By MATT SMITH
NEWTOWN SQUARE — Marple Newtown’s trio of captains has experienced many highlights and lowlights over the course of four years with the program.
Last season, Joe Vegso, Corey Power and Craig Hamilton were juniors on a Tigers team that qualified for the District One Class AAA postseason.
This year, the Tigers have endured their struggles, and remain a long shot to qualify for districts this time around. Tonight, the Tigers (3-5, 3-4 Central League) go for their third win in four games when they hit the road to take on winless Radnor.
“The first couple of games, we weren’t as unified as we are now,” Vegso said. “After Friday night’s game (a 6-3 win over Upper Darby), I think it really, for the first time all year, unified this team. That’s a game that kind of brings everyone together. We had to go through some adversity — flags being called in big spots (and) things like that. But we all looked at each other and said, ‘Stay together, stay together.’ We have a lot of injuries right now … and, honestly, the only way we can get make it through is to stay together.”
If there is ever an internal matter that needs to be dealt with, they know how to take care of the problem, Vegso said. It’s a testament to the captains’ ability to lead. Vegso sounds like he would make a great football coach some day.
“If there are team issues, we get together and talk about how to settle those things. The communication between us is really good,” Vegso said. “We meet every Tuesday morning — the three of us and Coach (Ray) Gionta — to go over how the team’s attitude is and where we’re heading for the week.”
And it’s important to continue setting the right example for the underclassmen.
“They won’t know what to do when it comes their time, so we just have to lead on and show them what to do, especially on the practice field,” Vegso said. “The tempo and the attitude shown in practice has a lot to do with how you’re going to play that week.”
“There are guys that at the beginning of the season thought they wouldn’t see varsity time at all,” Power added. “All of the sudden, two guys were hurt at the same position, and the third-string guy who never thought he would play is now getting varsity time. He didn’t know what he was doing about a month or two ago, but (he is) showing a lot of progress.”
Power, a 6-3, 240-pound two-way lineman, leads the team in a handful of defensive categories, including tackles (61), tackles for loss (6.5) and sacks (three). Those stats are according to the team’s official website, marplenewtownfootball.com. The 6-6, 210-pound Hamilton has chipped in with 40 tackles and one sack at linebacker. Vegso is the team’s offensive leader in receptions (15) and receiving yards (275). Interestingly, Vegso came into summer camp competing for the starting quarterback position. Vegso saw action under center earlier in the year, but junior Tommy Davis has since emerged as the team’s No. 1 signal caller. Vegso unselfishly accepted his role as receiver/tight end.
“The only reason it was tough in the beginning was because I didn’t quite know what to focus on,” he said. “But it really didn’t matter. Whatever position I could play that would be best for the team, that’s all that mattered.”
Gionta has had better teams in his 10 years as head coach of the football program at Marple Newtown. But make no mistake, when the 2012 season ends, he’ll lose three quality players, three excellent students and, most of all, three tremendously well-rounded young men.
“They’re great kids,” Gionta said. “All season long, they’ve really kept the team together.”