As if this Fall II season wasn’t going to be strange enough already, the Nashoba football program will have a new voice leading the way over the next few months.
Head coach James Tucker is stepping aside for this season to take care of his eight-month old child and make sure his family remains healthy. With that decision, longtime assistant coach Andy LeBlanc was named the interim head coach in a tweet put out by the Nashoba athletic department earlier this week.
LeBlanc has been around the program since Tucker’s late father Ken was coaching, so despite the change, everyone wearing green and gold is confident things will still be operating as smoothly as ever when Nashoba hits the field to start practice next week.
“Just taking some time off to take time with my daughter,” Tucker said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “I have an eight-month old, she just turned eight-months old, so I’m just taking some time off to take care of her and keep her safe, nothing more than that. Coach LeBlanc has been on the staff longer than me. He was an assistant with my dad before I joined.
“He was a defensive coordinator for my dad towards the end of his career and then obviously now with us. He’s been around for a while now and is just a really good guy. I have no doubt the program won’t miss a step with him running the show.”
As is the case with every program, there is a core group of players that both Leblanc and Tucker are expecting big things from if this year’s team is going to be successful as it’s been in years past. Having that core group of guys should also help smooth over any rough patches that may pop up during the transition, especially in such an expedited season.
Senior quarterback and defensive back Josh DiGeronimo will be the guy in charge under center, and he too believes this year’s team shouldn’t miss a beat despite the change at the top of the food chain.
“Although Coach Tucker will be stepping down this season, we are left in good hands with coach LeBlanc,” DiGeronimo said. “I believe the transition will be very smooth, Nashoba football has a history of playing with pride and competitively no matter the circumstances. Coach Leblanc did an excellent job last year coaching our defense, so I have no doubts that he will bring the same energy as a head coach.”
DiGeronimo, Joey Sabourin (WR/DB), Ethan Revell (RB/LB) and Trevor Schartner (FB/H-back/DE) will be key seniors, while juniors Connor Salmon (LB/RB) and James Borsari (WR/TE/LB) are also expected to be important contributors. Nashoba’s staff is also confident in sophomore defensive linemen Owen Fitzsimmons and Liam Kelley growing into important roles as well.
“Josh is just an excellent athlete and leader,” Tucker said. “Joey is a true gamer, Ethan is tough and versatile, Trevor can play weak side defensive end and linebacker and he’ll do a good job at H-back for us. Connor is a returning All Star at linebacker and he’ll have an expanded load in the run game. James really came on at the end of his sophomore year and is also our backup QB, and then the two sophomores were starting by the end of their freshman year. They’ll be big contributors on both offense and defense for us.”
DiGeronimo and the rest of his teammates usually always have their sites set on a state title, as Nashoba has been one of the few programs in Central Mass to hold the title of “contender” on seemingly a yearly basis for quite some time now. New goals are obviously necessary this year, so what’s the mindset heading into practice next week?
“With no state championship this Fall II season the program’s ultimate goal won’t change,” DiGeronimo said. “Our goals for each season have been to improve daily by showing up to practice and working hard. Every year, we aim to end the season knowing we got out of it as much as we put into it. On behalf of the seniors, our goal is to set a good example for the young players coming up and encourage them to be grateful to be able to step on the field.
“We can be a constant reminder that even with the circumstances at hand, we always play as a team and nothing can change that. There is no reason that not having a state championship should degrade us from achieving this goal.”