Friday night lights will shine in Trumansburg once again. The last season of football for Charles O. Dickerson High School was in 2013, and it will return this fall. The man at the helm for the Blue Raiders this season will be Julian Munoz, who is picking up the clipboard for the team for the first time since 2008.
After 11 years away from the game, Munoz will need to adjust his coaching style for eight-man football. Trumansburg joins six other Section IV teams who have an eight-man squad, including Lansing and Newfield. For the past handful of seasons, Trumansburg had joined forces with South Seneca and Romulus to form the Tri-Town Titans, based in Section V.
“It was a community-driven thing. Our community really wanted football back in town. They were attending board meetings. They were talking to the administration. There was just a huge push,” Munoz said. “In the end, our administration talked to South Seneca because we had another year on our contract and both parties agreed to end it early.”
The community will come together on Friday evening, when the Blue Raiders host Elmira Notre Dame, and Munoz already feels the passion of the town returning.
“This small town has a lot of pride. We’re walking in the Firemen’s Parade. Parents are making all these signs. They’re putting those signs in lawns this year. It’s been a lot of excitement,” Munoz said. “Everywhere I go, people are saying, ‘Hey, if you need anything, let us know. We’ll help out any way we can.’ It’s been a bit of a big deal. It’s kind of cool to see the excitement and energy for it.”
The parents are just as involved and supportive as Munoz remembers from a decade ago, and he shared fond memories from his first stint as head coach.
“We always had a great support system from the parents. One of my favorite stories is that we had to play a game out in Unatego on a Friday night. If you’ve ever been to Unatego, there’s not a whole lot out there between here and there,” Munoz said. “But the parents showed up and they had set up a tailgate next to the bus after the game, and there was all sorts of ziti and pasta and stuff like that.”
Part of the process of getting the team together is gathering equipment after five seasons without football. This included collecting gear from South Seneca and Romulus and updating old equipment.
“Helmets are only good for 10 years, so we were out of football for five-and-a-half or so, so we had a big chunk of helmets not be good anymore and we had to buy a bunch of those. I had a meeting with the administration yesterday and the athletic director (Jason Hodge), and we were able to get some more funding so we can get some more equipment in,” Munoz said. “We’re not so sure we’re going to have everything we need for contact for the first day (Aug. 29), but we will definitely have everything we need to get started that first day.”
Another part of preparation is the playbook, and neither the players or coaches have eight-man experience, so a steep learning curve is expected. While Munoz’s playbooks for the season are “about 90% done everywhere,” he has hit one notable snag in his preparation for the season: special teams.
“Nowadays, you can Google anything and get it off the internet. But eight-man football special teams is an anomaly that’s nowhere in the world,” Munoz said. “That’s something we’re trying to figure out. That’ll be interesting to see come Friday night against Notre Dame.”
Munoz does have an idea of what to expect from the different style of football.
“From what I’ve gathered, it’s going to be a lot of man-to-man because there’s just not enough people to cover everything otherwise,” he said. “Whereas you’d see more zone defenses with 11-man football, you’re going to see less of that in eight-man. And I think you’re going to see a lot more scoring just because there are fewer people on the same field.”
A 10-year gap in coaching is significant, and Munoz had a good reason to step away.
“One of the pieces of advice I got when I first got here, coach Jack Reed, who I took over for, said that, ‘If you get the opportunity, don’t coach while your kids are playing because you spend all your time watching other kids grow up and you don’t really get to see your own,’” Munoz said. “I took that advice to heart and I watched my kids grow up. It’s been fun watching them do their thing.”
In a perfect world, though, Trumansburg would have returned in 2020.
“Unfortunately, if this could’ve timed out one more year later, it would have been perfect because my son is a senior this year. But he understood,” Munoz said. “I had a long talk with him before I even applied to make sure it was ok with him. My daughter’s a junior, so she’s one year behind. But luckily, the horseback riding doesn’t interfere with football. It’s in the summertime.”
With his family supporting him, Julian Munoz is beyond excited to bring football back to Trumansburg, and it all starts with the home opener on Tarbell Field against Elmira Notre Dame.
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