It’s a new day for Alden football.
After winning the Section VI championship and making the state final four for the first time in school history, the Bulldogs might be expected to have a bit of swagger heading into the 2013 season. You might expect an arrogance in their demeanor that says, “We’re good and we know it.”
But the Bulldogs are embracing a much different outlook – an underdog mentality. They want to prove they can dominate without legendary coach Dick Diminuco, who left the team after last season to become the quarterbacks coach at the College at Brockport.
Rob Currin is the new head coach at Alden. He has helped coach the Bulldogs since 2007 and has spent the past four years mentoring the offensive and defensive lines. Most important, he’ll tell you, he spent those four years under Diminuco, the 2013 Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame inductee and longtime Albion coach who led Alden to three straight sectional titles and a 31-3 record those years.
Ask Currin what he learned from Diminuco and he’ll respond: “How long have you got?”
“I’m very fortunate to have worked with him in the capacity that I worked with him, as closely as I did, for those four years,” Currin said after the first day of fall practice, Aug. 19. “Not just from a football, X’s and O’s standpoint, which of course I learned a lot from him there, but relating to people, relating to other coaches relationships with kids, I mean, all that stuff.
“The guy is a mentor to me and I can’t really properly tell you how much I’ve learned from him.”
Before he learned under Diminuco, he received guidance from another well-known Western New York high school football coach – his own coach, Jerry Smith, at St. Francis.
“Jerry Smith is the reason that I wanted to go and play college football,” said Currin, who went on to play offensive tackle at Buffalo State from 2000-03. “He is an absolute motivator. He’s an inspiration. We talk every couple weeks on the phone. I stay in touch with him, and he’s really a guy that I kind of credit with getting a lot of things started as far as my love of football.”
Not much has surprised Currin so far about the new job – he has been involved with football for 20 years, after all – though he said he’s sure his answer will be different on a Friday night at halftime.
The Bulldogs open their season at home against Dunkirk tonight at 7.
Luckily for him, there are some consistencies from last year’s team. The most important one, perhaps, is his man under center. That is senior Brian Stoldt, a 2012 third-team All-Western New Yorker who has started since his sophomore year.
Stoldt led the charge to the state semifinals last season. The Bulldogs finished 11-1 and their trek ended with a 49-14 loss to Section IV’s Maine-Endwell. Now, in his final year of high school football, nothing short of a state title sounds sufficient.
“I don’t know if the motivation could get any higher, honestly,” Stoldt said. “We’ve been so close and we’re just really ready to knock that door down and make it happen, and we’ve been really close, and we’ve just got to keep working hard.”
Currin understands the wealth of talent and leadership he has in his quarterback, who made several college trips this summer and is mostly considering Division III schools.
“I don’t know how to pinpoint what it is about him,” Currin said of Stoldt. “I guess the best way to describe it is his personality is a bit magnetic. I’ve watched kids follow him, varsity kids follow him since he was a 10th grader. When I was on staff here my first year, he was in fifth or sixth grade, and you couldn’t get him off of this football field.”
Phil Zobrest is another of the stars on this year’s Alden squad. He plays tackle on offense as well as defensive end, and it’s his responsibility to replace all-state O-lineman Jason Bunk, who graduated, and help protect Stoldt.
Alden lost powerful tailback Corey Barczykowski but has several new young prospects who have shown flashes of immense potential. Among them are three sophomores: safety/running back Lyle Grant, fullback/linebacker AJ Patterson and tight end/defensive lineman Dylan Riddoch.
Erik Feitshans, a 6-foot-5, 250-pound senior, is another of the leaders on this year’s squad, as are 6-foot-4 wideouts Dylan Dussault and Austin Hopcia and running back Ryan Richards.
Zobrest, the defensive end, said the transition between coaches has been smooth.
“Last offseason, we lost Diminuco,” he said. “We thought that was going to be a big hit, but Currin was talking about a lot of things he was going to do when the season came and he’s sticking to his guns. We’re really moving together as a team.”
The coaching change likely did not affect any of the players more than Stoldt, Diminuco’s coach-on-the-field.
“You know, it was tough losing him, but sometimes that’s life – you’ve just got to move forward,” Stoldt said. “And he’s moving forward, we’re moving forward and we’re just ready to go, and we appreciate the things he did for us and it’s time to win football games now.”
The man hoping to lead Alden back to those winning ways likes what he sees.
“It’s been very upbeat,” Currin said. “It’s been very positive. The feel, the tone, the overall tone of our time together thus far … has been very enthusiastic, very upbeat, very positive. So I like to credit that from our coaching staff. Our coaches are excited. Football is fun. We get to go out and play every day. It’s a game that really, while it asks boys to be men, it allows men to act like boys a little bit. It’s just been fun, really.”