The hashtag #BuildtheHill has become a popular mantra in tweets among Richmond Hill athletes and coaches, and its one football Coach Matt LeZotte takes seriously.
“Last year was probably the most successful year Richmond Hill athletic teams have had across the board, and with football starting things off in the fall, we kind of feel an obligation to set the tone,” he said.
To that end, the Wildcats are averaging more than 100 players per day for their summer workouts.
“There are a lot of different things going on during the summer, so it’s tough to keep the numbers high,” LeZotte said. “I’m proud of the guys, but there’s still work to be done.”
LeZotte said about 60 players have yet to miss a single day. The team goes from 8 to 11 a.m. Monday through Thursday, including weight lifting, conditioning and drills.
“Even with those numbers, it’s still only about 70 percent of our entire program,” LeZotte said. “We have to learn how to conquer ourselves to be competitive and win games. Every day we’re building toward that goal.”
The Wildcats opened up the 2016 season with six straight wins before falling to Lovejoy in the state playoffs to finish at 6-4.
“We can’t accept mediocrity,” LeZotte said. “Winning games is nice, and making the state tournament is nice, but the ultimate goal for any sport is a state championship.”
LeZotte said he asked some of his top players for an assessment of the program.
“I asked them where we stood as a team and a coaching staff if the state champion is at 100 percent commitment,” he said. “Most of them said 60 percent, 50 percent. It was an honest answer.”
LeZotte said he also sees the work players are putting in as focusing on more than just the upcoming season.
“It’s something you have to build over time,” he said. “We’ve got some guys who are having success at the next level and some current players who will be successful at the next level. It gives the younger guys something to shoot for.”
LeZotte was referring to players such as Nick Fitzgerald, the senior quarterback at Mississippi State who is projected to be a first-round pick in next spring’s NFL draft, as well as current Wildcats Sam James, Justin Jeffery and Joseph Petrino, all of whom have multiple Division I scholarship offers.
“It’s a reality check about how much work you have to put in and what the future can offer.”