Griffins finish first week of spring under Mistretta

Kyle Riviere
kriviere@weeklycitizen.com
Quarterback Ben Mays and Dutchtown are looking to improve on a 3-7 finish from last year. Photo by Kyle Riviere.

This week, the post-Benny Saia era officially began for Dutchtown football as they kicked off spring practice under new head coach Guy Mistretta.

Mistretta was hired as the school’s second ever head football coach last month following the resignation of Saia.

Saia had been leading the Griffins for the past 15 years. He built the program from scratch and transformed it into a perennial playoff team that was consistently competing for district championships.

Mistretta officially took over as head coach and athletic director on April 24. Despite the short turnaround, he was thrilled with how things went in his first week.

“It’s been very productive—besides the weather. It rained yesterday, and it feels like playoff weather today,” Mistretta said. “The kids are real receptive, the work ethic has been great and they’ve been real enthusiastic out there. Considering that we only had a week to get ready, it’s been a better first week than expected.”

Every spring practice is important for coaches as they get a glimpse of what their team will look like in the fall, as well as getting to see younger players step up and make their case for promotions in the depth chart.

However, the Griffins’ spring session has become even more vital for Mistretta.

Being brand new to the program, he will get to see the strengths and weaknesses of his players. Though, to Mistretta, that is secondary to getting to know them as people.

“The biggest thing for me personally is building relationships,” Mistretta said. “I haven’t been coaching much so far through the spring. I’ve been grabbing kids and bringing them aside and talking to them, getting to know them—which is good. That’s what I need to do. That said, the assistant coaches have been doing a great job. I’m really impressed with the staff—the way they work, the way they communicate with kids and the way they teach.”

Mistretta knows all there is to know about winning.

He saw his father, Bucky win two state championships at Ascension Catholic, and ever since he followed in his father’s footsteps and became a head coach, he has won two state titles of his own.

Mistretta wants to have the same kind of success at Dutchtown, but his first year will certainly be a challenge.

The Griffins went just 3-7 last season and missed the playoffs for the first time in over a decade.

They also lost some of their best players in cornerback Adam Sparks, running back Chuckie Davis, defensive lineman Kyle Sarrazin and safety Cameron Crawford. All four were all-district players that signed with colleges.

Fortunately for the first-year head coach, the Griffins do return some key players from last year—including receiver Noah Gray, defensive lineman Devin Mitchell, defensive backs Van’Shon Grayson and Jordan Jackson and quarterback Ben Mays.

Mays was a first-year starter at QB last year and had the unenviable task of replacing a first-team all-district performer in Purdue signee Jared Sparks.

Mistretta was impressed by what he saw from Mays and many other upperclassmen in the first week.

“I’m starting to see some leadership. All of the quarterbacks are playing well, but Ben seems to be taking charge from a leadership standpoint—which is good,” Mistretta said. “Other guys are, too.

“It was the third practice for us, but only the second one outside. The contact from the first day to this day has really increased, and we’ll do a lot more of that next week. One of the main things that we wanted to do is get more physical. That’s something that we’re going to preach. We’ll crank that up next week.”

Dutchtown will not play a spring game, but Mistretta said that he and his staff will come together to possibly plan an intrasquad scrimmage at the conclusion of their spring practices—which is May 17.

For now, he is happy with the progress his new team has made.

“It’s hard to say any players stood out—like I wasn’t expecting it, because I didn’t know what to expect,” Mistretta said. “I had no preconceived notions of anyone, but overall, I’m pleased with the way both sides of the ball are coming around.”