Football: state champion team is back on the field

Players describe the 2021 football season as surreal; last year, the team went to state for the first time ever and won the championship title for Division 5-AA. They also had a 14-1 season, awarded many players as MCAL all-league winners, and had several athletes continue to play in college. There is anticipation for whether a successful season can happen again.

Coach Dominic DiMare has been with the team for 17 years. His background has allowed him to reflect on previous experiences to continue leading the team to success.

“It’s always been a goal to make the playoffs and it’s always been a goal to establish a good community and family relationship,” DiMare said. “The winning of the state championship, it’s a mountaintop most coaches never get to. It’s a new season, it’s a new class, don’t look behind, always look forward.”

A lot of the accomplishments last year were achieved by seniors who have since graduated. DiMare said that the team dynamic differs a lot from last year.

“We lost a lot of very, very talented seniors. This year we have quite a few talented juniors and seniors, so while we lost a 2,000 yard rusher, we’ve gained a great group of wide receivers,” DiMare said.

In addition to losing many seniors, the team lost their quarterback, Joey Cook, to rival school Marin Catholic (MC) who San Marin lost to last year in what players describe as a “tough loss”. Even so, some players like Senior Frankie Quinci support his move for better opportunities and look forward to playing him in the MC game on Nov. 4.

“We’re all family, if he wants to go, that’s his decision. We support him fully, we’re not gonna hate on a person who went to San Marin, or on a kid any of us grew up with. But when it comes to playing time, we’re going up against him,” Quinci said.

Junior Dominic Ingrassia is the starting quarterback in place of Cook. He was moved up from Junior Varsity to Varsity for the play-offs last year and hopes to help the team work towards another championship. Since last season though, Ingrassia notices a lot of differences in the team’s dynamic.

“It’s a different team for sure. It’s a lot of new starters, we’re a young team,” Ingrassia said. “Last year’s team was good. I think there’s different strengths of both teams, some things last year’s team was better at, some things this team’s better at.”

Senior defensive end Hayden Cordero agreed that this year is different.

“I think we’re similar in the sense that we’re always working to get better and we hold each other accountable, but it’s kind of just a different sense of leadership. It almost feels like we communicate and work better together than we did last year,” Cordero said.

Cordero, as well as Quinci and Ingrassia, believe that the team is much closer than any previous years. The players also feel that there is stress put on the team after winning a state championship, as they are now expected to go far again.

“Knowing that we are one of the only teams that have won state in Novato, it’s a challenge knowing every game that someone’s gonna be targeting you saying ‘I want to beat those San Marin players who went to state last year,’” Quinci said.

DiMare and players agreed, though they don’t like to think that there is pressure, and instead focus on winning. According to Cordero, the stress isn’t just on the team to perform well, but there is also pressure to earn a spot on the field. DiMare also acknowledges this, as there are 54 players but 22 positions available. Due to this stress, the players think that it will be difficult to repeat what they were able to accomplish last year.

“It’s a long season, I think it’s hard to keep everyone motivated and on task every single day all the way through hopefully December,” Cordero said.

The previous season’s consideration of sanctions after use of racial epithets towards opposing teams adds additional stress. The investigation has concluded and no additional information has surfaced.

“There are no sanctions. NUSD (Novato Unified School District) and TUHS (Tamalpais Unified School District) leadership continue to dialogue and plan for the upcoming season,” Superintendent Jan La Torre-Derby said. “NUSD also has a new Athletic Handbook that has been shared with all coaches and administrators. We will abide by the code of conduct which was approved by Trustees in June and a Code of Conduct for Students approved in August.” 

Athletic Director Tyler Peterson is new to San Marin this year. He has worked with all of the coaches at San Marin to ensure that every sport is following the new Code of Conduct.

“We have some strong and reliable coaches leading our football program. The coaches, and all who assist with the success of the team, work hard to assure no stone is left unturned. The coaches and I are in constant contact on a daily basis regarding the happenings with players on and off the field, whatever the situation may be,” Peterson said. 

DiMare thinks that the threat of a sanction made the team greatly rethink the risk of losing their sport and impacted them to improve morally.

“I feel that the kids know what’s at stake and I think that they realized it was an issue last year that they are trying to make better for the senior class this year. In general I hope that all the football players learned a valuable lesson on this,” DiMare said.

Without the chance of sanctions, San Marin has another chance to advance far.

“Last year’s season was remarkable, we hope to do that again this year.” Ingrassia said, “It’s going to be challenging because that’s never been done before in the history of San Marin, but I think we have the team to do it again and it’s what we’re praying for.”

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