Coach Barry – “The Man With the Plan”

Lavonno Mitchell

Coach Matt Barry (image courtesy of John Meore/The Journal News).

Before 2019, St. Thomas Aquinas College didn’t have a football team. That is until one man made the transition from high school to college sports to build a team out of nothing.

It’s been four years since the STAC sprint football team was founded by Coach Matt Barry and he set his mind on one goal: to win. This year for the 2022 season, Barry believes the time has come to bring a championship home to Sparkill, New York.

A college sprint football team is not like other division schools who have big-name programs for the football teams. A sprint football team is more like a club sport; they cannot give scholarships to athletes, but they can recruit them to play.

Before the school could start a sprint football team, they needed one big piece of the picture: a head coach.

At the time, Matt Barry was an assistant coach at a local high school in Rockland County, New York called Albertus Magnus High School. Barry was a defensive coordinator and was looking forward to taking Albertus to the 2017 section 1 championship.

But over the summer, an opportunity presented itself. He was offered the head coaching job at STAC for their brand new football team.

When Barry got the go ahead he began the recruiting process. He traveled up and down the east coast, even looking on the west coast for exceptional talent to build his football team.

He knew it wouldn’t be easy playing teams like the Navy, the Army, and the University of Pennsylvania, who were also division 1 schools.

In his first few years as head coach, he had several lackluster seasons. Barry knew he had to up the ante in order to improve. He needed athletes who wanted to win championships and who loved the sport as much as he did, but it took time.

The team struggled through 2019-2020. They had struggled to act like a team that year and a fight actually broke out because of it. But Barry is looking forward to 2022-2023 being the team’s year.

Barry says “I’m looking forward to the new offense and seeing the stars shine. The new and returning players that would be on the team and would be great assets to the team.”

Barry also opened up about the struggles during his first year of coaching.

“The hardest part about it was finding the kids to come out and play football.  I knew there would be kids to go ahead and play. I just didn’t know where to go or look for them” says Barry.

But Barry is looking forward to seeing STAC’s new team perform this year.

He says “I can’t wait to play either Army or Navy because this year I think we can actually give them a run for their money.” With enthusiasm like that, players will likely hold themselves and the team to higher standards this year.

But with every head coach also needs his supporting staff.

One of the new additions he bought in was Coach Paul Vilanueva. Vilanueva and Barry worked together at Albertus Magnus, where Vilanueva was the head coach and Barry was the defensive coordinator.

Vilanueva opened up about how he felt about working with Barry again for the first time in five years.

He said “I’m very excited and couldn’t wait to go ahead and meet the team, see the atmosphere and of course go win the championship. I’m also very much looking forward to working with Barry again. Love him like a brother and respect him as a man and can’t wait to see what he does with this team this coming season.”

Finally one of the star athletes of the team, Sharif Bayte had a lot to say about the coach and his team.

He says “I’m looking forward to getting back on the field, getting tackles and making big plays for the team, and just having fun again because our off season is always so boring.”

He also spoke about his excitement this season with Barry.

“I have high hopes and am looking forward to working with Coach Barry again now that this will be my senior season. Of course I want to bring home STAC’s first championship and I believe Coach Barry is the man with the plan.”

“If anyone’s going to do it, it’s gonna be him,” Bayte said.

With everyone’s high hopes for bringing home the first championship for the program, the only question now is if they can do it.