New Coach in Town
Windsor’s Balch Looks to Restore Winning Tradition
Greg Balch, Windsor High's new football coach, shares a laugh with quarterback Tyson Boudro (5) during a Tuesday afternoon practice. The 39-year-old previously guided Windsor's junior high gridiron program. Valley News - Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »
Nate Kapuscinski leans on a blocking pad while awaiting a play during Tuesday afternoon's Windsor High football practice. Valley News - Tris Wykes Purchase photo reprints »
Windsor — Windsor High football coach Greg Balch had his offense in formation Tuesday and was describing the job required of a Yellowjacket leaving the backfield on a particular play.
“You want to go through the hole, find someone in a different-colored jersey and introduce yourself,” Balch said. “And not by shaking his hand.”
It was only a few weeks ago that Balch, 39, was introduced as Windsor’s new gridiron boss after the resignations of previous co-coaches Ryan Hingston and Jesse Taft. Hingston, the son of longtime Yellowjackets athletic director Bob Hingston and previously a Windsor High physical education teacher, departed late last year for a job at Mount Ascutney Hospital. Taft departed last month because of what Bob Hingston described as a conflict with his full-time job.
Balch coached Windsor’s junior high team the past five years and has experience with nearly every player on the high school roster. There were only 24 of them in uniform Tuesday, but Balch is hoping for some additions.
“I think we’ll have more than 30 when the dust settles,” he said, noting that next year’s freshman class could include as many as 15 players and that the town’s peewee football program is booming. “The (varsity’s) done well and we’ve still got some good athletes, but depth will always be a concern.”
Matt Thayer, a senior guard and linebacker, is used to Windsor being outnumbered. Still, until last year’s 4-5 slump, the Yellowjackets had a combined 48-17 record the previous five seasons.
“Last year was tough,” Thayer said. “I’d be playing defense and I’d go against so many different guys because other teams could rotate fresh players into the game.
“Against Bellows Falls, they showed up with two busloads of kids and almost all of us were playing both sides of the ball. Because of that, we have to have more intensity than most teams around here.”
Thayer will help lead the charge on the offensive line, along with returning starters Josh Spaulding, a junior center, and Peter Jaarsma, a junior guard. Senior Tyson Boudro was practicing at quarterback yesterday after playing receiver and defensive back the past two years, and senior Ethan Hill, Balch’s nephew, and junior Russell Simonds will likely see time at running back and linebacker.
Windsor ran the pass-happy spread offense last fall, but is now seeking more balance.
“We’re putting something in where we can run the ball,” said Balch, who’s tinkering with a power-I formation. “Sometimes in the past, they’ve been a little hamstrung with the spread when they got down near the goal line. We need to be able to pound the ground, but we’re not getting totally away from the spread. The kids know that offense, and that’s what I’ve coached the last couple of years.”
Balch was a Windsor quarterback and linebacker who graduated in 1992, the Yellowjackets going 5-4 his senior season. He played briefly at Hartwick (N.Y.) College before graduating from Castleton State and maintains the supply chain for Fuji Dimatix on Etna Road in Lebanon.
A Hartland resident and father of four, Balch unexpectedly started coaching when Hill was a seventh-grader and Windsor’s junior high team had no coach. Now he’s moved a significant step up the ladder and is tasked with getting the Yellowjackets back into the Vermont Division III postseason. Hill thinks the team is up to the challenge.
“It was weird and disappointing not being in the playoffs last year,” the senior said. “We knew we had to come out this season with a whole different mindset and really get into it from the start.
“We started working out earlier in the summer this year, and we’ve made sure we have good relationships on the team. Last season, we weren’t much of a group and that translated to the field and was probably why we lost as many games as we did.”
Said Boudro: “It wasn’t nice at all, losing to teams we usually beat.”
If that’s to change, Balch, a couple of new assistant coaches and the players are going to have to mesh in a hurry. Despite being the fourth man at the top in the past three years, the new boss said he’s confident there won’t be any major missteps.
“I don’t think there will be any big changes,” Balch said. “We’re bringing the same intensity and the same, high expectations. It’s a different voice, but I don’t think it’s a different message.”
Tris Wykes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3227.