MT. ST. JOSEPH ACADEMY: Vermont State Champs
When you take the smallest school that plays football in the state of Vermont and put them up against the biggest school in the state, who do you think will win?
By Matt Shepard
Published: Spring 1999
Mt. St. Joseph's Academy has a total enrollment of only 200 students; only 96 of which are boys. That doesn't leave a huge selection for Coach Brian Grady to pull from for his football team but apparently that didn't matter. He was able to get an incredible 41% of those boys on his team and every last one was hard working and extremely dedicated. With this handful of just 43 players, Coach Grady embarked on one truly inspiring journey that hasn't yet stopped, even after their Division I State Championship victory.
The Academy's presence hasn't always been so domineering though. Just three years ago they went 2-6 and five years ago they won only one game. What was it that made the difference? How did this dramatic turn-around come about? About their struggles, Coach Grady stated, “We play in the top division in the state. In the past ten years our enrollment has declined to where we are the smallest school in the state that plays football. With the decline in numbers our program has suffered in the number of wins, and more importantly our injuries increased. We tried many off-season programs but we weren't seeing the results that we felt our players deserved.” With the constant decline of students, athletes, and victories, the chance of having a big turn around seemed to get smaller and smaller each year. However, they did not give up hope.
After one more losing season in 1996, the Mt. St. Joseph's staff really felt they needed to go in a completely different direction. They began to explore the BFS program and liked what they saw. Coach Grady recalled, “We were impressed with results that other schools were having with the BFS program and decided to give it a try. Coaches Jerry and Jason Gorruso took a 5-1/2 hour drive to become certified BFS coaches. We implemented the BFS techniques in the spring of 1997.” They were ready for some results and deeply hoped that this was their answer.
The results they read about others achieving when on the BFS program quickly began to show with them. “Our players really liked the results that they were seeing. They truly were becoming bigger, faster, stronger,” said Coach Grady. With their increased strength and speed, they went into the 1997 season with a lot more confidence than ever before. Their record improved to 6-3 bringing them to the playoffs for the first time in 6 years. In addition to that superb win-loss turn around, not one of their players missed a game due to injuries.
After a great 1997 season, the Academy continued the program with an intense desire to become the best. They put everything they had into getting bigger, faster and stronger. Their second year on the program produced even greater success and improvement in their athletes than the year before. With each new contest they became a domineering presence on both sides of the line; and they have the stats to prove it. Tom McCann, the team MVP was probably the most impressive member of the team. On defense, he ended the year with 45 tackles, 4 for losses and 12 sacks. He also had 38 assisted tackles, 3 interceptions, and 1 fumble recovery. On the other side of the ball, he had 30 receptions for a combined total of 473 yards. That averages out as 15.7 yards per reception. He was able to convert 5 of those receptions into touchdowns. Another impressive team leader was Ian McCormick, their star running back. He made the All-State, Division I, First Team. He had 159 attempts rushing for a total of 1096 yards. That gave him an outstanding 7.2 yards per carry. Of those carries, ten were across the goal line.
It wasn't just Ian and Tom that made the team great; every team member did their part. Their tremendous team spirit is what actually carried the Academy right into the state championship game. Each player helped the next in self-improvement on the field and in the weightroom. Coach Grady enthusiastically stated, “their improvement carried over to the playing field as we went 10-1 this year. We won the Vermont Division I league title and the Vermont Division I State Championship. We also placed 9 players on the 1st team Division I All-State and 2 more on the 2nd team.” The outstanding gains they attained in the off-season, and continued with throughout the in-season, elevated them to a level in which they were able to beat schools with 7 times their enrollment. Their desire to be the best coupled with their immense dedication to accomplish their goals made their dreams a reality.
Coach Grady and his team plan to continue on the new path in which they started last year and have set high hopes for the future. They are not going to slow down one step. They know that, even though they won the state championship, they are still only just beginning. To BFS, Coach Grady thanked, “we at MSJ believe that your program was a major reason for our success these past couple of years. BFS is a program that we will continue in the future, because it shows results.” As they continue with the program, in-season and off, they know that they will grow and improve even more; that a winning dynasty has been born.