By Tom Pedulla —
Vic Quirolo, Hackley’s new football coach, calls it a “crazy scenario” that he inherited. And it is all of that.
Although Quirolo comes with excellent credentials as the former head coach at Iona Prep, he has never coached in the Ivy League before. His quarterback, Harrison Riopel, is new to his position. And his team went 22 months without competing in a game due to the pandemic, leaving him with no recent film to study.
“I’m trying to control what we can control at Hackley and see what happens,” said Quirolo. “The whole situation of getting the job right before the season starts and then the pandemic, there are a lot of variables that are not normal to a transition.”
It showed when Hackley was routed by visiting Poly Prep, 35-6, in a lopsided contest on Sept. 17 that quickly got away. To make matters worse, the Hornets lost three linemen to injury, including two of them who were two-way starters. All three are expected back later in the schedule, but the team already lacked depth in the offensive and defensive lines.
Quirolo noted that Poly Prep is a traditional power. He is optimistic the Hornets will play better as the season progresses. “That first game experience is vital,” he said.
Quirolo succeeds an extremely successful coach in Simon Berk. The Hornets’ attack will be very different from the run-oriented wing-T that was operated in the past. The new coach prefers spread formations and a more wide-open approach.
It is safe to say that players are coping with a lot, from the need to shake off rust due to the extraordinary layoff to the differences in what they must learn to execute.
“There’s been a lot of adversity with the change in coaching staff, change in quarterbacks and all that,” said Iheukwumere Marcus, a senior captain. “But I think we’re doing well to kind of overcome it. Everyone is learning and doing the best they can.”
Marcus said of the difference in offensive philosophy, “What he’s brought is something new. I can’t say if it’s better, but it’s something different. It’s his coaching style and we’re going to learn to work with that.”
Marcus will be one of the mainstays during the transition. He is a 6-3, 240-pound offensive tackle and defensive end who is being recruited by colleges to play at the next level.
Much will depend on how quickly Riopel can adjust to playing quarterback. Quirolo knows he is asking a great deal of the junior.
“It’s going to be difficult for him, especially in the beginning,” the coach said. “We expect him to run the ball, pass the ball and be a dual threat. He has to be a big part of who we are.”
Fortunately for Riopel, he has some weapons at his disposal. Daniel Nuzum and Luke Chiasson can either operate out of the backfield or provide capable downfield targets.
Chaisson is keenly aware of the challenges the Hornets face. He also sees considerable potential.
“We have a lot of talent on this team. It’s a matter of whether we can harness it,” he said. “That is the key to whether we will climb the mountain or not.”