Third-year quarterback Michael Marshall returns as one of the NVL’s most experience passers, giving the Bulldogs hope they can end a run of six losing seasons. But there are plenty of holes to fill elsewhere. Coach David Jurewicz is confident his team will compete.
Kennedy went 5-6 last year, its best season since 2008, but 16 seniors have graduated. Joey Schaff takes over at quarterback and the Eagles will look to run with a stable of backs, Bryan Garcia-Medina, Bubba Rivera, Christian Curry and Jacob Colon. Their first two weeks consist of Naugatuck and Ansonia.
Phil Dawson takes over the struggling co-op, which went 0-11 in its first year. Sacred Heart itself hasn’t won a football game since 2012 — a run of 26 consecutive losses. Dawson’s freshman son, Trey, takes over at QB. The Hearts will also look to run with RB Donald Streater behind big junior James Velez and sophomore Sydney Asiedu. The secondary, which returns three starters should be a strength, as will sophomore Jose Santiago on the defensive line.
LaMar Kennedy takes control after a bitter offseason which saw coach Gino Capuano resign and first hire Peter Flammia resign after just a couple of weeks. The Wildcats scored just 10 points per game and surrendered 40 per game last season. So there’s serious work to do. At least veteran QB Darrien Bell-Walton and RB Mallik Allen return.
You’d be hard-pressed to name many starters on this year’s Ansonia squad. Well, except the state’s best 1-2 punch in Tyler Bailey and Tajik Bagley. The two stars should have their way with most — if not all — of the NVL schedule while the young, but talented newcomers learn their roles. Tall QB Bryson Cafaro takes over for the versatile Jai’Quan McKnight. Defense is of particular concern, but expect to see Ansonia playing in late December again.
The Red Raiders, coming off their best season since 1992, will have a much different look after graduating dynamic QB Mike Kreiger, WRs Ben Slowik and Brian Elliasson. They’ll look to RB Rick Bartone to and new QB Jake Finnucan to carry them.
Oxford had a rough beginning in the NVL last season, going 2-9. But coach Joe Stochmal believes better days are ahead now that many of last year’s players return. There’s some retooling at the skill positions with a new starting backfield. The Wolverine’s defense, led by Joe Romagna and Matt Dodson, should make Oxford more competitive.
C.J. Falcioni, a rock at OL/DL, returns with WR/DB Jake Bleau and QB Jaylen Kelley, whose versatility as a passer and runner will be clutch for the Cats’ playoff hopes. Of the 11 returning starters, losing RB Joey Salemme is a crushing blow. Finding a replacement is the team’s paramount concern, as is shoring up a defense which surrendered 305 points last year.
The Falcons, who were 6-5, graduated just about of their skill players — 2,000-yard rusher Eli Parks, nearly 2,000-yard passer QB Patt Etter and both receivers. Ben Pryor returns at receiver to help new quarterback Kyle DeForge. Both will also be key to improve a defense that allowed 30 points per game in 2014. Overall, it looks like a rebuilding year.
Stud players like QB Jason Bradley and WR/DB Bryan Coney have graduated from last year’s Class L playoff team, but strong RB Antoine Sistrunk returns. So perhaps coach Craig Bruno will be running more wishbone to take advantage as new sophomore QB Mike Plasky gets a handle of varsity play. Plasky at least has great targets in receivers Jalen Datil, Etty Illunga and Tyler Deitelbaum. Can the Hounds play some defense, though?
No team in the NVL can match the wealth of starters Torrington returns. There are multiple-year starters at every turn, including QB Connor Finn, one of the NVL’s few returning vets, a strong line, RB Tyler Marens and receiver Zak Mancini. The return of big linebacker Nate Bresson from a year-long injury will give a needed boost to the defense. Coach Gaitan Rodriguez just prays the Raiders will avoid last year’s crippling injuries.
Fifteen starters — seven on offense, eight on defense — return to help second-year coach Luigi Velardi build off of last year’s 1-10 season. The Indians turn to senior QB Kyle Sklanka to run the offense behind a large offensive line. The NVL Iron Division schedule, however, is daunting.
In a reverse of last season, the Eagles bring back all five starters on the offensive line, including Justin Nadeau, Cole Phelps and Phil Olmstead. But virtually none of Wolcott’s playmakers return. Instead, the Eagles will look to first-year starting QB Mike Pastore to lead a cast of newcomers vying for a return to the playoffs — this year in Class S. Returning WR/RB Nate Filippone, at least, brings some experience sorely needed.
Chris Anderson, Woodland’s patron saint of football, returns for another tour as coach. Could there be a renaissance in Beacon Falls? Though only three regulars return, they include sterling senior RB Sean McAllen, RB/DB Coby Vaccarelli and RB Dave Bobbie. After that, Anderson has some major work ahead — including the development of freshman QB Zach Bedryczuk — if he wants the Hawks playing for state titles again.