By Tom Szieber
Posted: Wednesday, September 19, 2018 3:40 pm
Before he’d ever coached a game in the Garden State, Josh Mason had already built a football program from the ground up.
As the man who was the first-ever football coach at Paterson Mill High School in Maryland for its first seven years of existence, he knew what it was like to achieve success after starting with nothing. Paterson Mill was a playoff team when he left to take the job at Gateway in 2014. The Gators, on the other hand, were in disarray.
Just 5-45 over the preceding five seasons, they suffered from low numbers and equally low morale. A winning culture was non-existent.
Fast forward to present, and Gateway is being pegged as a contender in South, Group 1.
So how, exactly, did it happen?
“We had to learn how to practice correctly, and we had to believe we could win,” said Mason. “Now, the kids think we are going to win every week. We have gotten much stronger through our weight training program, and the commitment to the program is at an all-time high.”
It is easy to see why. The Gators won their first-ever playoff game last year, and are 2-0 on the season in 2018. They showed their defensive toughness in an opening game victory over Lindenwold, and showed their offensive diversity in this week’s win over Florence.
Mason is quick to give credit for the hot start to a strong senior class led by OLB Pat Hayden, who has committed to Bryant University (R.I.). Hayden had 11.0 sacks and 22 tackles for losses last year, and has picked up right where he left off in making Gateway’s defense a force to be reckoned with.
“I think our whole senior class, we’ve got a real tough group,” Mason said. “When they were sophomores, they went 4-6 and lost [some real close games]. Toughness was something Gateway football needed. And we gained that on the practice field and in the weight room.”
That defense has also been bolstered by senior FS Logan Cruet, a well-rounded defensive back who Mason called the “quarterback” of the unit.
Meanwhile, the Gateway offense is led by a one-two punch in the backfield in Kyle Albeser and Derrick Parker. Albeser, a senior, has run for 272 yards and four touchdowns in two games. The downhill runner of the pair, his style complements that of the junior Parker, who is a speedster that has picked up 181 of his own. Senior QB/SS Matt Goetz engineers the traditional pro-style offense.
Gateway has no doubt come a long way from the team that suffered two winless seasons (2009, 2012) in the last 11 years. And they did it all from scratch.
Tom Szieber can be reached by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.