Football rosters are often helpful to spectators to be able to identify players quickly. This season, spectators may also need them to figure out the many new head coaches in the Greater New Haven area.
When play begins on Sept. 11, 14 coaches will officially debut at their new schools. Some were head coaches previously, others loyal assistants, still others became interim coaches in 2014 and one other returning for a second go-around with his program.
In the Southern Connecticut Conference alone there are six new head coaches, the most turnover ever for the SCC. The most noticeable departure among the six is in West Haven, where Ed McCarthy retired with his state-record 332 victories in the off-season.
In steps one of the state’s longest tenured assistant coaches. Rich Boshea spent 29 seasons by McCarthy’s side. A former West Haven standout player under Tom Hunt, Boshea was perfectly happy to remain as an assistant.
Now, he gets his chance.
“I’m sure McCarthy will still be barking at me all the time,” Boshea said. “I talk to him just about every day. Our quarterback (Tim McCarthy) is his son and my godson. He will still be at all our games and practices.”
West Haven has long been a home for ex-head coaches and this year is no different. Scott Benoit, who coached at North Branford, Guilford and Hamden, is back for another tour of duty on the staff. Rusty Dunne (East Haven) and Ron Luneau (Derby) have remained and Tom Unger, after departing Guilford in the off-season, is the team’s new offensive line coach.
Replacing Unger at Guilford is Mike Eagle, who moved down I-95 from Clinton. In five seasons at Morgan, Eagle went 28-25 and in 2013, led the Huskies to their first state tournament berth (in Class S) since 2000.
Morgan went 8-3 in his final season. A Guilford resident, Eagle brought three coaches from his staff to the Indians’ program, which looks to have an above-.500 season for the first time since 2007.
“From day one, we have had active participation in the weight room and strength and conditioning,” Eagle said. “We will see a competitive team in green and white.”
Melvin Wells was 59-30 as head coach at Hyde, including a Class S state championship in 2009. But a chance to rebuild at East Haven, where he once served as an assistant under Dunne, was too much of an opportunity to pass up.
“The goal at the end of the day is to be competitive on every single snap of the football and in the fourth quarter, have an opportunity to compete and be successful,” Wells said.
That won’t be easy as the Yellowjackets have had just two winning seasons since the SCC was formed in 1994, the last in 2000.
“They have in their mind to knock that door down and turn us into a winning program and at the end of Thanksgiving football, have an opportunity to keep playing,” Wells said. “We think we can play seven or eight games and be there at the end. Will we win? Another story. But we know we will be there.”
Aiden Lynch faces a similar uphill battle at Lyman Hall. The Trojans are 7-35 since an appearance in the Class M state tournament in 2010. Lynch was the interim coach for most of last season after his predecessor, Rob Marone, was fired for an off-season training violation.
“Last year was a little hectic. I feel we can turn the page on that and start a new chapter,” Lynch said. “I know the guys are ready for that, I know I am. For the first time in a few years, I feel we are getting more talented. Hopefully, we will get back to what Lyman Hall used to be, good, smash-mouth, hard-nosed football.”
Ted Czepiga’s first head coaching gig is at his alma mater, Amity. He ran for 3,345 career yards and scored 65 touchdowns, leading Amity top the Class LL state playoffs in 2002.
Czepiga did serve as Amity’s freshman coach in 2011. He spent the last three years at West Haven under McCarthy. He marveled at his approach each and every day at practice.
“I hold him in very high regard. Some of the things I never thought was really possible at the high school level, he made possible in just his everyday approach,” Czepiga said. “There has already been a huge change of culture. It will turn around as fast as the kids want it to turn around. … It will take a little while, but the players already are changing in their minds how they view football and what they want to do with the program.”
Keith Hellstern enters his sixth year with the Fairfield Prep program. He has been the strength and conditioning coach from the start. Hellstern said this has been the best off-season in terms of conditioning since he has been there.
“I think our guys are physically and mentally ready to go,” said Hellstern, who takes over for Tom Shea. “We want to be the same tough team we tried to establish over the last five years and get us over the top. We were not happy with last year at 7-4.”
Outside of the SCC, Pete Nye leaves his assistant position at Hand to become the head coach at Morgan. The spread offense that Eagle ran at Morgan is the same offense Hand runs, so that continuity will remain the same.
For the first time in 34 years, there will be someone new patrolling the sidelines at Hopkins, a prep school in New Haven. Tim Phipps left after one season as Woodland’s head coach in Beacon Falls to take over at Hopkins. Phipps was Woodland’s offensive coordinator from 2008-13.
“It’s humbling and at the same time I feel like I got a lot of work to do in order to prove that I’m worthy to have a position that he held for 33 years,” Phipps said at the time of his hire last spring.
In steps a familiar name at Woodland. Chris Anderson became the school’s first coach in 2001, won a pair Class SS state championships with the Hawks (2004 and 2005), then stepped down following the 2007 season.
Anderson was an assistant coach at the University of New Haven from 2008-12.
“I never left that teaching spot (physical education) at Woodland,” Anderson said. “I was doing two full-time jobs for five years. The commute back and forth took a toll on me.”
Anderson, 43, applied for the Woodland job last year, but then pulled his name out before Phipps got the job.
“I didn’t think I’d get another chance,” Anderson said. “When you start a program from scratch, you’re gung ho and it’s win, win, win all the time. Then you get older and wiser and there’s a bigger purpose. When you emphasize fundamentals and not win at all cost at all times, winning takes care of itself.”
Brandon McCormick was elevated to replace Wells at Hyde. McCormick has been on the Howling Wolves’ staff since 2008.
“The ultimate goal is to get to the state playoffs and take it from there,” McCormick said at the time of his hire in March.
Sean Mignone was named interim coach midway through last season at Bunnell in place of Doug Cotto. The interim tag was removed in the spring. Bunnell won five of its last six games last season under Mignone.
Mike Marone, the former coach at East Haven and Rob’s dad, takes over at Old Saybrook-Westbrook. In another Pequot Conference hire, Nick D’Angelo, Hillhouse’s defensive coordinator the past two seasons, gets his first head coaching job at Coginchaug. Jimmy Benjamin is the new coach at Platt Tech, elevated from his assistant’s position to replace Chris Theriault.