SOUTHINGTON >> Brookfield went back to its roots this season, and now finds itself in the Class M state championship game.
Brookfield has traditionally been known for its potent ground game. This year, for the first time during head coach Rich Angarano’s tenure, the Bobcats have opted to operate out of the wing-T.
“We were always a running team,” Angarano explained. “We ran out of the wishbone a lot, and we were also a spread team. We were a multi-faceted offense in years past, but we’ve now added the wing-T to our arsenal and we’ve been doing very well with it. We have a young group of running backs, and they’ve been doing a good job with it.”
Personnel has been a big reason for the switch. There are 25 sophomores on the Brookfield roster including running backs Bobby Drysdale and Austin Reich, who helped lead the Brookfield midget Pop Warner team to the national championship in 2011 using the wing-T.
Drysdale’s father, Bob, was the head coach of that championship team, as well as the Brookfield freshman coach last season.
“The kids that won the national championship in eighth grade — our sophomore class now — they ran it as freshmen,” Angarano said. “Last year we introduced it, we installed it a bit, but we fully installed it this year.”
Angarano added that the Bobcats are still at the beginning stages of being a potent offense, but the statistics tell a different story.
Brookfield has rushed for 4,055 yards and 51 touchdowns this season heading into Saturday’s championship game against St. Joseph. Kickoff is set for 10:05 a.m. at Central Connecticut State’s Arute Field.
Despite the implementation of the wing-T, the Bobcats haven’t abandoned the spread offense they ran last season. Senior quarterback Brad Westmark has a strong arm and is capable of moving his team through the air.
“It’s very difficult to defend a team like that because they’re going to come out in their wing-T and play their power game and then — bam — they can hit you with the spread formation,” St. Joseph coach Joe DellaVecchia said. “They have players that can do both, which is quite impressive.”
Drysdale, in the midst of a breakthrough season, leads Brookfield with 210 carries for 1,929 yards and 26 touchdowns. Reich has added 134 carries for 812 yards and eight touchdowns while junior Dan Jackson had chipped in with 88 carries for 720 yards and 11 scores. The offensive line, led by senior Louie Rodrigues, has also been instrumental to the team’s success.
“Drysdale is a great athlete, he runs the ball hard,” Westmark said. “As is Austin Reich, who also runs the ball hard. But our line has really come up big for us. Without a line you can’t do anything, running or passing the ball. I think our line is the driving force behind this team.”
Westmark, who has thrown for 1,437 yards and 10 touchdowns against just three interceptions this year, said the change in the offense hasn’t affected his approach.
“It was a smooth change,” Westmark said. “It was really easy for me to make the transition because we still incorporate a lot of passing. It’s kind of like a bad dream for defenses who play us because we can do it all and we have athletes all over the field.”
Westmark says it doesn’t bother him that he’s thrown 136 less passes this season. His main goal is to help lead Brookfield to its third state title, and first since 2008.
“I’m not really focused on any stats, especially this year, my senior year,” Westmark said. “At the beginning of the season we wanted to be here and now we’re here. To be here senior year, the feeling is indescribable. I don’t really care about the stats.”
Angarano is hoping his team’s balance can give the St. Joseph defense fits, as it has to other opponents this season.
“When you have the ability to do multiple things on offense, it’s tough for a defense to prepare for you because they have to prepare for all kinds of things,” Angarano said.