John Barber gets emotional when talking about the Holy Trinity football team.

“They know that … they can come to me for anything,” said the 50-year-old head coach, who takes his glasses off and wipes away a tear. “We’ve had issues with different kids, my assistant coach (William Headen) and I take care of them … it’s different here.”

The family vibe is evident when talking to Barber about Holy Trinity, and it is a growing family.

Holy Trinity football is based at Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons School but has players from Catholic Central High in Troy and, for the first time this year, Bishop Maginn High School in Albany. Despite having players from three different high schools, Holy Trinity has turned into a powerhouse. The Pride, 18-4 the last three seasons, made it to the state finals in 2017 in Class C, were the Central Division champs in 2018 and have started this season at 3-0 after moving up to Class B.

Of the 38 students on the team, six are from Bishop Maginn and four from Catholic Central, and Barber and his staff — his son, Colton, is the offensive coordinator — have done a seamless job of meshing the groups together.  

“Since Day 1, we have preached family, respect one another, treat each other how you want to be treated and that has carried over from the very first year when it was Bishop Gibbons and Saratoga Catholic and it has just built right on,” Barber said. “Nowadays with everybody on Twitter and Instagram, a lot of the kids, one way or another, knew each other … it wasn’t just someone totally new coming in. Every day we talk about family ...  that’s big in what we do.”

What is also evident is the players’ dedication and how that has translated into success. This is something Barber, who works as a project manager/team leader at The Fort Miller Company in Schuylerville and makes the 34-mile drive to ND-BG every day, needs from his team. In the summer, the kids or their parents drive to Schenectady from all around the Capital District, and Barber is known to meet players and drive them home if needed. Lineman Fred Adrion, from Catholic Central, commutes an hour each way to be a part of the team.

“The hard work, that devotion that the kids have, that I expect,”  Barber said. “When we first met with the Bishop Maginn kids, (we told them) we are not going to just roll the ball out on the field and play. We are going to work. We are going to be disciplined; that is what wins us games.”
A little pep talk from team captains and seniors Joe Tortello, Nacier Hundley and Tanner Kiser reinforced that belief. 

“(The week) we had the two new students from Bishop Maginn (join the team), (the captains) took them aside and let them know what we are doing and showed them what my expectations are when we are on the field,” Barber said. “They are a great group of kids.” 

Sure Tortello is the star of the team, running and throwing the ball all around the field, usually hooking up with Hundley, which he did three times in a 55-24 win over Cobleskill on Sept. 14.

But it’s much more than what happens on the field. 

“We’re excited for the challenge that we have. Our goal is to be successful and have fun. If we are not having fun, we are doing something wrong,” Barber said. “But if we are not winning, we are not having fun, either. So we preach that. As the school year goes on, I make sure all the seniors graduate are off to college. All my seniors have gone to college.”

Barber gets emotional again, when talking about a former student who grew up before his eyes and became the first member of his family to go to college. 

“Tristan Brenbar is on my wall in the office,” Barber said. “He came to me in the ninth grade and walked into my office and just mumbled. I had no idea what he was saying and turned into a fine young man that is off to college (at Hudson Valley Community College.)”

That is all part of the Holy Trinity family, a feeling that extends down to the student body.

“Football players are looked upon differently in a school and we talked about making sure that the other kids in the school feel welcome and comfortable around (the team),” Barber said. “There are going to be a lot of new kids in the school, welcome them … if you see somebody sitting by themselves, go over, introduce yourself and sit with them. There is a lot more going on than just football.”