TAMPA — For fourth-year Leto coach Matt Kitchie, there has never been a moment where he felt like his team, despite going 1-29 in his tenure, has given in.
An important part of building for the future, the coach said, is having a group of players that will give every bit of effort — regardless of the circumstances.
Kitchie said he has a number of those players despite a thin roster, but few stand out like Austin Grivna.
“Austin is one of my favorite players I’ve ever coached,” Kitchie said. “He’s willing to do anything, play wherever he’s needed. He is just a great high school football player.”
Grivna said he feels like the team is turning a corner and has gone from being an “easy target” to one that will make teams pay if they try to look past them.
“All these other teams are going to come into (our game) with an attitude that they don’t have to prepare for us,” Grivna said. “We are going to show them from the first game that they should have done a better getting ready for us.”
He said his job as a leader will be to keep his teammates focused on what’s ahead, not dwell on what’s behind them.
“I need to let them know every time we have a bad play to boost them back up, tell them to brush it off because we have another play,” he said.
For his coach, the 6-foot, 180-pound two-way player has all the intangibles that can’t be measured in what’s expected from a prototypical lineman and hopes those traits are contagious.
“He wasn’t blessed with being 240 pounds and getting all the Division I offers,” Kitchie said. “At any other school he’d be a tight end or a wide receiver, but at Leto he’s forced to be an (offensive) tackle and a defensive end. He never complains and just busts his butt.”
Leto has had good athletes in its recent history, but for coach Matt Kitchie, the problem has been getting the ball to those players or having time to get a play going. Kitchie said he feels the team has a better chance of getting that done behind an experienced offensive line that features a trio of three-year starters in seniors Austin Grivna, Jamauri Tramel and Jonathan Lacagnina.
Athletically, Leto has some skill at wide receiver with 6-foot-4 Micah Davis and 6-3 Myran Austin, and track speed from Dallas Johnson and Jephan Chambers. Getting them the ball will be returning starter Vinny LaRosa. Running back Marcus Palma had the most yards for the Falcons a season ago.
Most of Kitchie’s key players factor in on both sides of the ball, so a number of those players expected to stand out on offense will need to do the same on defense. Austin Grivna and Micah Davis will be two of those guys who give the pass rush speed and athleticism. Kitchie said, however, he feels like every unit has improved and a matter of pride is its ability to provide a challenge to opposing teams regardless of win-loss record.
“We all win if kids on both sides of the field get something out of the game,” Kitchie said. “More than just, ‘Oh, I had 100 yards rushing against Leto.’ We want to give them good games as much as they want a good game from us.”
It’s less about wins, which will be tough to come by for a team that has been winless on the field (not counting a 2011 forfeit victory) for four seasons and plays in a monster district, and more about creating a program players are drawn to each season. The staff’s goal has been to create challenges and embrace the underdog attitude.
“You never know when you are going to be the David versus the Goliath,” Kitchie said. “But you are never going to beat Goliath if you don’t step up to be David.”
♦ About The Falcons
Stadium: Mahin-Hoffman Stadium, 4409 W. Sligh Ave., Tampa
Class-District: 6A-8 (with Armwood, Blake, Chamberlain, Hillsborough, Jefferson, King, Lennard and Robinson)
Coach: Matt Kitchie (1-29, fourth season)
Last season: 0-10
Sept. 5: at Chamberlain
Sept. 12: Blake
Sept. 19: at Hillsborough
Sept. 26: Robinson
Oct. 2: at Jefferson
Oct. 10: Armwood
Oct. 17: at Middleton
Oct. 24: at Lennard
Oct. 31: King
Nov. 7: Spoto