Bartoszek returns home, hopes to push Warriors out of 'comfort zone'
SALAMANCA — Chad Bartoszek made a big change to step out of his self-described “comfort zone.” He hopes his new players can do the same.
Bartoszek had found a nice routine at Franklinville/Ellicottville, and built a consistent small-school winner between the two schools. He knew his fellow coaches and his players from six years on the job at Ellicottville, and the players came up learning how to play as Titans in his system. But now, as he returns back to where his football career started — his hometown and alma mater high school — Bartoszek sounds eager to take on a new challenge and develop those relationships again.
“It’s exciting for me as a coach and being back in some familiar places and being around the things that I grew up with,” he said. “It is an exciting time. But you also have some of the discomfort that you got used to. As a coach going into my seventh year, at Franklinville/Ellicottville I was getting into a groove, comfort zone, I felt really good about what we were doing and where we were going and you just get into a nice place from where you start building, building and all of a sudden you start to see things are just working the way that you want your program to work.”
Building new relationships will take time.
“It comes from practice time to picture day to game week and the kids get used to you and you get used to the kids, but when you have to redo it all and start from scratch, it’s a challenge,” he said. “It’s a little uncomfortable. But like I said, it’s exciting because it is a challenge.”
Salamanca returns 11 letterwinners under new head coach Chad Bartoszek. Front row (from left): Jarrett McKenna, Lucas McKenna, Dylan Wheeler, Tre Turner, Carter Stoltz. Back row: Ezra Stahlman, Kawliga Stahlman, Kody Shinners, Zach Cotter, Coby Ledsome. Missing from the photo was Justin Nichols. (Sam Wilson/Olean Times Herald)
Bartoszek inherits a program that made gains in the last two seasons, posting .500 or better regular seasons in Class D under coach Paul Haley (now the Warriors’ JV head coach). Last year’s Warriors graduated a big senior class, including Big 30 All-Stars Tyler Hedlund and Ira John, but 11 letterwinners including four starters return.
After splitting time last year with then-senior Zariah Armstrong, rising junior Lucas McKenna gets his chance to impress as Salamanca’s quarterback. McKenna, who will be helped by his older brother, senior Jarrett (wide receiver/defensive back), should have similar responsibilities to the mobile playmaking quarterbacks Bartoszek coached at F/E.
“If we’re on the field healthy and everyone is accounted for, you’re going to see a nice-sized group up front,” Bartoszek said. “You’re going to see some size to us. We’ve got a lot of returning linemen who are young, they’ll be back again next year. They’re doing a great job right now in camp getting our blocking scheme down. Our quarterback’s a returner, he got a lot of reps last year, him and Zariah, but Lucas McKenna’s going to run the show. He’s going to have a similar role to what a quarterback does in this offense. He’s going to have to run the show and he’s going to be a major player.”
Bartoszek said he’s ran similar offenses the last five years with “tweaks to adjust to our players,” and that should continue at his new school.
“I feel comfortable with what we’ve been doing, so we’re going to run a similar style offense and we’re going to tweak here and there to adjust to personnel,” he said. “If that comes in the form of a more power-style spread, then we go there. If we can throw the ball a little bit, we’re going to throw the ball a little bit more. And a lot of that will be dictated by our talent and by our personnel come (though our) scrimmage and through game week. Then it’s up to us coaches to adjust, but I think playbook-wise, offensively we’re going to be similar to what the Titans have been doing and just adjust.”
Aaron Hill will be Salamanca’s defensive coordinator with defensive assistant Dustin Ross. Paul Furlong, the former Allegany-Limestone coach, will assist Bartoszek on offense and help with the offensive line and with the defense from the coaching booth. The JV staff includes Haley, Seth Hostuttler, Travis Happoldt, Jerry Parisi and Ray Haley.
“However, we’re all interacting,” Bartoszek said. “It’s more of an offensive and defensive staff and less of a JV and varsity staff. So instead of dividing us by groups, we’re just not big enough to do that, so we’re going offense-defense.”
With much of last year’s staff returning, it’s helped Bartoszek get to know the team, but he hopes the new coaches (himself, Furlong and Ray Haley) help the players step out of their comfort zones.
“It’s interesting. We have a lot of familiar faces for the Warriors here, where I’m comfortable asking them for help with things,” he said. “Where do different things take place? I didn’t know our (team) pictures were here (at Veterans Park), for example. But there’s enough familiar faces here where there’s a comfort zone for the kids. But we also have a couple new coaches who, we’re making it a little bit uncomfortable for the kids and trying to change the way we do things and just elevate it to a championship level.”
Bartoszek expects big things from his players, but during his first official week of practice, didn’t want to identify them yet.
“I want them to earn that, I want them to prove it, we’re trying to push them to lead and push themselves to a different level,” he said. “They’ve made some great gains here the last few years to normalize the program and that credit goes to Paul and the staff that’s in place and the administration and the people in the community who have supported the Warriors in some pretty dark times.
“However, our job is to elevate that. So we’re trying to come in here and push them to the next step and I think that we’re leaving it up to the kids to fend for themselves when it comes to leadership a little bit. We’re teaching them how to do it. But they’ve got to get out of their comfort zones in some things.”
Bartoszek, who works with USA Football as a “Master Trainer” in Heads Up Football technique, said he meets coaches from around the country who have “80 kids, 90 kids” in their program.
“We’re just not going to have that around here,” he said.
Salamanca is in the “low 40s” for combined varsity and JV players, a number Bartoszek would like to build up to 50.
“But I’m just excited because these guys are here,” he said. The kids who are here, they’re our guys and we’re going to practice with them and we’re going to get after it with them.
“I think we’ve got enough up front and enough in our skill positions to be pretty competitive. We’re thin, just like a lot of schools, so it’s going to come down to staying healthy and staying on the field, but we’ve got enough.”
THE RETURNING starters:
Lucas McKenna, jr., 5-11, 155, quarterback/defensive back
Jarrett McKenna, sr., 5-9, 155, wide receiver/defensive back
Kody Shinners, soph., 6-0, 265, line both ways
Dylan Wheeler, sr., 5-8, 180, running back/linebacker
ALSO LETTERING were: