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Kelly Brings New Attitude To Warriors

The Tonawanda Warriors football team is banking on gaining a few more wins and surprising a lot of people in the process.

Exactly do how they plan of doing all of this? Well, that’s all part of the surprise. Joe Kelly, who spent last on the coaching staff of Burgard High School, has taken over as the Warriors new head coach. Replacing Rob Gross, who held the position of head coach from 2010-15.

But having his first crack at a varsity head coaching job is only part of why Joe Kelly is so excited about the 2016 season.

Kelly believes that there is a wealth of untapped talent within the Warriors ranks and he is coming with a game plan that will bring out the best in everyone-especially the incredible speed across the board.

“We’re gonna run things that most people haven’t seen before,” Kelly said. “People are gonna be shocked. They’re gonna be confused. Especially teams that don’t know how to block.”

Leading the way for the Warriors will be seniors Ethan Shattuck (RB/DB) and Zachary Sadjak (QB).

Also back is senior Colin Smith, who has been a defensive stud and the Warriors leading tackler for the past two seasons.

The Warriors will also return size and power on the line with Henry Palermo, Aaron Simonds and Tyler Hatswell.

Sophomore Noah Ray (RB/DB) and Chris Tartick will challenge Sadjak for reps behind center.

The Warriors can also boast the arrival of a top notch transfer student. Something they don’t see too much of as enior fullback Brandon Roe has transferred in from Sweet Home. Roe, who goes 230 pounds, brings size and speed to the backfield. The addition of Roe, whose cousin Zechariah Roe is a senior receiver for the Warriors, means Shattuck won’t have to take as much carries as in years past.

“We are the Warriors but this season we are going to be a new breed of Warriors,” Ethan Shattuck said.

“We’re going to bring everything that we already knew and combine it with the skills that we acquired in the off season.”

While coming into a new program is a challenge for any coach, Kelly also had to face the reality that the returning players all held Coach Gross in high regard and were very upset to see Gross, a former Warrior in his playing days, not have his contract renewed. But Kelly wasn’t just any new face. His background of being on the coaching staff at North Tonawanda (2012-14) and with Burgard, a Section VI Class B West rival of Tonawanda’s, meant that Kelly was very familiar with how the Warriors have played over the last four seasons. Kelly did his homework. He poured over videos and made sure he was as up to speed as possible with every facet of Tonawanda football.

The combination of his knowledge of the game as a whole, the Warriors program and the energy he brings has breathed life into the Warriors and has the boys’ believing anything is possible.

“Coach Kelly has brought a very positive energy,” Zachary Sajdak said. “Coming back as a senior I was kind of nervous. The captains and I were nervous about what direction our program was going into , but with him we have no worry. We believe he is a successful coach. He’s a very positive man.”

Kelly certainly didn’t want to disrespect the staff the came before him, but he has naturally come in with his own outlook and plan of opening things up and utilizing every player to the best of his ability.

“I just told them you’ve got to buy in. I’m here to win. We’ve been down too long,” Kelly said of his initial meeting with players. “I’m here to win. Understand something. I have children at home. You’re another 25 of my children and that’s how I’m gonna treat you. You’re honest with me, I’m gonna be honest with you. And that’s all I need from you. As long as we keep it that way everybody is going to get that fair chance. There’s nobody that has any position (locked up) here.”

The Warriors open the season at home on Sept.2 against Newfane, 7:30pm.

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