These are exciting times at Hopkins.
This past weekend the Hilltoppers earned a thrilling 29-28 victory over St. Luke’s, a team projected to be one of the favorites in the Fairchester League.
This Saturday, Hopkins will host King Low Heywood Thomas at 1 p.m. That game will be the first played on the Hilltoppers’ new turf field.
In addition to the playing surface, the bleachers have been updated and play clocks were installed on each end of the field. Work began on the project in March and was completed in time for the preseason.
“Last year we looked into it, made the decision to go ahead with it, put in the bid and work began,” Hopkins coach Tom Parr said. “It was a pretty quick thing.”
Parr said there was money in the school’s budget to cover the cost of the project and that there was no major donor. The installation of the new field certainly has the team and school community buzzing.
“It’s been great,” Parr said. “The kids have been charged up. We used to practice on a grass field with no hash marks, so this is a really big upgrade for us.”
In last week’s win, Hopkins trailed 14-0 after the first quarter but cut the deficit to 21-14 at halftime. With under three minutes to go, senior captain Brian Keller intercepted a pass which lead to a 34-yard touchdown reception from Quinn Ferguson to Brain Schaffer. Ferguson then connected with Walker Schneider for the game-winning two-point conversion pass.
“It was very exciting,” Parr said. “We went for two, got it, and then held on to win. We beat a very good team, which made it a good win for us.”
After replacing the entire offensive line this year, Parr didn’t know what to expect when the season began.
“I was a little unsure of what we were going to get, but they did a pretty good job (against St. Luke’s),” Parr said. “I’m very happy with how we competed and fought.”
Ferguson, a senior captain who also plays defensive back, runs the option well according to Parr. Ferguson is also capable of the leading the team down the field through the air.
Senior captain Jim Martino, a fullback/linebacker, is one of the top players in the Fairchester League.
“He’s as good a player I’ve ever had,” said Parr, who is in his 32nd year as head coach. “He’s so multi-talented. He can play at fullback, receiver, tailback, on the D-line, at linebacker, at defensive end; we can put him all over. He’s so talented.”
Parr said Ivy League schools Brown and Penn have expressed interest in Martino, as have schools from the New England Small College Athletic Conference.
Bennett Amador, another running back, also contributed in the win over St. Luke’s. Amador was a member of the football team as a sophomore but played soccer last season while recovering from a shoulder injury. Amador fills the void left when running back Jacob Fielder was lost for the season with a torn ACL.
“It’s a good thing Bennett came back,” Parr said. “He gives us speed.”
Senior Sasha Possick moved from tight end to offensive tackle this year.
“He’s doing very well,” Parr said. “He gives us a little size up front.”
After just two weeks, Wilbur Cross is already half way to last year’s win total.
The Governors, who went 2-8 in 2012, earned a 27-24 victory over Law this past Friday, winning on touchdown pass from Donte Skinner to Elijah Long in overtime.
The contest was close throughout. Wilbur Cross was intercepted on its first drive and then turned the ball over twice on fumbles inside Law territory. The game was tied at 14 at halftime and at 21 at the end of regulation. Law’s Mike Murray kicked a field goal in overtime to temporarily take the lead before Skinner found Long with the winning score.
“A win is a win, it’s always exciting,” Cross coach John Acquavita said. “It’s better than losing.”
Acquavita, though, thought the game was closer than it probably should’ve been because of turnovers. Still, the Governors found a way to win, which is a promising sign for a program that has won just seven games the past three seasons.
“It probably could’ve a three-touchdown type lead, where we’re in a comfort zone instead of a dog fight,” Acquavita said. “But I am happy we didn’t give up any big passing plays, that would’ve been back-breaking.”
Although the Governors lost a non-conference contest to McMahon in the season opener, Acquavita expected his team to be improved this season.
“We’re definitely light years ahead of where we were last year,” Acquavita said. “We have a little depth, which is huge.”
The 6-foot-4, 195-pound Skinner did an effective job of managing the game against Law. He completed 10 of 17 passes for 144 yards and three touchdowns, although he did throw two interceptions.
Matt Ricketts caught two touchdown passes, while Long caught four passes for 33 yards and a touchdown. Long, who also plays at cornerback and at linebacker, has played well this season according to Acquavita.
“He’s a very good athlete,” the coach said. “He’s contributing on both sides of the ball.”
The Governors rushed for 232 yards with Jaylin Fuller (111 yards on 11 carries) leading the way and Stevie Swinson rushing 18 times for 99 yards. Swinson (5-6, 142 pounds) may be undersized, but he and Fuller are a formidable duo for Cross.
“He (Swinson) is very shifty,” Acquavita said. “Every bit of his 142 is going to hit you. He’s a pretty tough kid.”
The offensive line is senior-laden but not very experienced. Only one member is a returning starter. Then there’s the 6-8, 305 Jaelin Robinson, who has good potential but is still learning the game. Robinson, a standout basketball player for the Governors, is in his first year with the team. Acquavita said that UConn “took a peak” at Robinson following a camp there this past summer.
“One minute he’s getting beat inside and then next he looks unbelievable,” Acquavita said. “He has a world of talent but he’s still raw.”
Cross will visit Hand (1-1) on Friday. It’s the first game being played on the new turf field at the Surf Club. The Governors then play East Haven and Hamden before getting into a tough stretch of their schedule.
“We felt we had the potential to be over .500 this season,” Acquavita said. “4-1, 3-2 (in the first five weeks) is something we would like to be. We want to continue to improve. If we can steal one Friday night, then the rest of the season gets kind of interesting.”