Band of brothers
In last week’s first-round playoff game with Norwalk, after Columbian scored in the first overtime to bring the Tornadoes within 28-27 of the Truckers, Columbian coach Brian Colatruglio was tempted to go for a two-point conversion and try to win the game right there.
But before he decided to risk his team’s season on a single play, Colatruglio had a question for his defensive coordinator.
“I flipped my headset over, and asked him ‘Are you going to stop them if we kick here?’ And he said they would,” Colatruglio said. “We were debating and we were thinking hard. He told me they were gonna stop them … and they did.”
Columbian kicked the extra point, and made a defensive stop in the second overtime and beat Norwalk, 34-28.
One of the reasons? The trust the TC coach had in his defensive coordinator, his brother, Nate Colatruglio.
The trust that the Colatruglio brothers have in each other has filtered down to the players.
“Them being brothers, you trust them, because they have to trust each other,” TC defensive back Jeffrey Crawford said. “We know they’re gonna be doing what is right, not only for themselves but for us as a team. That’s what it’s all about is us.”
Nate Colatruglio has been coaching with his brother Brian since the latter was in his final season as an assistant at Calvert. From there, Nate has been an assistant at each of Brian’s head coaching stops – Van Buren, Hopewell-Loudon and now Columbian.
“He’s coached with me, this is my 13th year as a head coach, he’s been with me all 13 years,” Brian Colatruglio said.
For most family coaching tandems, the question would be, ‘what’s it like to coach with your brother?’ Problem is, Nate can’t really answer the question.
“It’s been great. I guess I don’t have any experience not coaching with him,” Nate said. “As long as I’ve coached, it’s been with him. I can’t really compare it to anything, but I can’t imagine not being in that situation and coaching with someone else.”
Nate Colatruglio’s role has expanded through the years. When he joined his brother at Van Buren, and through much of the duo’s tenure at H-L, Nate coached outside linebackers and helped out on defense in general.
“I think this is his fifth year where he’s had complete control [of the defense],” Brian Colatruglio said. “We did it together for a few years – the first five years at Hopewell. And it kind of got to the point where all I was doing was signaling what he was telling me to, so I figured someone else could probably do that, and I could think about offense. He’s kind of taken over since then. He’s really good.”
Especially this year. The Tornadoes’ defense allowed around 10 points in the regular season.
“He can pick the offense apart, and he can tell us what we need to do and how we need to do it,” Columbian defensive lineman Codey Chance said. “He’s just a great coach to work with.”
Nate Colatruglio is a volunteer coach. He has a full-time job outside of football, but still is able to dedicate the time to leading the TC defense.
“I’m fortunate that I don’t have to pay my best assistant coach. He volunteers his time,” Brian Colatruglio said. “It’s unfortunate, because he can’t be at practice every day, he does have a real job that he has to attend to. He can’t be here every day, but he puts in the time behind the scenes. He does all our defense, all our tip sheets, all our scripts, practice plans and all those things, and communicates with our assistant coaches all the time, making sure they’re carrying our the rest of the week what he wants to get done.”
Nate Colatruglio was asked if he had any hopes of being a head coach someday.
“It’s something that crosses my mind sometimes but I don’t think it’s a realistic possibility,” he said. “Can’t imagine spending any more time.”
Brian Colatruglio said his brother could be a head coach if that’s what he wanted.
“Absolutely. His knowledge of the game, he is excellent,” Brian Colatruglio said. “He’s our film guy. He can watch film, and he dissects blocking schemes, and routes and what teams are trying to do. He comes up with a great plan.”
Nate deflected the credit with how his defense has played.
“Like anybody, you take pride when there are good results in something you’re doing,” he said. “It’s not just me, we have a really good coaching staff. Everybody has their role and they play their role.”
Still, his players said they can sense a sibling rivalry remains.
“Sometimes,” Chance said when asked if he notices competition between the Colatruglios. “When (the offense) gets a score, Nate wants us to go get a stop, get a fumble recovery for a score.”
“I think for me personally, it’s more … with I don’t want to let anybody down,” Nate said. “I want to make sure I’m doing the absolutely best job that I can.”
This week, Nate Colatruglio’s defense likely will face its toughest test, when Columbian plays in the regional semifinals against top-seeded Toledo Central Catholic.
One thing is for sure: the players aren’t intimidated.
“I believe we’re really prepared,” Crawford said. “Coach, everyone, they’ve watched a lot of film, so we know the tendencies. We may be a smaller team, size wise, but I do believe we can live up to the challenge that Central Catholic does present.”
“Central Catholic hasn’t really been challenged this year, and we do have the skill players to fight back,” he said. “We don’t break at all.”
Brian Colatruglio did say that his brother’s been busy preparing.
“I don’t think he’s probably slept much this week,” he said.
But Nate Colatruglio said that regardless of the opponent, his philosophy is unchanged.
“You do your best to take away what they’re good at,” he said. “And exploit some things (so) you can make some plays.”