NEW HAVEN >> Dealing with both inexperience and injuries, the Hopkins football team has compiled a somewhat disappointing 2-4 record heading into its season finale against rival Hamden Hall.
The inactivity of several key starters, including senior fullback/linebacker Jim Martino, hasn’t resulted in the type of season the team had planned.
“This has been a funny year, as it’s been probably the most core injuries we’ve ever had with losing our key people,” said Hopkins coach Tom Parr, now in his 32nd year with the school. “When you lose your key people, it’s difficult. It’s been a strange year in that respect.”
Martino has been dealing with a nagging ankle injury, as has junior fullback/linebacker Kamsi Nwangu. Senior tight end/defensive lineman Kevin Shannon is finding his way back into the lineup after suffering a concussion. All should be available on Saturday when Hopkins hosts Hamden Hall (5-2). Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.
“We’re hoping to have — although it might not be at full speed — everybody back for Saturday, which would really be the first time in a while that we’ve had that.”
The Hilltoppers are hoping to not only close the season on a positive note, but get back in the win column against the Hornets. Hopkins lost last season to Hamden Hall for the first time since 2001.
“It definitely has (motivated us),” Martino said. “It’s our seniors’ last game, so that has a lot to do with it. We’ve been playing against most of these Hamden Hall guys for three years, so we know them pretty well and they know us pretty well. It should be fun just to play against good competition.”
Parr knows full well that Hopkins will be the underdog against the talented Hornets, who are led by senior quarterback T.J. Linta and senior receivers Mike Breuler and Mike Whalen.
“We’ve been a little down this year, and I think they’re kind of up this year, so I think we go into the game a little bit of an underdog,” Parr said. “I think that sort of makes us hungry. Going in and winning this can certainly put our season together, it can certainly take a season that’s somewhat disappointing and make it fulfilling.”
Linta is arguably the best quarterback in the Fairchester League. He has completed 118 of 196 passes (60 percent) for 2,316 yards and 30 touchdowns. Breuler (28 catches, 632 yards, eight touchdowns) and Whalen (32-663-9) are Linta’s top targets, but Hamden Hall has additional threats in receivers Dylan Millhouse and Brandon Ginetti.
“Linta is a great quarterback, a great thrower,” Parr said. “They have excellent wide receivers, a big line. I really think they are a complete team. This is as good a Hamden Hall team as I have seen in many, many years, if not ever.”
The Hilltoppers have some talented skill players of their own. Although Martino has been slowed by injury, he remains one of the team’s top running backs. Senior Bennit Amadaor is also a threat to run the ball while senior quarterback Quinn Ferguson has done an effective job of directing the offense.
“We have a lot of weapons ourselves,” Martino said. “We have great receivers and our quarterback, Quinn Ferguson, is a dual threat. Our line’s been doing pretty well lately, so we feel we can do a lot of different things.”
Although Hamden Hall presents many challenges for Hopkins, the Hilltoppers have often found ways to emerge victorious against teams with more talent.
“That’s pretty much how it’s been for coach Parr through his whole tenure,” Martino said. “He’s taken guys who are here for academics and not athletics, who are not physical specimens but are hard-working guys, and he teaches them how to work harder. He pushes us to our limits in practice, he gets us pumped up for games, and we’re able to produce pretty well.”
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