Points have been hard to come by throughout the season for the Norwood High football team, but such is life when running one play might mean there are as many as seven sophomores on the Mustangs side of the field.
Those around the program knew it would be a trying campaign, but have done all that they can to make it as productive of a season as possible.
One of those willing to do just about anything for the team has been offensive guard Joey Rydzewski. The senior captain turned in a performance that coaches around the league took note of, naming him a Bay State Conference All-Star despite being moved from tight end to interior lineman in September after the first couple of games.
During the offseason, Rydzewski went to the coaching staff with the idea of an even more drastic idea – putting himself at quarterback despite never having played the position to buy sophomore Jake Vail more time to learn the offensive system.
At the time, it appeared that senior quarterback John Galvin was not going to be going out for the team, electing to play junior hockey.
"I didn’t think Galvin would be playing, and I knew Jake had some experience on J.V.," Rydzewski said. "I’ve known the offense since sophomore year. I thought with my athletic ability, it might be a good fit.
"I wanted to give it a try. I thought there was a potential need to fill the position."
While the experiment only last a couple passing league games, the attempt to take on the position told Norwood coach John Sarianides all he needed to know about what kind of player he had in Rydzewski.
"It showed me he was a selfless kid who wanted to help the team," said Sarianides. "I appreciated that he was willing to step up and help the team. It speaks volume to him and his character."
After playing both varsity and J.V. as a sophomore, Rydzewski only appeared in the final two games last year as the starting left tackle after recovering from a torn MCL.
Following the season, the decision was made to convert Rydzewski to a tight end, and even after the brief attempt at quarterback, that was where he lined up when the Mustangs opened the season at Holliston.
While he had a couple of receptions in that game, Norwood was throttled by the Panthers and the offense was never able to get going. Moving Rydzewski back to the offensive line was designed to provide a bit of experience and leadership to a group that was learning on the fly.
"It’s been a struggle, we had to start three sophomores up front," Sarianides. "We’ve started six or seven sophomores on offense every week. We’ve improved every week, it doesn’t necessarily show on the scoreboard, but you can see they are getting better. Moving Joey to guard helped bring some leadership to the position and he’s been able to move them along."
"I knew it was better for us," said Rydzewski, who turned in his No. 87 for No. 56 with the move.
Thursday at Stone Park will be the final time Rydzewski suits up in an organized football game as Norwood meets Dedham for the 85th time on Thanksgiving.
"Obviously, it’s not the season we wanted, but we’re young," said Rydzewski. "This year it going to feel a lot different since it’s my last game. I hope we can click on all cylinders like we did against Bishop Feehan and get that win."
That was the only time this year the Mustangs have emerged victorious, but a fourth straight win over Dedham and retaining the Frank Wall-Sal Toti Trophy can go a long way toward helping to get over the anguish of a trying campaign.
"Except for guys like Ryzdewski, (Jake) Ryan and (Mike) Doliner a lot of these guys didn’t have much experience," said Sarianides. "They’re good kids and they’ve hung with it. You can only use so much coach speak, but it speaks to the kind of kids they are. They want to go out and play, stick with it, see it through and finish it and hopefully be rewarded."
After football, Rydzewski will attempt another switch as he will go out for the hockey team after having been a member of the basketball program for the previous three years. If he can’t cut it on the ice, Rydzewski said he will give indoor track a shot.
This spring he will be back on the baseball diamond as a captain and right-handed pitcher in the sport he hopes to play in college, with Babson his top choice.