By Jeremy Balan
Simply put, it was one of the biggest turnarounds in Academic Athletic Association history.
Heading into the 2009 season, Galileo’s football program was in disarray. The Lions had lost 18 consecutive games, including 14 consecutive AAA losses, encompassing two winless seasons. The team had missed postseason play for five consecutive seasons.
Then it all changed.
The Lions hired Galileo graduate and five-year Frosh/Soph head coach Mark Huynh to take control over the varsity program.
Huynh, in his first year, led the Lions to a 8-3 season, including a AAA championship.
But Huynh didn’t cite game plans or matchups as the reason for the turnaround. Instead, Galileo simply needed the infrastructure that is common among successful football teams.
“Everything that a program needs, we try to do,” Huynh said. “Whether it’s buying equipment, changing the look of things, study hall, regular practices; all the little things that programs are supposed to have. It wasn’t there before. It’s a culture thing.”
Even with the program’s change in philosophy and structure, such an abrupt change in success wasn’t expected.
“It was a surprise,” Huynh said. “We always thought that , year three, would be the time that the program would develop.”
While Galileo returns a core of seniors from last season’s team, and appears to be the favorite win the AAA again, along with co-regular season champion Washington.
But one key piece of the puzzle will be missing, Galileo quarterback and 2009 AAA player of the year Dylan Nelson, who graduated in the spring.
In his place will be senior Jonathan Lu, who was Nelson’s backup in 2009.
“I’ve been trying to do what Dylan does, be confident, play hard and run people over,” Lu said. “I’m just trying to prove myself.”
Huynh still sees room for improvement for the soft-spoken Lu.
“He’s getting there,” Huynh said. “He needs to take more of a command of the team and also take to the leadership part. Hopefully he’ll grow into it.”
The Lions will lose Dylan Nelson, but will return another Nelson, in running back Quincy (no relation).
Quincy, the 2009 AAA back of the year who dominated the Lions two postseason games, will be the early favorite for 2010 AAA player of the year.
“It’s a lot of pressure and a lot is expected of us, but we’re going to work even harder because of that,” Quincy said. “There’s going to be a big target on us. Everybody wants us. I ride the bus with [Washington players] and other schools, and all they’re doing is talking. They want us bad.”
The Lions are not shy in admitting that Quincy will be the key to their success.
“It’s Quincy’s team,” Huynh said. “We’re looking to see him do a lot more this year. We know [teams] are going to focus on him, but it’s still hard. You still have to make the tackle and he can make guys miss.”
On the defensive side of the ball, Galileo returns all of it’s secondary from 2009, including Quincy at safety and all-league corner Waynelle Buckner.
“We got a lot stronger and a lot faster and we’re not making the mistakes we used to make,” Buckner said.
Like Buckner, another returning senior, linebacker Maxwell Malloy, emphasizes the defense’s overall speed.
“We’re a lot faster than last year,” Malloy said. “We don’t have the size on the line, but we definitely flow to the ball better.”
While 2010’s team may be different than last season’s, one thing is certain.
Galileo, one of The City’s most proud programs, is undoubtedly back.
“It’s satisfying that our school is back to where we used to be and that our players get a chance to compete,” Huynh said.