Don Bosco
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Don Bosco football coach Greg Toal has a stoic look on his face during practice one October afternoon. He stands among a sea of maroon and white on the Ironmen’s field and just watches his players practice.
He stands away from the action. His assistant coaches are right in the thick of things. They constantly say things to the players. Picking up blocks, rushing the quarterback, running a passing route. These are some things the coaches ensure the players do well, among a myriad of other tasks.
Toal doesn’t say much, seeming almost aloof while his players prepare for their next game. Then something happens.
“No, no, no, what are you doing,” Toal yells as he walks over to a player. “Do it again.”
Practices are intense, running almost at game speed. Some players watch intently from the sideline, taking in what the first-teamers do. Other players don’t. The coaches don’t like that.
“Let’s go. Hey junior varsity players wake up and help us out here,” Toal yelled over to the sideline. “Don’t just stand around and look like you’ve got nothing to do. Help us out.”
Toal and his staff are doing more than coaching these young men about football. It’s more than that. They are instructing them on how to behave, how to act, to pay attention on what’s going on around them. The coaches don’t belittle or yell at the players to embarrass them. Toal just wants his players to try their best.
“He’s not talking about every little thing, but what he does say is so important,” junior wide receiver Mike Yankovich said. “You definitely listen to what he has to say.”
Some players said that the way Toal and his coaches work in practice is a good thing. They are hard on the players, but in a good way. It goes beyond constructive criticism. It’s about excellence and doing your job correctly.
“What we do can’t be good enough, we have to come out here and work hard everyday,” Yankovich said. “The principles [Toal] teaches us, they’re not just about football, they are about life. He’s a great motivator.”
That motivation works. The Ironmen show up to play their best for every game.
“We played quality opponents who came to play every game,” Toal said. “We just have to go about our business, be ready to play every game, and get ready for the state playoffs.”
Don Bosco is averaging 74 passing yards, 128 passing yards, and nearly 40 points per game. The team is ranked number one in the country on maxpreps.com and number seven in the Xcellent 25 High School Football Rankings.
Toal said there are several players who have been “pleasant surprises” for the Ironmen this season, including Yuri Wright, Jabrill Peppers, Francis Radici, and Alquadin Muhammad.    
“They have worked hard this season,” Toal said. “It has been a pleasure to work with them.”
The season has gone the way Toal expected it would go. The team was 5-0 as of deadline. The Ironmen beat Ridgewood High School 35-14, Bergen Catholic 38-18, and trounced Kennedy 58-6. Running back Paul Canevari scored two touchdowns and ran for 120 yards. The defense did not allow a first down until the third quarter.
Canevari is on maxpreps.com’s short list for National Player of the Year. As of Oct. 11 he had 1,011 yards and scored 11 touchdowns.
Trust is an integral part of the Ironmen’s success.
“That’s what the coaches preach out here, that you have to trust your teammates,” Yankovich said. “I trust my teammates.”
Yankovich also implicitly trusts Toal and the coaching staff.    
“We’ve got the best coaches in the nation here. They work hard everyday for us,” Yankovich said. “They are not in it for themselves, they’re in it to see us succeed.”
And succeed they have. The Ironmen have won six state championships in 11 seasons with Toal at the helm, including four consecutive Non-Public Group 4 titles.
Some teams might not try as hard the season after winning a national championship. That is not the case with the Ironmen.
The offense and defense will work on the field for a while. After this the special teams get on the field and practice different formations. Extra points, short kicks, long kicks, squib kicks, and onside kicks are all practiced. Players then practice blocking punts. Varsity bench players and junior varsity team members watched from the sidelines while long snappers and punters practiced with one another.
“Get behind the wall,” one coach yelled to a kickoff returner.
“Fill the lanes, fill the lanes,” another coach said to other players.
Practices can be very tense, much more so than other high school football practices. That tension gives practice an almost militaristic feel. But that discipline and dedication to excellence are designed to help kids beyond the football field.
After practice was done the players gathered around the coaches. Toal addressed the team about being responsible academically. He asked if anyone was failing a subject. Everyone was silent. It shows that Toal cares about what happens to his players off the field. He is not only investing in the players as young men off the football field, he cares about what happens to them in the classroom. He wants them to grow up to be disciplined men who always try their hardest.
“They take pride in what they do with us,” Yankovich said. “They love us and it definitely makes you want to work hard for them.”


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