beginning of the year. But, alas, so has the competition.
Still, he insists that this year has not been a lost season by any means.
“Now we know we know we have to work really hard in everything we do, and that it’s up to us to make our own destiny,” he said.
“We want them to think, ‘If I pushed myself that much harder in the weight room, I could have broken that last tackle, or I could have made that block.’”