November 23, 2013

Football Feels Like Family

By Emily Correia
Special to GoHolyCross.com

"I will always look back and smile on the first day of my senior summer camp," remembered fifth-year senior James Lizotte. "Knowing that it was the last go around really makes you appreciate every minute with your teammates that much more."

Whether a player spends four years or comes back for a fifth season with the Holy Cross football program, the end result always remains consistent — Holy Cross football has left a significant impact on the life of every player. Senior Blake Berresford reflected that "the football program has meant the world to me. Without it, I don't think I would be the person that I am."

The football program has become more than just a team to the players. The team has become a family and a part of each of their personalities. "I've been playing football for 12 years now," fifth-year senior Casey Bessemer recalled. "It has become part of my identity. Everyone knows I play football, my mom even introduces me to people I don't know as, 'Casey, he plays football at Holy Cross.' Having this last season to play has meant everything to me."

The senior class of 2014 includes 30 members whose careers are nearing the end. For those who came back for another year, this final season is especially important. "It meant a lot to be able to play one more year," said fifth-year senior Kyle Pedretty. "I love football and having the opportunity to play at any time, having missed time or not, means a lot to me."

Coming to the end of their senior seasons as well, senior captains Mike Fess and Gary Acquah hope that they have left as big of an impression on the program as it left on them. "I hope that I will be remembered as a good leader, a good friend and as someone who people would want to go to battle with on the football field," said Fess. "I think the biggest thing I've done for the team is leading by example whether it be on the field or off of it. It's easy to talk about doing something like working hard and doing the right things, however going out and doing them is a whole different story. I always try to set an example for my teammates by doing the right things and always working as hard as possible, and I hope that they have followed in my footsteps." Added Acquah, "I hope that I have been able to leave behind a legacy of pushing through tough times and using adversity to make you stronger."

Senior George Sessoms reflected on the impact the class as a whole could leave, saying, "I hope we have imparted on the younger guys how important it is to work hard, and be your best at all times." Senior Jack Daly also noted that "as a class I hope we've left behind an example of dedication and hard work that has set the tone for the future direction of the program."

"Holy Cross football has taught me that working hard and putting in time will give you the chance of being successful. It's the consistency of how hard you work that will separate you positively from the rest," Acquah added. Senior Reggie Woods agreed with Acquah and noted, "Holy Cross football has taught me that I need to be diligent in every aspect in life so that I will be able to make my dream a reality."

The life lessons the football program has taught the players will stay with them into the future. Senior Jon Smith reflected on the lessons he learned, "Holy Cross football taught me that through dedication and hard work anyone can achieve any goal at any time." The football program instilled dedication and perseverance into the players that they can carry forward through the rest of their lives. "The biggest thing I think Holy Cross football has taught me is that nothing in life is easy," senior Daryl Howell commented. "If you're passionate about something you have to work extremely hard at it in order to achieve the goals that you want. During your journey, never lose sight of your ultimate goals because in the end they are obtainable."

Looking back on their careers, many of the seniors found their most vivid memories at the bottom of Mount St. James in the stadium they call home. "I would say my proudest moment is simply every time we run onto Fitton Field wearing that purple," Daly remembered. Berresford echoed those thoughts, saying the best feeling for him was, "being able to go to battle with all my brothers every Saturday." Berresford is not the only one who believes that the team comes together as a family. "The best part of being a part of the Holy Cross football program is the bonds that I have made with my teammates," remembered senior Jay Knighton. "There is a strong sense of brotherhood among us. You couldn't ask for a better group of guys." Senior Philip Gough recalled, "the football program has left me with some of the closest friends of my life. I also think so many of the lessons both good and bad that we learn from football will translate into the real world once we graduate. The program has been like a family."

"The football program has meant everything to me during my time here at Holy Cross," reflected Howell. "I have learned not only lessons on the field but life lessons for my future. The football program has changed me from a boy into a man throughout my four years here, and I'm very thankful for that." Fifth-year senior Kyle Toulouse also believes that Holy Cross football made him into the person that he is. "The football program made me into a man," Toulouse said. "I came in immature and undisciplined. Also, the lifelong friendships I've made with over 150 guys that I've shared success and failure with, means the world to me. They will all always be a part of my life in some shape or form."

In their careers, Acquah, Pete Anastasio, Berresford, Bessemer, Matthew Boyd, Mike Chieco, Daly, Fess, Gough, Howell, Jimmy Jordan, Jake Keller, Knighton, Billy Lang, Max Librizzi, Lizotte, John Macomber, Emanuel Mendoza, Scotty O'Donoghue, Pedretty, Roman SanDoval, Irvin Scott, Sessoms, Smith, Nate Stanley, Toulouse, Mike Tucker, Woods, Tyler Zeoli and Andrew Zitnik have each left their mark on the program. The 30 member class is both a team and a family, and they have all impacted each other's lives.

"I believe and have always said that the best part about Holy Cross football is the people you meet along the way," SanDoval recalled about his time with the program. "My teammates are the best group of gentlemen I have ever met. Throughout my five years here, good seasons and bad seasons, playing football at Holy Cross has been an awesome experience because of the guys I am surrounded by on and off the field each and every day." Lizotte continued, "I will be forever thankful to have had the opportunity to play with the guys on this team. I could not even imagine being anywhere else."

This story originally appeared in the November 23 edition of the Holy Cross Game Day Program, for the contest between the Crusaders and Georgetown. To order a copy of the program, click here.