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Second-Year Coach Striving to Bring Stability to Hackley

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September 7, 2023

By Tom Pedulla—

No matter the level, successful football programs have stability. That is exactly what second-year coach Joe McDermott is intent on bringing to Hackley.

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The senior class has been forced to adjust to four coaches in as many years. It finally has a returning coach in McDermott, a former Hornets quarterback who graduated from the school in 2014. McDermott had not been a head coach before last season, so growing pains were inevitable as Hackley endured a losing season in the Metropolitan Independent Football League. “It definitely helps me having a year under my belt. The experience helped me better understand what to expect,” said McDermott, 27. “There was a lot to learn, and I had a lot to learn on the fly.”

Senior captain Jack Yalmokas was blunt in assessing the Hornets’ struggles last season. “There are a lot of things to blame,” he said. “Coaching is one of them. Not that our coach was bad at all, but it was his first year and he was settling in, learning how to use our players.”

Yalmokas added, “While we weren’t winning games, last year was necessary for this year. We’re going to progress more now that coach has settled in.”

McDermott is the first to acknowledge the importance of his staff, namely Bill Tribou (offensive line, defensive coordinator), Dillon Clark (defensive line, tight ends, running backs), Thomas Newkirk (receivers, defensive backs) and Hassan Bilal (linebackers, receivers, running backs). Tribou, one of the region’s most respected coaches who is beloved by his players, is marking his 50th year on the sidelines.

Tribou has helped to develop several outstanding offensive linemen. Yalmokas anchors the line. He returns as an All-League performer at right guard who also is a standout defensive end. Junior Sam Suniewick provides an imposing presence at left tackle. Junior Thomas O’Brien enjoyed an impressive preseason as he shifts from guard to center, a key position since the Hornets like to operate out of the shotgun formation.

Quarterback Jake Wade gained needed experience when he started the final three games in 2022 and brings a lot of confidence to his senior year. “I’ve seen a bunch of different looks in practice and in games, so the experience helps me a lot,” he said.

McDermott said of Wade, a team captain, “He does everything you ask of him. He’s a high-effort, high-energy kid. He’s got good control of the huddle.”

Senior Matt Kearns is the other captain. He was the team’s Most Valuable Player last season and is an explosive player whether he is running or catching the ball. He also excels at safety, where he is a sure tackler.

Conor Ranawat complements Kearns in the backfield. He is a downhill runner capable of keeping his legs churning and grinding out tough yards. In the passing game, Taylor Safriet will take pressure off Kearns as a dangerous slot receiver. He offers good hands with speed to spare. The Hornets must find ways to get him the ball in space.

If a key play needs to be made defensively, do not be surprised if it comes from a precocious sophomore. J.P. Ngbokoli has it all as a tough, fast, physical inside linebacker.

McDermott praised the senior leadership and said of his expectations, “I want us to be a physical team, a team that gives maximum effort every single play.”



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