By Kevin J. Stone, Contributing Writer
MARLBOROUGH – For years, the Assabet Valley Tech football program has been a threat in the Colonial Athletic League. They were also regularly poised to make a deep postseason run under coach Ken Stukonis.
Sitting out the Fall II abbreviated COVID-19 season that saw other teams take the field this spring, though, has put all of that in jeopardy. Now, new head coach Ryan Crory has gotten past the initial transition phase and is completely focused on making sure the Aztecs are competitive not only in their league, but statewide.
“Seeing them not play last year was heartbreaking,” Crory said following the first day of practice on Aug. 20. “Now that they’re back and ready to go, I’m really impressed with this group of kids.”
Assabet cancelled its 2020-2021 fall, winter and Fall II seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic. Crory had already coached at the school before his promotion to his current role, though, meaning he didn’t have to go through a true transition as his program returned for this fall season.
“I have been so excited for this season to start,” Crory said. “From the second I took over as head coach, the first thing I tried to do was put together a young, enthusiastic coaching staff and that’s what I have here.”
“We absolutely love it and everyone on this staff loves it; I’m so excited for them and more importantly the kids,” he continued.
For Crory, it’s a good thing the staff is so enthusiastic, because there was a real chance that many players wouldn’t come back to the program after last year’s missed season.
“I’m honored to take over and the guys have responded well,” said Crory. “We went around to the kids at the end of the school year…some of them were on the fence, they wanted to leave and go play football and they weren’t sure what this year was going to look like. Especially with a coach leaving, they weren’t sure what it was going to be like. Once they saw we had a good staff coming in, I think that brought everyone back.”
The majority of the players now coming back to the team are seniors, which made the decision that much more important. It’s not just a small group of seniors either. There are 25 of them.
“This is a very big group of seniors that are hungry,” Crory continued. “They all have something to prove. They all lost that year last year and junior year is a huge year for high school football. They’re all hungry.”
Three of those senior captains, Derek Flood, Oscar Alvarez and Grady Boston talked about what it was like knowing a “real” football season was returning.
“It was great, it was something we’ve been missing for a while,” said Flood following the Aztecs’ first practice. “To be back out here on the field playing football with your buddies, it just feels amazing.”
“The hype of it…having a year off and then waiting for it, waiting for it, the night before knowing tomorrow’s football, that’s what got us all up in the morning,” Alvarez said.
“I felt like a kid on Christmas or something,” added Boston.
There’s a long way to go as Crory and his 25 seniors look to restore some of that Assabet pride after missing a full season. They’ll still have to go through perennial contender and rival Blackstone Valley Tech along the way. But there’s no shortage of confidence coming from the guys on the blue turf in Marlborough.
“It’s been a while, we’ve got to get that ring coming this year,” said Brady.
“We’re taking it all this year,” added Alvarez.