By Gerry deSimas Jr.
AVON >> The big question surrounding the Avon High football team this season deal with its recent past and its future.
The loss to New Canaan was the final game by head coach Brett Quinion after 10 years on the sideline, five Pequot division titles and three CIAC playoff berths.
There is a new coach in Avon. Jim Caouette is a head coach for the first time. And there are several veteran players anxious to step onto the field and the lead the Falcons this fall, including All-State linebacker Jimmy Murphy.
Avon hopes to challenge for its sixth Pequot Conference divisional championship in the last seven years. The Pequot realigned into three divisions with Avon being placed in the West Division along with Canton, Gilbert/Northwestern, Lewis Mills, Housatonic/Wamogo, Nonnewaug and Granby.
This season could be Avon’s final season in the Pequot Conference. Avon High applied last spring for membership in the Central Connecticut Conference. The application was denied but a CCC official said the application will probably be reconsidered this fall.
Caouette said his Falcons will be a hard-nosed team. “The football team I hope will walk onto the field will be one that is extremely prepared, will disciplined and one that won’t make penalties,” he said. “You’ll have to work for 48 minutes to beat us.”
Murphy, a 5-foot-6, 160-pound dynamo, is the one player that never stops. He seems to be an endless supply of nervous energy at linebacker. “He has an unbelievable motor,” Caouette said. “He is like the Tasmanian devil. He’s special.”
Stephen Griffin, a speedy senior, and Dylan Marquis will join Murphy at linebacker. Griffin had 74 tackles, a fumble recover and interception a year ago while Marquis had a pair of interceptions, recovered a fumble and made 63 tackles.
Caouette hopes his defense follows in the footsteps of its predecessors. In the past two seasons, the Avon defense gave up just 112 and 106 points, respectively– the lowest number of points allowed in a season since 1989 (82 points). A year ago, Avon recovered 14 fumbles and intercepted 12 passes.
“We’re going to be aggressive on defense and take some shots on offense,” Caouette said.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Falcons welcome back QB Noah Hahn for the third season. A standout pitcher for the Avon High and Avon American Legion baseball program, Hahn will probably be asked to throw the ball more this season with the graduation of Moore.
Hahn completed 49-of-86 passes for 711 yards and six touchdowns last year, including two crucial passes in a 14-7 win over Ellington/Somers that gave Avon the Pequot Uncas Division championship. He had a 43-yard TD pass to the now-graduated Chris Suttmeier and a 35-yard reception to Suttmeier that sparked the second scoring drive.
Hahn’s main targets will probably be receivers Justin Reichler (15 receptions, 255 yards, 3 TDs), Marquis, Macko, Issac Valmal and Anthony Agli.
The Falcons aren’t giving up on the running game. Look for Griffin, Murphy and sophomore Ted Allmendinger to get carries.
Last year: 10-1, 10-0 Pequot Uncas Division champions. Lost in Class L quarterfinals to New Canaan, 16-7
Coach: Jim Caouette, first year
Key losses: RB Colin Moore (2,144 yards rushing, 30 TDs), RB/K Mitch Cappello (42 of 47 PAT), LB Joey Murphy (120 tackles), WR Chris Suttmeier (24 receptions, 292 yards, 3 TDs) , DB Patrick Driscoll Kelly (67 tackles), DL Nick Rowe (52 tackles), DB Mitch Gauthier; head coach Brett Quinion
Top players: All-State LB/RB Jimmy Murphy, QB Noah Hahn, FB/DE Stephen Griffin, LB Nick Zaccio, WR/DL Dylan Marquis WR Justin Reichler, OL Ryan Rogers, CB Devon Macco
Outlook: With the graduation of RB Colin Moore, who rushed for more than 4,000 yards and 53 TDs over the past two seasons, the Falcons will need new players to step forward. Avon returns All-State LB Jimmy Murphy and some outstanding players including QB Noah Hahn, DE Stephen Griffin, WR Dylan Marquis and LB Nick Zaccio. Avon has relied on the run the past two years but hopes to incorporate the pass more this season. The Falcons are the favorites in the Pequot West but will be challenged by Gilbert/Northwestern and perhaps Canton, which returns a veteran team.
Of note: Moore, Cappello, Gauthier, Jimmy Murphy, Joey Murphy, Griffin, Rowe and Driscoll-Kelly were the eight Avon players named to the All-Pequot Uncas squad a year ago. … Moore and Jimmy Murphy also earned All-State honors. … The Falcons will face Valley Regional for the first time since 1980 and North Branford for the first time since 2006.