Saturday, August 1, 2015

Muskie football coach to have familiar helper

The press release from Muskie athletic director Shane Beckett stated the black-and-gold football would have co-coaches this fall—one just learning the job and the other the one who used to have the job.
That job title, though, is all a matter of perspective depending on who one talks to.

Mike Cuzzolino is stepping up from his position last year as offensive line coach to take over the head coaching duties from Chad Canfield—sort of.
Canfield will still be on hand at the request of Cuzzolino to help the new sideline general transition into his leadership role through the fall training camp.
But as for being considered a co-coach, Canfield doused that subject before it could catch any kind of fire.
“I’m just consulting with Mike at the start of the season,” emphasized the former head coach, who resigned following last year’s Winnipeg High School Football League Andy Currie Division quarter-final loss to the Elmwood Giants after four years in charge of the Muskies.
“He asked me to help him at the start and I don’t have a problem with that. But I’m not travelling to any away games or anything like that,” said Canfield.
Cuzzolino is extremely grateful for Canfield’s support as he slides into the head coach’s position.
“I didn’t have plans on becoming head coach yet, although that was my goal eventually,” stated Cuzzolino.
“But I didn’t feel I was ready yet. But (Beckett) came up and said they really didn’t have anyone else to do it.
“I’m thankful that Chad has left a program (behind) that is in great shape compared to the disarray it was in from where he took it over.”
Cuzzolino has a lengthy football playing background.
The Sault Ste. Marie native manned the offensive line for St. Mary’s College High School, then played one year for the Sault Sabercats of the Ontario Varsity Football League before spending five years in the trenches with the Sault Steelers of the Northern Football Conference.
“I’ve been really fortunate to win championships at the high school and semipro level and I know the effort it takes to do so,” noted Cuzzolino.
“I want to bring a winning attitude to the Muskies, not that the other coaches didn’t have that same intention,” he added.
“But I want kids dedicated to playing on this team. I think we can be a contender. That’s what I want to build. I want to change the face of Muskie football and I want it to be synonymous with winning.”
Such a process usually hits a roadblock for the Muskies in terms of a lack of bodies comes the fall.
After getting approximately 50 players out last year for spring camp, that total plummeted to below 30 once training camp opened in September.
Cuzzolino isn’t promising any miracle cure for that problem.
“That’s the big burning question and I don’t know how to answer it right now,” he confessed.
“I’m hoping my experience with helping with the (Muskie boys) hockey team will help get more of those players out for football.
“I want to get rid of the stigma in football that you’re (inevitably) gonna get hurt. I’ve seen more injuries in hockey than in football.”
Cuzzolino wasn’t against bolstering his numbers through an infusion of female talent, either.
“I’m all on board with females playing for us,” he declared.
“Football is for everyone, not just the boys.”
Whichever players do come out will enter a Muskie system which will feature a coach not adverse to holding his team accountable.
“I’m a bit old-school and I run a strict ship,” warned Cuzzolino.
“I’m already putting together a training program with (Muskie boys hockey trainers) Alyssa Vanderaa and Ian McKay.”
Canfield concurred with his former assistant.
“(Cuzzolino) demands a lot from his players,” said Canfield.
“He’s a no-nonsense coach and very disciplined and he loves football,” he added.
“It’s not going to take him long to catch on to doing this.”
For his part, Cuzzolino is ecstatic about the opportunity.
“I’m thrilled to be taking over,” he enthused.
“Football has always been a positive experience for me, not only as a player, but for the people I’ve met in the game,” continued Cuzzolino.
“It’s always given back to me, so I want to give that back to the kids and hopefully win a championship if we can.
“I’m humbled people even thought of me in that role as a leader of men.”
While nothing is official yet, Cuzzolino said the plan is to hold this year’s spring camp possibly on the last weekend of May or the first weekend in June.

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