Football Preview: Ellington-Somers, Glastonbury look to return to postseason

Rockville head coach Steve Schortman is extremely impressed with his senior laden squad and expects Rockville to get back to their winning ways.

He is so excited that he expects the playoffs in the very near future. In Ellington, Sean Byrne takes over as Keith Tautkus retired, and Byrne looks to keep the winning tradition going in Ellington. Despite the retirement, Byrne expects to pick up right where they left off as he will lean heavily on senior Christian Schneider to carry the load.

Ellington

Last season: 9-2

New head coach Byrne will fill the shoes of legendary head coach Tautkus, but he does not see that as a burden. Byrne has been one of Tautkus’ right hand men since 2005 and he should ease into the program nicely.

Although they lost their head coach, Byrne is confident in his team and will rely heavily on his seniors. He is very excited about returning all-conference players Joe Leslie QB (57% completion rate 15 TDs), Christian Schneider a LB/RB, Ben Bahler, who he calls the anchor of his offensive and defensive lines, and Mike Casciano a senior RB/DB.

“It’s been our tradition to run the ball effectively and play great defense,” Byrne said. “We will build around Schneider and Leslie (who will compete on all three teams) and our defense has an exceptional group of seniors.”

Byrne expects to contend, but sees new opponents Valley, North Branford, and Cromwell to be a big challenge.

This is in addition to Gilbert, Avon, Canton, Enfield, and Coventry.

“We lost some very good wide receivers; both went to play in college, so we need to replace them. We will also play a lot of underclassmen, but we can compete,” Byrne said.

The Knights went 9-2 just one season ago, faltering in the Class M quarterfinals against Weston.

South Windsor

Last Season: 2-8

The Bobcats graduate 10 starters from last year’s squad and head coach Mike Bullock sees this as another rebuilding year in the CCC.

He will rely on senior quarterback Ryan McDonald, who started last season, running back James Nyarko who had 456 yards rushing last season and senior linebacker Ben Kaczmarek who had 52 tackles last season. Bullock feels comfortable at QB and RB, but has concerns about the inexperience of the offensive line going into the season. As always they will battle versus top contenders Southington and Glastonbury.

 

Tolland

Last Season: 6-4

Head coach Andy Bourquin sees this season as a rebuilding one in Tolland. He lost 18 starters from last year’s team and they are very inexperienced.

“We have a lot of juniors, but very little experience,” said Bourquin. “I think our main goal is to compete. The CCC is always tough and I want our kids to compete.”

Chris Janton will quarterback the team, a role that he saw some time at last year, Ben Noonan should provide some depth in the backfield and Devon Kokoszka will also bring some experience to the team.

“I like the kids we have, but they are very young. However, they are very capable,” said Bourquin.

Rockville

Last Season: 2-8

Head coach Steve Schortman is fired up about his first head coaching job as the lead man of the Rams. The squad has 55 players on the roster; their most in years and things are looking up. Schortman will look to seniors Dan Wheeler to lead as the QB, AJ Spencer at RB, Thom Bartol, an all-conference running back last season, and Anthony Tyson on the offensive line.

“The entire community is excited about the numbers,” said Schortman. “My goal for the season is to make the playoffs, and if it doesn’t happen this year it will within the next two. I see great things from both our senior and sophomore classes.”

“We have the support of the town and the Vernon Vipers keep getting better, which will only help us,” said Schortman.

Fermi

Last Season: 0-10

“My team is young. We have 10 upperclassmen,’’ but we have 44 kids,” Tata said. “I like our group. We have some real solid kids.”

Although Fermi will be in a ‘Power I’ and look to control the football, Tata is excited about his quarterback and two receivers. Andrew Wilcox returns to start at QB for his third year at the helm, and senior Frank Kusta, and junior Bailey Raymond both return at wide receiver.

“I think Bailey is going to be huge for us,” Tata said. “I expect him to be top 10-15 in the state in receiving yards this year.”

The toughest match for Tata will be his schedule which includes Middletown, Wethersfield, Bloomfield, Hartford Public and both Bristol schools.

The Falcons open week one with East Catholic and Tata is hopeful that the Eagles are a good match for his team.

“I like where we are headed. We worked hard in the weight room and I think it’s paying off,” Tata said.

Enfield

Last Season: 5-5

The Raiders are coming off a .500 season, but their head coach Jay Gaucher sees his team in rebuilding mode. They are led by senior WR Tom Watson, junior Tyrik Henry, who scored 8 TD’s last year and is also a state champion in track, and duel threat qb Jason Davis.

Head coach Jay Gaucher thinks he will have a fast team this year, but is concerned about a lack of depth at both the offensive and defensive lines.

The Pequot has been revamped and is now in three divisions. Enfield will compete with Gilbert, Ellington/Somers, and Cromwell while trying to build upon last year’s stats. They open with the Granby Bears on Thursday September 12.

Stafford/East Windsor

Last Season: 2-8

It didn’t take much to sway Paul Schmutz out of retirement when he got the call from Stafford AD Damien Frassinelli. Schmutz, who retired as the head coach at Granby last season was called a month before the season and is looking forward to taking on the task of being the Bulldogs head coach.

Schmutz brings over 30 years of experience to the program, but as usual the program is struggling to get players out. Schmutz estimates that there are nearly 30 kids on the roster.

So far he has been impressed with senior QB Kyle Matthieu, and lineman Justin Finch and Josh Schneider. He loves his team’s work ethic, but sees inexperience hurting the team. He also likes RB Adrian Perkins and WR Logan Frassinelli.

“I’m excited. The kids are working hard and they are really great kids. I’ve been impressed with how hard they work. It should be good,” said Schmutz.

Windsor Locks/Suffield

Last Season: 1-9

The Windsor Locks/Suffield program with continue their rebuilding process under Marty Powers.

They are only 2-18 over the past two seasons, but the numbers in the program have continued to rise.

A new schedule should increase the level of competiveness for the Raiders, but they face the daunting task of replacing two time all conference RB Trystan Cauley who graduated last season.

Glastonbury

Last Year: 9-1

Last season did not end with a state championship victory or championship game berth, but the season was far from unsuccessful. The Tomahawks lost to eventual state champion Xavier in the Class LL playoffs after puting together a rousing 9-1 regular season.

The one loss came to Southington in the regular season, but Scott Daniels’ squad was able to get revenge with a state tournament victory that propelled them to the semifinals.

This year they will have to replace all-area standouts; DB/QB Ben Berey, and DE Josh Hill, but they have a strong core coming back.

As usual, the Tomahawks will be a contender in the CCC and state championship hunt. They return senior quarterback Jalen Ollie—who split time as a QB last season, Kyran McKinney-Crudden a returning all-conference LB, Justin Kretzmer an all-conference LB and Andy Cavanna an all-conference lineman.

Ollie played consistently during the season as both a WR and a QB. Early on he played often, but split time with Berey. Since Glastonbury had many dominating victories, he also saw time at the end of games. Ollie does not lack experience and he should look lead a strong offensive group.

One concern that that Daniels has is about his offensive line.

“We have an inexperienced O line that graduated three starters. Will need to gel early in the season to establish the run,” said Daniels.

Cavanna should help with that transition, but there will be a learning curve.

Defensively Kretzmer should lead the charge at linebacker. Ollie saw time at DB last season, but it was unclear whether that will continues. Cavanna, who is also a state open champion in wrestling, should provide stability on the d-line. His size, over 230lbs, should be imposing for defenders to face.

“We will have speed on both sides of the ball. We will sacrifice size for speed on the defensive side of the ball,” said Daniels.

Their defense was one of the top defenses in the state last year and Berey and Hill were impactful members of that group. This year the hope is that returners from last year will step up.

Daniels expects his team to contend for the division title, which would also put them in great position for the playoffs.

They open on a Thursday night at home versus Southington, which should be another great matchup. Last year’s games were among some of the most exciting in the state. To make their schedule even more competitive, they picked up Norwich Free Academy as a home game in the middle of the season.

As always, they will compete with New Britain and Hall for the division title. They will end their preseason with a game scrimmage versus Wethersfield.

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