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North Branford resident and football alum Anthony Salvati is looking forward to kicking off his debut campaign as head coach of the Guilford High School football squad. (Photo courtesy of Anthony Salvati )
The Guilford football team will be hitting the gridiron with a new leader on the sidelines this fall. Back in February, the Indians named North Branford football alum Anthony Salvati as head coach of the program. Anthony felt the time was right for him to jump into the head-coaching ranks after having served as an assistant coach at his alma mater for 15 years.
“I always wanted to be a head coach. I thought about it a few years back, but my job was not in the best situation, because I was in a transition. I was lucky to be in North Branford and have success all those years. It was almost like my stability net, and I had no reason to look to leave,” says Anthony, who still lives in North Branford. “I’m finally in a good place at home and at work, so when I saw this opportunity arise, I thought this was the best time and best situation for me to take a shot.”
Anthony maintained strong ties to North Branford after graduating in 1997. Anthony, who played running back and defensive back, went on to join the Thunderbirds’ coaching staff, becoming the offensive coordinator in 2008. He also spent some time with North Branford’s Youth Football program. All of these connections throughout town made it difficult for Anthony to leave.
“It’s bittersweet. It’s tough, because it’s the only thing I’ve known,” Anthony says. “I still have strong connections there. My boys play there, and it’s tough on them because they now see me wearing green, but they’re getting used to it. The Guilford family has opened its arms and made this easy for me.”
As a two-way player, Anthony had the opportunity to see the field from every perspective. Anthony believes that his experience on both sides of the ball is a huge asset to him in his role as a coach.
“I think honestly it trains your eyes to think about the other side of the ball. When I’m coaching offense, I’m looking at the defense. When I’m coaching defense, I think, ‘What about the offense is giving me fits?’” says Anthony. “I started mostly as a defensive guy in my first few years, but then I transitioned to offense. I’ve done a little bit of everything.”
Anthony enjoyed the competition of the Pequot Conference while representing North Branford. However, he’s eager to take on the challenge of life in the Southern Connecticut Conference now that he’s with Guilford.
“No disrespect to the Pequot, but the SCC has bigger schools, and I’m excited for the venture. I think coming from a small school, the success we’ve had playing in some big games, not to say it’s equal to the SCC, but playing in those big games has me a little more prepared,” Anthony says. “This is where I’m meant to be, and I don’t see myself leaving anytime soon. The facilities are phenomenal, the administration has been A-plus, and the players and parents have been supportive. If I have to face the top team in the state, I’m blessed, and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Guilford is coming off a year that saw the squad post a record of 6-4, marking the Indians’ first winning season since 2000. A big plus for Anthony as he takes the reins in Guilford is that he will have nine assistant coaches on his staff. Three of them are returning from last year, three of them are former North Branford coaches, and the other three are also newcomers.
“It’s a huge help, and I’m very fortunate to have them,” says Anthony. “I have a nice diverse staff of older coaches, younger coaches, offensive-minded coaches, and defensive-minded coaches. We’re very well-rounded. For my first year, I couldn’t be more blessed.”
Three years ago, Anthony started working with the North Branford Youth Football program. In Guilford, he hopes to establish a system where the youth and high school programs work together. Anthony believes that this type of approach will help every football player in town who suits up for the Indians.
“My players have gone to some youth camps already to help, and I do plan to have our players and myself try to show support and be there,” Anthony says. “I remember as a kid, when you’re a youth player, you look up to the high school kids like they’re in the NFL. If our varsity guys are showing support, it’s going to make those kids remember that and want to give back to the youth kids when they’re in high school.”
Anthony is excited to see what’s to come for Guilford when the team opens up its campaign at Branford on Friday, Sept. 13. For Anthony, the 2019 season can’t get here quickly enough.
“The thing I look forward to the most with Guilford is the fact that we’re right there. We’re on the doorstep. We can be a potential player in the SCC, and I love the fact that it’s wide open,” says Anthony. “We get to compete against the best teams, and that motivates me as a coach. I’m more motivated now than ever.”
Anthony hopes to be coaching in Guilford for a long time. He not only wants to guide his players to victories on the field, but also to success in life.
“I’m all about tradition. I want to start tradition. I tell stories to my players all the time. The bond they make playing football are unparallel to bonds they make the rest of their lives,” says Anthony. “The opportunity to watch them grow to men is huge for me. It means more to me than wins and losses. Those will come, but watching them turn to men is the best payback ever.”