Woodland’s Craig Genz and Jake Pinho have quietly added themselves to the Hawks’ growing list of great skill-position players
It’s been less than a decade, but Woodland has featured plenty of superstars at the skill positions. See if these names ring any bells: Jeff Jones, Shane Kingsley, Will Volage, Anthony Cassetti, Jay Kymer, Brandon Fowler…
The list of those players vitally important to the success of Woodland football goes on, and two more have tacked on their names at the end—Craig Genz and Jake Pinho.
Genz and Pinho emulate everything Woodland football players have come to be: Tough, gritty, work-until-you-drop guys who might not be the greatest athletes on the field or put up eye-widening numbers, but won’t be outhustled even once.
The determination they show every time they hit the field didn’t come out of nowhere—it’s been built up throughout their time in the program.
“The two of them I think epitomize program kids,” Woodland coach Tim Shea says. “They went through the first three years biding their time and this was their chance to shine.”
In one sense, yes, this season has been their chance to shine. But they have played with a sense of team, not needing to do anything else but prove they could contribute to the Hawks’ winning effort.
“I was looking to make a name for myself,” Genz says. “I wanted to go out there and prove I could play and play at a varsity level.”
“I was looking to be a player,” Pinho says. “Woodland has set high expectations every year. I figured we would come out with the same expectations.”
Woodland may have perennial high expectations but many people around the Naugatuck Valley League thought the Hawks would be a .500 team this season. In fact, the season looked like it may have been headed that way after a tough, 1-2 start with losses to Ansonia and Wolcott.
But Pinho, with his unique sense of fire and energy, helped pick his team up in midseason games against Watertown and Torrington. He scored a crucial rushing touchdown touchdown to help the Hawks to a 27-20 win over the Indians before making the game-clinching interception in a 30-20 win over Torrington.
He’s not afraid to show his emotions on the gridiron, whether or not he’s the one making the play.
“I’m about heart, dedication, and never giving up,” Pinho says. “I just get that emotion and I go insane. I get fired up and let it all out.”
Shea sees the benefits of Pinho’s intensity.
“Jake is kind of like our spark plug,” Shea says. “Whenever he makes a big play or a big play happens, he goes nuts. That kind of brings everybody else up, too.”
Genz is the antithesis to Pinho’s wear-your-heart-on-your-sleeve style. He just prefers to do his thing like it’s no big deal.
“I’ve never been a big fan of celebrations,” Genz says. “I just want to act like I’ve been there because I have been before.”
It’s not flashy and doesn’t grab attention, but Shea notices Genz’s work.
“Craig is more of that quiet intensity,” Shea says. “He does his thing full speed every time. He’s playing pretty well for us on D.”
They don’t get much credit from the outside. Take a glance at their stats: Genz has 550 rush yards and four touchdowns, while Pinho has 236 total yards with three touchdowns.
In fact, it’s easy to take away from Genz and Pinho. It’s easy to say that they don’t have to shoulder the full load with Jack DeBiase running the offense. But they don’t mind a bit.
“I’m fine with that,” Genz says. “Opposing teams base their defenses on Jack. They don’t take us in as a factor. When game time comes, they have to make adjustments to us, and when they adjust to us, Jack hits them again.”
How about their questionable pass defense in the first half of the season? They don’t make excuses—they just get better. make adjustments to us, and when they adjust to us, Jack hits them again.”
How about their questionable pass defense in the first half of the season? They don’t make excuses—they get better.
“We’ve been working passing drills,” Pinho says. “We have the luxury of having past athletes from Woodland run against us for scout offense. That’s helped us a lot.”
Maybe it’s fitting that these guys are underdogs on an overachieving team. They don’t care what others think—they prefer to get results.
“I want to be remembered as the team that no one gave a chance,” Pinho says, “and the team that took the opportunities that were presented in front of it.”
Thanks to these two, it might be the team that gets another chance, in the playoffs—and look out if it does.