The word thrown around the Notre Dame-West Haven football program and quarterback Matt Piechota a year ago was inexperience.

Not surprising.

After the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Green Knights had only one starter who had played at all in 2019 and Piechota was thrown into the fire at quarterback.

Had there been a 2020 season, Piechota would have played safety or wide receiver with then-senior Patrick Schreck at quarterback for the Green Knights.

And without having played a single down at college level, Piechota started at Cheshire before a full house last September.

“The Cheshire game was an eye opener for us,” said Piechota. “We went in with 5,000 people there and the speed of a college game.”

But Piechota had college athletic experience at Notre Dame. He played varsity baseball and basketball, so the pressure was nothing new to him.

Yes, he made mistakes, as did his teammates, which led to a Notre Dame-like 3-7 record.

“We were very inexperienced and only had one child who started coming back to college,” Piechota said. “We didn’t have that great learning year in second grade. We were thrown into the fire and made a lot of childhood mistakes.

Now a senior captain, Piechota is counted on to help Notre Dame return to past glory and the state playoffs in the new six-division setup, where she will play in Class M.

In 2021, Piechota threw for 1,750 yards in 10 games, with 14 touchdown passes and seven interceptions. He also rushed for 430 yards and seven touchdowns.

“It’s up to our senior class to turn things around,” Piechota said. “It’s our year. We don’t want last season to happen again.

Of course, a lot will rest on Piechota’s shoulders and he will carry over what he learned in 2021 into 2022.

“Towards the end of the year I tried to force things and didn’t take what the defense gave me,” Piechota said. “I have to take the short hitch and then throw in the deep fade. And instead of trying to run, I have to go six meters and slide.

That last part is music to the ears of Notre Dame coach Joe DeCaprio. Although he knows Piechota can be elusive with his legs, DeCaprio backs off every time he takes off, fearing the injury is one-hit.

“My heart is in my throat every time he runs, but he reads defense,” DeCaprio said. “It’s a very difficult offense to defend with a quarterback like Matt. Last year he was just trying to carry the team on his shoulders on his own when the game wasn’t really there.

DeCaprio hopes that doesn’t happen this fall.

“I have to find a way to protect him to keep him healthy, but that’s the nature of our offense,” DeCaprio said. “On every play he has a read where he can run or throw.”

But what DeCaprio also loves is what Piechota brings off the court.

“People don’t see how hard working he is,” DeCaprio said. “He’s in my office studying filmmaking all the time and he knows our attack inside out. But he’s also embarrassed by the press he gets and worries about his teammates, which warms my heart. I told him it was good for our building.

In addition to playing three sports, Piechota serves on student council, has a 4.1 grade point average, and takes advanced placement courses.

As for college, Piechota plans to play in one of the two Northeast leagues. He primarily looks at the Ivy League, which is part of the FCS, and the New England Small College Athletic Conference, which includes Trinity and Wesleyan. Patriot League’s Holy Cross likes it too.

“He’s also a smart kid,” DeCaprio said. “What kills him is that he’s six foot and everyone else is 6-3 or 6-4, but every time someone meets him he’s way bigger than everyone else is. think.”

It will be the combination of academics and athletics that will be the deciding factor.

“It’s not the four years I’ve been in college,” Piechota said. “It’s the next 40 years as my grandfather (Frank Downey) always says.”

But first, he has 10 games to make memories he will always have.