Same drill as last time. I’m short on details but here’s what we’re looking at so far on August 25th.
1. Masuk’s the favorite, right?
At this point, we should think so. The SWC runners-up were 10-1 9-2 last year, clearly one of the state’s best teams. But they were also one of three that never got a chance to prove it in the playoffs. Masuk brings back a star in all-CTPost junior QB Casey Cochran, a top back in junior Colin Markus, Senior WR/DB/K Jon Testani and lots of other kids back from what was technically a pretty young team last season.
2. What’s Pomperaug got left? And will it be enough? (this counts as one question)
Well, the big 3 — Andrew Clements, C.J. Elser and Ben Crick — are gone. So’s linemen Dean Samuelson and DE Dan Reel and Wade McNamara and (whew) …quite a few others. What’s left are fine players in RB/LB Kevin Maxen and your usual ready-for-primetime linemen led by Zack Polk and Willie Maxen. The new QB is junior Kellen Croce, son of offensive coordinator Steve Croce and younger brother of former Holy Cross all-state QB Mike Croce.
Short answers: Plenty and Probably.
3. Can Newtown build off last year’s finale?
Newtown is a team to keep an eye on. It’s always good and, aside from finding a replacement at QB, the Nighthawks should at least be a contender. They bring back some firepower, particularly at receiver with Sean Devaney, Rory Noonan and Ryan Korth. Lou Fenaroli returns at fullback So whoever becomes QB will have plenty of options. Defensively, Newtown will miss Connor McNamara, Tory Deakin and Jamie Bowers. But they have a nice core with LB Max Nacewicz, S Colby Summerlin and DE Eric McCabe. They open with Brookfield and then take to the road for four straight games.
4. Hey! Whatabout the Stratford schools?!?!
Yeah. We haven’t heard much about football out of Stratford lately, unless you’re talking about former Bunnell and UConn standout Marcus Easley‘s foray into Bills camp (and it wasn’t good. The Bills put him on IR. He’s done for the year.) Anyway, I’m sure both coaches will be happy to know their teams are complete mysteries at the moment. Stratford lost quite a few seniors, particularly Jeff Miller. They’ll be learning from a new coach, but a familiar one in Stratford resident, Bunnell teacher and former ND-Fairfield coach John Svatik. Bunnell lost their QB and top offensive threat. But there were a lot of underclassmen. I’m told we could be in for a surprise … from both teams.
5. Who will be this year’s Bethel?
Erm, well … The Wildcats, who rode their massive line and Peter Gallagher all the way to the Class M state title game, lost many of their horses. Huge lineman Chris Valenti, who’s one of the best in the state, returns. So do playmakers Randy Lowenadler and Brandon Schmidt. But there are lots of questions. Right now, it would be a stretch to say they can do it all over again. But I’ve been wrong before.
As for the others: Brookfield’s still reloading. As is New Fairfield, which lost a good class including QB Bobby Wood. The Rebels have a new coach from New York State in Anthony Fata. It’ll be intriguing to see where Oxford goes from here. The players who built the foundation are gone, particularly catalyst Deven Diaz, Mike Giordano and Matt Hovan. …Immaculate’s starting over with offensive-coordinator-turned coach Gary Bellagamba. …I’m lost on New Milford. …Don’t know much about Weston. …Notre Dame-Fairfield bears some watching. It lost hulking LB/FB Brody Brandstatter. But there were a lot of juniors on last year’s club. OL/DL Kevin Harrigan is back and, as an added bonus, the Lancers picked up transfer QB Nick Chacho from Masuk, who was the QB-in-waiting in Monroe until Cochran came to town last season. (In case you were wondering: No, Masuk and Notre Dame are not scheduled to play each other this year).
ADD (8/27): Whoops. We forgot to throw Barlow in there. The Falcons lost their man Tyler Colby and Sam Niedenbach moved out of the country. Might be trouble…
Hmm… I kinda answered the questions there, didn’t I? …and in a lot more detail than I would have liked. Half of these kids could be out for the year for all I know.
Again. The phone lines are open.