The Orillia Secondary School (OSS) senior boys football team is in a rebuilding phase.
But the attitude on the team is hopeful and that comes, in part, from their leader and quarterback, Lucas Di Mattia.
Di Mattia is in his first year playing football with the Nighthawks, but it’s not his first experience in the game.
The 16-year-old Grade 11 student played for the Patrick Fogarty Catholic Secondary School (PF) Flames in Grade 9 as a wide receiver and back up quarterback. He also played with the Huronia Stallions this past summer where he played tailback.
Despite Di Mattia’s wide range of experience in all sorts of different offensive positions on the football field, when he transferred to OSS from PF, there was only one position he wanted to play and that was under centre.
“I felt like I could do more for this team than just play tailback where I can only do so much,” Di Mattia said.
“As a quarterback, I can spread the offence and make plays happen.”
Di Mattia joined the Nighthawks football program this year that follows a season where they didn’t win a single game. He looked at it as a challenge that excited him.
“I’m determined to make this team a winning team, especially next year,” Di Mattia said.
“This is just a building year for us,” he said. “Next year we are going to come bigger and stronger and I hope to be the best leader that OSS has ever seen.”
Di Mattia says the success of the team means more to him than a win/loss record.
“I owe it to the school to take this responsibility - for all the teachers who educate me and everybody who’s a part of it. I want to (drive) us towards success,” he says.
There is a lot of pressure on a young high school student and being the quarterback of the football team adds a whole different level of pressure, admits Di Mattia.
“The junior team looks up to me. When they see me, they always say ‘Hi quarterback,’ and that’s the name that I get called around the school. A lot more people know me now that I’m the quarterback,” he says.
All eyes are on the 16-year-old around the school, but that kind of pressure is something Di Mattia likes.
“I strive to be a role model around school and especially for the juniors, I want to show them what we can do as a team for OSS and especially for next year when some of them are playing with me and even possibly beyond that if I come back for 12B,” he said.
Di Mattia is not your traditional quarterback. He is a mobile, running quarterback and he is only 5’10” in height. But he says his size is no longer a disadvantage in the evolving game of football and he points to the National Football League for examples.
“I watch Kyler Murray who is 5’10” and I love his game. I also draw inspiration from Lamar Jackson who isn’t as short but he’s a running quarterback,” he explains.
“I love how they show heart for the game. It doesn’t matter about the size on the field, what matters is the heart in the player and if you can get the job done.”
Nighhawks head coach Dave Joy says Di Mattia has shown great initiative since taking the role of quarterback.
“He wanted to take the role from Day 1, and he’s shown us how determined he is,” Joy says.
“Lucas doesn’t miss practice, and at quarterback, we needed someone who is as dedicated as he is.”
Di Matta’s teammates recognize his leadership qualities as well, and they believe he is the right guy for the job.
“Lucas is one of the best quarterbacks I have ever played with,” says Nighthawks captain and offensive lineman Jamie Lepage.
“Every time I come to the line I trust his call, I trust his instinct. I lay my body on the line for him without even thinking about it,” he says.
Di Mattia says he will pursue football at a post-secondary level if the opportunity presents itself, but right now he is zoned in and focused on making OSS football a winning program.