Simonetti bringing structure to Senators


Rudy Simonetti is getting the Senators ready for the start of the season on Sept. 9 against Woodbridge. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Rudy Simonetti is getting the Senators ready for the start of the season on Sept. 9 against Woodbridge. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — The longer Dover High’s football program went without a head coach, the more questions started to creep in.

The Senators went the entire winter without a coach.

Dwight Wilson, who will be a senior this fall, didn’t like the feeling.

“I was hesitant, I was impatient, I was like, ‘Who’s our new coach?’” said Wilson. “I was all over the place, honestly.”

But even when Dover hired Rudy Simonetti on March 18, the questions didn’t stop — not at first anyway.

The 33-year-year-old is a newcomer to Delaware, having spent all his life in northern New Jersey.

A few months later, though, the Senators say they like what they’ve seen from Simonetti.

He started his special ed teaching job at Dover in May and has been overseeing off-season conditioning with the Senators as they prepare for the 2016 campaign.

Like Wilson, fellow senior Gavin Watson said the offseason uncertainty was difficult for the players.

“It was kind of depressing,” Watson said before a weightlifting session on Tuesday. “We didn’t know who the coach was going to be. We were just in here working out.

“When we first started (working out), there weren’t a lot here. A lot of people weren’t coming. But when the coach came, he made himself clear. He let them know how the rules are going to be this year. More people started coming.”

“We talked about him amongst the players, without the coaches,” said Wilson. “We agreed we’re going to give him a chance. We’re not going to judge him the first game or the first practice. We’re just going to welcome him with open arms and, hopefully, his game plan and his strategy will lead us to a winning season.”

Both Wilson and Watson say they like the structure and discipline that Simonetti has brought with him.

Simonetti is a 10-year coaching veteran, working as an assistant at his alma mater, Passaic Valley (N.J.) High, as well as Mount Olive and Elmwood Park.

This is his first time being a head coach.

“He’s different — but in a good way,” said Wilson. “I just feel as though his mentality and our mentality are the same — right on path.

“Me and him talked privately for a little bit. He told me about his goals and expectations. I really think he’s going to do some good things for this program.

“I’m not saying it wasn’t good last year, but this year we’re more focused and more dedicated. Like we’ve got more numbers in the weight room than we did last year. We’ve got everybody bought into the program this year.”

“He seems more strict, more put together,” said Watson. “It’s going to be a better season, I think. It’s a good thing. Now we’ve got more structure to our team.”

While he’s dealing with completely new players at Dover, Simonetti said most high school football players are the same at heart. In his experience, they like a tightly-run ship.

“Kids yearn for discipline,” he said. “They want to know that you have good intentions as a football coach. They can sense when things are not right and will act accordingly.

“Like I’ve always said, if you show them you’re working hard, and there’s an open line of communication, they’ll run through a wall for you.”

Over the last few years, Simonetti said he started keeping a book with ideas for things he’d do if he ever became a head coach. Once he got the job at Dover, he just started putting those plans into action.

“I told the kids from day one, ‘I’m going to earn your respect through my hard work,’” said Simonetti. “I will ask nothing from them, I will earn it from them. It works both ways.”

Simonetti, who’s gotten plenty of advice from the veteran coaches in the building, may be new to Dover but his assistant coaches aren’t.

Veteran assistant Jason Hunt will take over as offensive coordinator while former Caesar Rodney High standout and Wesley College All-American defensive lineman Bryan Robinson will join the coaching ranks as the Senators’ defensive coordinator.

Robinson, who spent time with the Arizona Cardinals the summer after college, played in the Arena Football League for six seasons.

Other coaching positions will be filled by Dover grads Lanell Hicks, James Kilby, Gene Scott and Hameen Ali along with coaching holdovers Charles Woodard, Mike Denney and Larry Thomas.

Simonetti likes what Robinson brings to the Senators.

“I think he’s done a tremendous job so far,” said Simonetti. “He’s brought a big-time attitude and intensity to that side of the football. He’s teaching his kids a lot about how to play with tenacity and pursue and to play physical Dover football.”

In Hunt, Simonetti sees a young guy who’s paid his dues to get this opportunity.

“He’s really earned it,” said Simonetti, who is coaching the offensive line. “We hit it off. My philosophy was his philosophy and vice versa. I was like, ‘This guy is my age. He’s just waiting for his first big break — like I needed four years ago.’ I want to give it to him. He’s been such a hard worker.”

The Senators, of course, are a long way from seeing how this will all play out. Dover opens the season on Sept. 9 at Woodbridge.

Right now, though, Simonetti has his new players excited about the possibilities.

And after back-to-back losing seasons, thinking things will be different this fall is a good thing for the Senators.

“Everybody’s playing as a family,” said Watson. “It’s going to be a whole team this year, not individuals. Everybody’s going to be together.”

“We’ve got our goals set,” said Wilson. “We’re taking it one step at a time.

“I’ve heard a lot of talk. People just think, based upon last year, our season’s not going to go so well. They’re doubting us already. But that’s what keeps us going. It gives us more to prove.”

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