Guertin football players rally around a tough loss

John Trisciani had just finished speaking to his football team as a group on Saturday night at Stellos Stadium, and no doubt touched on a few topics, including one delicate one.

The Cardinals had just finished losing to Manchester Central, 33-16, in his head coaching debut.

Disappointing? Sure, but it was probably expected. Central had an experienced, hulk of a quarterback in Alex Hawkom, and the Cards, with just a small handful of seniors, are still feeling their way.

But Trisciani is the perfect guy for such a task, because he knows the players as students, as he teaches in the building. He’s got a calm, logical demeanor.

Thus he was the perfect guy to deal with a very tough situation. His junior linebacker, Matt Jozokos – No. 53 in your program, had lost his mother earlier in the day on Saturday. Yet he played on Saturday night, and in fact in the fourth quarter made a couple of good defensive plays.

Some deal with grief in a lot of different ways. One way is to continue on for the time being in a normal way to be around friends and, in this case, teammates. For example, Nashua Silver Knights manager B.J. Neverett, after his father Bill had passed away suddenly in the previous overnight, was at his team’s game that Friday night. He was in the territory he enjoys; but he did pass off the managerial reins that night to pitching coach (and likely future manager, within the next year or two) Kyle Jackson. Last fall Nashua South wideout Derek Downing somehow was able to focus in a game at Pinkerton while knowning his grandfather had been taken to the hospital after suffering a heart attack before the game in the stands. Like Jozokos, a kid dealing with an adult situation.

On Saturday night, you saw people hugging before the game, and a moment of silence was held prior to kickoff. Susan Jozokos had suffered a stroke 10 months earlier and one can only imagine that the last year had to be a family struggle.

Trisciani had some help. Assistant coach Kenny Eaves is said to be close to the Jozokos family.

“He was a good go-between in this situation,” Trisciani said. “He has a really good relationship with Matt and his family.

“I had heard (Saturday) morning that his mother had passed away. There was no expectation whatsover for him to come to the game.”

But later on in the day Saturday, Trisciani said Jozokos, whose father Mark is a BG alum, made it known he wanted to play.

“He wanted to come and he wanted to play,” Trisciani said. “It’s something I’ve never gone through. But if the kid was really passionated about it, I wasn’t going to stop him from playing.

“He had a really good week of practice this week. He’s a kid, I’m really proud of him. I don’t know if I’ve been more impressed with a high school kid as a coach. How can you expect something like that of a young kid? He’s really turning into a man.”

It had to be oh, so hard for the kid. The loss was seen as one that hit the Guertin community, not just the family. Jozokos’ sister, Josephine, is a Guertin cheerleader.

What did the team think? Did Trisciani have a read on it?

“I think they were kind of in shock,” he said. “We have a lot of kids from the same town (Pelham) as Matt. It’s going to affect not only these kids, but it’s going to affect the whole community. I think that’s attributed to how great of a person his mother was.”

It’s impossible to tell how this impacted the Cardinals on Saturday or going forward, but Trisciani, knowing his athletes as he does, has an idea.

“I’m hoping the kids really rally behind him,” Trisciani said. “We talked a lot about no matter what happens, you’ve just got to stay together.

“That’s what we’re trying to focus on right now and be there for Matt.”

Saturday night they did a good job of that, because their teammate was at least happily in his element during the toughest of times.

Tom King can be reached at 594-1251,