BYFIELD, Mass. -- Second year head coach Jim O’Leary could not have drawn up a better outcome when he took over at the helm of the storied Governor’s Academy program last season. Gov’s went a perfect 9-0 in O’Leary’s first season and completed the perfect campaign with a 35-0 victory over New Hampton School in the Jack Etter Bowl Championship.
“When I look back at last season it really was surreal,” O’Leary said. “Things just fell into place and the kids really bought into the program. At the beginning of the season we were not looked at as favorites in the ISL but the kids came to practice and worked hard and it just gelled real fast.”
O’Leary took over as head coach last season after being an assistant with the team under former head coach Mark Gerry. Gerry led Gov’s for 18 seasons and the transition could not have gone any smoother.
“When I came in as an assistant I always envisioned things that I could do if I became head coach,” O’Leary said. “As a Salem, Mass. guy I learned under one of the best in Ken Perrone, who knew more about offense and especially how to win with smaller teams.”
O’Leary introduced the triple-stack offense and saw immediate benefits with the lack of large numbers in the program.
“It has worked wonders,” O’Leary sad about adopting the old Salem High offense. “It may seem complicated at first but once the kids understand it everything gets much easier. This year we plan on adding some additional other things to the mix as well.”
2011 ISL MVP and returning senior quarterback Tate Jozokos will lead Gov’s as one of their quad-Captains in 2012. Jozokos, who is committed to the University of North Carolina to play lacrosse, is an elite athlete who can beat you with his legs or through the air.
“Tate is very confident in himself and his ability,” O’Leary said. “He is what I call a gamer. He plays his best football in game situations and when the game is on the line he wants the ball in his hands.”
Jozokos is one of 10 returning letterman and of the 10 returnees seven of them are lacrosse players with four (including Jozokos) already committed to play Division 1 lacrosse. Fellow senior captain Ryan Macri and junior Andrew “Bug” Carper are also UNC lax commits and O’Leary sees the crossover sport as a big advantage.
“Thank god we are getting these kids to play football,” O’Leary said. “They really represent the total athlete. They can run, they are tough and with both sports being open field games the running and speed is a big advantage.”
GOVERNOR’S ACADEMY AT A GLANCE
2011: 9-0 (ISL Champions, Co-New England Champions)
Coach: Jim O’Leary (2nd season, 9-0)
Key Returnees: Tate Jozokos, Sr. QB/DB, 6-0, 193 lbs.; Colin Smith, Sr. TE/DE, 6-4, 221lbs.; Ryan Macri, Sr. OL/LB, 6-1, 235 lbs.; Eli Morrissey, Sr. RB/LB, 5-9, 180 lbs.; Andrew “Bug” Carper, Jr. LB, 6-0, 192 lbs.; Austin Smith, Sr. RB/DB, 6-0, 185lbs.; Jesse Gwozdz, Jr. RB/DB, 5’11, 182 lbs.; David Adams, Soph. OL/LB, 6-1, 214 lbs.; Lucas Bombardier, Sr. WR/DB, 5-9, 187 lbs.
Strengths: Offensive backfield, team speed, toughness.
Weaknesses: Inexperienced offensive and defensive lines.
Outlook: Gov’s returns the reigning ISL MVP in Jozokos and three other experienced captains in OL Macri, running back Eli Morrissey, whom O’Leary calls “the toughest player in the ISL”, and Division 1 tight end recruit Colin Smith. Govs returns 10 lettermen from last year’s undefeated championship team with six starters returning on each side of the ball. O’Leary is excited about the development of Carper, who he predicts will be a star and a kid who plays “100 miles-per-hour.” Of the newcomers to the program in 2012 OL Tyler Harrington, OL Mark Hoffman and ATH Thomas Vailas are all players to keep an eye on. “There is never an easy game in the ISL,” stressed O’Leary. “It does not matter if a team is 1-6 or 0-7 it is a competitive game each week. BB&N is always great, Lawrence Academy should bounce back, Milton has great tradition, and Belmont Hill is always at the top of the league. We start with Thayer to open the season and they are big and strong and should also be one of the better teams in the league this year.”