By Kyle Brennan, Citizen’s News
NAUGATUCK — Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s been one consistent leader of the Naugatuck High football program. That leader will continue his role through this season — if it ever happens.
Ollie Gray, who served as assistant head coach and offensive coordinator under previous head coach Dave Sollazzo, will continue his role as interim head coach throughout the next year. Gray has been serving in that role since Sollazzo retired in June.
“With the season being a little up in the air, it was important for us to keep as much continuity for our program as we could right now,” Naugatuck interim athletic director Brian Mariano said. “Ollie is a good guy and will do a great job. We will look to conduct interviews this spring … so (we’re) putting the search on pause for the moment.”
Gray had been active in offseason activities under Sollazzo, the man he coached with for the last three seasons. When the CIAC allowed virtual team meetings starting in June, Gray presided over those meetings. He continued that role and then oversaw football conditioning starting in July.
“The COVID-19 situation has been very different, uncharted territory,” Gray said. “I encourage and motivate the kids to stay positive, hopeful and be ready when the opportunity presents itself. Coaches coach, player play, and administrators administrate. Adversity is a part of life and football is a microcosm of life. Do your part and embrace the process.”
Football remains perhaps the most controversial sport slated to be played this fall. As of Friday, the CIAC delayed the first date for all fall sports to Aug. 29 as it prepares to submit modified fall sport plan options to the state Department of Public Health, which has recommended moving football and volleyball to the spring.
If the Greyhounds play football in the fall, their opponents will include Woodland, Seymour, Oxford, Ansonia and Derby. The CIAC has not released a timetable for any decision on a season, which wouldn’t begin before Sept. 24.
Regardless, Gray is looking forward to capitalizing upon the team’s strengths as Naugy will try to improve upon a 5-5, injury-riddled effort in 2019.
“Our team strengths will be our senior leadership and a strong determination to bounce back from last season,” Gray said. “We can compete on a high level in all phases of the game. The team is looking forward to the opportunity to play this season. In these times, we will never take it for granted.”
Mariano, meanwhile, will serve as Naugatuck’s interim athletic director throughout this school year after the resignation of Gianni Perugini this summer. Perugini resigned to became an assistant principal at Thomaston High School. Mariano previously served as athletic director for several years before being appointed to dean of students last summer.
Naugatuck Principal John Harris said Mariano will continue serving as dean of students along with the added responsibilities of being the athletic director. The district will look for a full-time replacement in the spring.