Coming from a football background that’s deep in tradition, new Rome Free Academy football coach Jake DerCola understands that Rome is deep with its own football tradition.
“Rome has a high tradition in football,” DerCola said. “I grew up in that. I was the quarterback on my father’s team and my grandfather was in the booth and I played on the field that was named after my grandfather, so I know the feeling about being involved in a tradition.”
DerCola is a product of Western New York’s Clyde-Savannah Central School District. DerCola was hired by Utica College in 2008 as a graduate assistant to work with the wide receivers and also was hired on to the Pioneers staff as the special teams coordinator.
He coached at Utica College until 2013. He also coached baseball and lacrosse at Clyde-Savannah.
The 32-year-old head coach played college football for SUNY Brockport, where he was a quarterback. He played in 13 career games and played in nine as a senior, throwing for 537 yards and four touchdown passes.
DerCola, who was approved as head coach at the Board of Education meeting on March 1, replaces Ted Swavely as head coach of the Black Knights. In nine seasons, Swavely, who stepped down in November, posted a 21-55 record.
DerCola is a physical education teacher at Notre Dame High in Utica and spent four seasons as the school’s head foortball coach, posting a record of 28-10 and leading the Jugglers to back-to-back Section III Class C titles in 2014 and 2015.
This past season, DerCola guided Notre Dame to a 5-3 record and 5-2 mark in the Class B East.
In his coaching career, DerCola has bounced around from Class C to Class B and now he’ll be coaching at the Class AA level.
“Football is football,” DerCola said when asked about the jump in classes. “The kids need to buy into the game plan and we need to execute on the field.”
DerCola said that once the RFA job opportunity came about, it was hard to turn it down.
“It was a family decision,” DerCola said. “I just want to be involved in the football tradition, and I know that Rome really gets behind their football team.”
DerCola said that he plans on teaching and developing football players at RFA. “You don’t always look at the wins and losses,” DerCola said. “I want to come in and build off what they already have. I come from a college background and have a college style mentality.”
“That doesn’t necessarily mean we’re just going to grind all day, we’re going to have fun at practice,” DerCola said.
The new coach also said that the little things will make all the difference, which is a main focus of his.
“I can’t wait to get in there and start and just see what they have,” DerCola said. “My goal for the upcoming season is to compete every day and to get better than the day before.”