- Coach: DARYL DALEEN (First year)
- Conference: Independent
- Playoff Class: L (491 boys enrollment)
- Home: Bentley Field, Woodstock
- 2015 Record: 1-9
- 2016 Kickoff: Sept. 9 at Quinebaug Valley, 7 p.m.
- Team website: MaxPreps
- KAM JANICE, Jr. RB/DL (6-0, 220)
- JARRED BOUTON, Sr. QB (6-2, 195)
- MASON DEFOCY, Sr. WR/S (6-1, 190)
- ERIC PRESTON, Soph, Ath (5-11, 190)
LB Cahan Quinn (Norwich University).
When Central Connecticut State assistant Daryl Daleen came across a head coach opening at Woodstock Academy, he applied believing that the ‘Academy’ was a prep school along the same vein as Cheshire Academy, Choate, St. Luke’s or Taft.
Daleen had no idea that Woodstock football was at the opposite extreme: a long-struggling, small-town high school program which had won a mere 14 games over the last 10 years and just two over the last four.
Despite being a regional Class L school, Woodstock had become so uncompetitive, it removed itself from the Eastern Connecticut Conference to play an independent schedule more suited to its skill level.
“Turns out, it was one of the worst high school football programs in the country,” Daleen said.
Despite all of this, Daleen, who had been coaching under Pete Rossomando (first at the Univerisity of New Haven and then at CCSU) for the last eight years, didn’t back away when he learned what Woodstock was really all about.
In fact, he relished the challenge.
“When I interviewed with athletic director Aaron Patterson and headmaster Chris Sandford, they told me straight up ‘We want to be good at sports. We’re sick of getting our heads kicked in,'” Daleen recalled. “There was definitely a lure to it, coming in and building your own football program.
“The school is ridiculous. It’s one of the top schools in the country in terms of test scores. These are intrinsically motivated kids. They just don’t know what it’s like to be a program. They just have no experience with it.”
Anxious to prove it is serious about rebuilding its football program and make “a splash” with its coaching hire, Woodstock sweetened the deal by creating a full-time, assistant athletic director job for Daleen.
It worked. In April, the school gleefully announced Daleen’s hire as head coach. He moved his family into town and immediately went to work.
Daleen says he is essentially the school’s full-time head football coach. He has autonomy over the program and said the school has been extremely supportive and attentive to his requests to build up the football infrastructure.
Daleen is getting involved with rebuilding the youth programs. He’s rebuilt the weight room. He said he has installed a rigorous training program modeled after college and nationally recognized high school programs.
So far, he says, it’s paid off. He had 44 students participate in spring practices and more than 30 kids showing up to summer workouts. “A lot of people said I was crazy to put them through college-level training. They said I’d lose kids because of it,” Daleen said. “If anything, it’s brought more kids into the program. I think the kids are sick of getting their (butts) kicked in, too.”
Though Daleen is starting with a fresh slate, there are at least a few veterans on whom he can rely, particularly in the offensive backfield.
Six-foot-2 quarterback Jarred Bouton returns for his senior year after throwing for 820 yards and 7 touchdowns last year. So does Bouton’s primary receiver, Mason Defocy, an honorable mention All-ECC player who caught 29 passes — twice as many as anyone else last year — for 352 yards and two scores.
Also returning is rising junior Kam Janice, who ran for 617 yards and scored 7 touchdowns last year. Sophomore athlete Eric Preston figures to be involved in Daleen’s plans.
Make no mistake, Woodstock needs much more than a returning backfield. Many of the kids are playing football for the first time. But the talent pool isn’t as shallow as he was led to believe.
“Since I’ve taken the job, I’ve noticed that there’s some talent here,” he said. “They’re decent-looking kids. I’ve had eight or nine college coaches come up here and none of them have been disappointed with the kids I show them.”
Daleen and the Centaurs can take some comfort in their new, independent schedule. The only ECC teams they face are Griswold and Windham late in the year. The rest of the schedule mostly consists of Constitution State Conference teams (including two former ECC programs Quinebaug and Thames River), and three out-of-state contests vs. schools in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
Daleen is happy with being unattached to a conference. In fact, he has ambitions of scheduling more out-of-state games in future seasons. Among his many ideas is to schedule games vs. New Jersey schools in New Haven or some other neutral halfway point. It’s unheard of stuff in Connecticut high school football, especially from a program as low on the totem pole as Woodstock.
“We’re going to use it to our complete advantage,” he said of being an independent. “We’re opening up the schedule nationally. Once or twice a year, I want to give them a hotel game so we can give the kids that college experience.
“We can reinvent everything about this place.”
For now, the drop in schedule strength should help Daleen’s 2016 team to build confidence as he develops his program. How long that takes — if it indeed happens — is anybody’s guess.
For his part, Daleen is aiming for the stars.
“Everybody asked why I would take a job at this school and, I’ll tell you, it had to be something extraordinary for me to move,” he said. “This place is pretty extraordinary. I don’t know if we’re going to turn it into Don Bosco (N.J.) North, but I think the pieces and resources are here.”
|Sept. 9||at Quinebaug Valley||7 p.m.|
|Sept. 17||vs. Turners Falls (Mass.)||2 p.m.|
|Sept. 24||at Pittsfield (Mass.)||TBA|
|Oct. 1||vs. CREC||Noon|
|Oct. 8||vs. Woonsocket (R.I.)||3 p.m.|
|Oct. 22||vs. Vinal Tech/East Hampton/Goodwin Tech||1 p.m.|
|Oct. 29||at Wolcott Tech/Housatonic/Wamogo||Noon|
|Nov. 5||vs. Griswold||1 p.m.|
|Nov. 17||at Windham||6:30 p.m.|
|Nov. 24||at Thames River||10:30 a.m.|