Thursday August 1, 2013 | By:Michael J. Petro | Sports
New Hamburg head football coach Pat Cauley works with the South team last summer in preparation for the Kensington Lions all-star classic.
The Hamburg High School varsity football team may still be a few weeks away from hitting the field for its first official practice, but new head coach Pat Cauley is ready and willing to make one guarantee about the Bulldogs’ upcoming season.
“We’re going to play hard, tough and unselfish football, and we’re going to play the kind of football that this community can rally around,” said Cauley, last year’s defensive coordinator, who over the past several months has been named both the interim athletics director and head football coach in the district.
“It’s not about my record; it’s about these kids growing and developing from this experience and us representing this wonderful community in a positive way,” he added. “I don’t have a crystal ball about how many we’re going to win and loss but I believe that when folks play us, they’re going to have to tie their shoe laces tight because we’re going to be ready to play.”
His sentiment should be no surprise to those who know the fiery Cauley, who’s worked nearly two decades in the district as a physical education and health teacher and coach. He spent about 10 of those seasons getting the best out of many of his varsity boys basketball teams and in more recent years, brought his energy to the sidelines as the varsity’s defensive coordinator. By the second half, his voice is often a victim of that enthusiasm.
The Sweet Home High School graduate has been a mainstay in the Hamburg district for years, so he’s gotten to know many of the student-athletes since they were youngsters. He feels strong about the commitment he’s made not only to these student-athletes but also the community and school.
“It’s been a very positive experience,” he said of preparing for the season, which also has included getting much done in the weight room and at various camps and activities. “These our good kids; they’re going to battle hard — it’s up to us to put them in the right situations.”
But he also realizes that he and his coaching staff and players have a challenge ahead in turning around the program. After what seemed like a magical run in the first year the team played under the lights and on the turf on a reconstructed Howe Field, the Bulldogs have gone through a decline.
Hamburg lost only twice in nine games during a sectional semifinalist season in 2009, under Mike McFadden, but since has put up a 6-21 mark in three years. McFadden resigned at season’s end.
“We believe winning is a by-product of doing things correctly,” Cauley said. “I believe being in high school sports as long as I have, if you focus on what you can control and stay positive and patient with students, continuing to accept the challenges that you face, we’ll be alright there.”
Cauley said he couldn’t have asked for a better coaching staff to help him along. The combination of Jeff Tripp, Ryan Gallo, and Mike Gusta will be given the autonomy to handle the offense, while Mark Warner and Charles Barth will be on the defensive side of the ball. Cauley will help on defense while playing more of an overseer role.
Tripp has served as the junior varsity head coach; Gallo’s worked in the past with the Buffalo Destroyers and Buffalo State College; and Gusta is a Hamburg graduate who will coach the line. Cauley plucked Warner out of retirement after the veteran coach had worked at Canisius College, Buffalo State and St. Mary’s High, while Barth is a younger coach who recently played at Cortland State.
“When you have a six-man staff, you can be the CEO,” Cauley said. “I’ll oversee and organize everything, but these guys do a heck of a job with their specific jobs that we’ve delegated to them.”
The staff will be looking to spark the creativity of the offense, re-emphasize the special teams and not try to outsmart themselves defensively. He’d rather be sound than scientific.
“Coach McFadden did a great job and we’re appreciative of that, though we are going to be a little different,” Cauley said. “We’re going to see what our kids can absorb and prepare for that first game against a really good program in Grand Island. That’s our focus.”
Cauley has also reach out to the community of youth players in an effort to develop the program from the bottom up. He ran a free youth camp earlier in July, About 45 kids participated everyday in learning fundamentals and then taking part in a tournament on the final day, while current high school players served as instructors.
“It was a real great experience for the kids — they gave us great feedback, but also for the players to understand their responsibility as a role model and how to conduct themselves and teach what we’ve taught them,” said Cauley, who will also have the Boston and Hamburg Little Loop program play against one another in an exhibition at halftime of the season opener on Friday, Sept. 6.
Cauley believes he’ll have a nice mix of returning players that got on field for varsity last season and some guys coming up from a successful junior varsity season. He’ll also look at some 10th graders to fill in a few gaps at the varsity level. Also encouraging was that more than 50 modified players participated at team camps.
He anticipates that being able to manage and motivate will be a big part of the job, and although he may seem a little different than the guy that some have grown accustom to seeing, he’ll never stop coaching hard.
“Although I may be as intense as they come, I think I’m a little bit more mature now,” Cauley said. “I think football moves at a little bit of slower pace than basketball which is probably good for my temperament.”