Besides serving as Brunswick School’s football coach for a decade, Jarrett Shine played for the Bruins during his high school days. He remembers facing a lot of opponents, but not Choate Rosemary Hall.
“From what I know, we’ve never played them before,” Shine said. “I don’t recall ever playing them as a coach, or player.”
Shine was correct, as they Bruins have never tested their skills against Choate before. They will in a big way on Saturday, however.
Whatever transpires, Brunswick will recall its inaugural matchup against Choate Rosemary Hall Saturday in Wallingford. The Bruins (8-1) visit Choate (8-0) in the Mike Silipo Bowl — which is regarded as the NEPSAC Class A championship — 12:30 p.m.
Not only are the Wild Boars undefeated this fall, they are the holders of an astounding 47-game winning streak, spanning five seasons.
So, yes, the Bruins face a monumental task on Saturday.
“Choate is a well coached and you can see that everyone on their team has bought into their program,” Shine said. “They are very confident in their abilities and it shows in their results. Most of their wins over the years have been blowouts, they’ve only had two or three close games over they years. They are great team on both sides of the ball.”
Coached by LJ Spinnato, who has yet to lose a game during his tenure at the helm, Choate is averaging 36 points per game this season. The Wild Boars’ offense will be led by Darien native Shane Baldwin for the third consecutive week. Baldwin took over at quarterback for fellow Darien resident Jack Maley, who played seven games, before sustaining a season-ending shoulder injury.
Maley has helped prepare Baldwin for his increased role as squad’s signal-caller.
“He has done an incredible job as an assistant coach and still leading in his own right and still rallying the troops like he did as a player,” Spinnato said. “He is working hard to step in, in Jack’s shoes and those two are working together well to get Shane ready for each game.”
Senior Rashaud Conway has helped ignite the Wild Boars’ vaunted running game.
“They do a good job of running the ball, with a couple of different running backs,” Shine said. “We have to be aware of where they are running and we must be physical on defense.”
Seniors Crawford Sargent and Gary Kazanijian, both of whom hail from Greenwich, are anchors on the Wild Boars’ offensive line.
“We know they are a tough team,” Sargent said of Brunswick. “We know they play hard and we know that we are going to have to be perfect in our execution. We’re going to go out there and play our best game to compete.”
Paced by senior linebacker Nick Villis, junior lineman Howard Powell, linebacker David MacGillivray (senior) and defensive backs Kevonne Wilder (senior), Whit Knight (senior) and Liam Fairback (junior), Brunswick’s defense must be primed for its greatest challenge.
“Choate has the best offensive line as a group across the board we’ve seen,” Shine said. “It’s important for our guys to be fundamentally sound on defense. Our kids have studied and prepared a lot for them. Now they have to go out there, play physical football and tackle well — they must wrap up, which is something we’ve focused on all season.”
Brunswick, didn’t qualify for a NEPSAC Class A championship bowl game last season, earned a bowl bid this fall by registering victories against formidable foes such as Salisbury School, Cheshire Academy and Taft School.
“I am extremely proud of what this team has accomplished,” Shine said. “We had a tough middle of the season schedule and we pulled out victories against really good teams. Our player have shown a great amount of trust in each other.”
Behind senior Division I-bound receiver Cornelius Johnson and junior quarterback Nick Winegardner, Brunswick’s offense has displayed plenty of positive signs.
Johnson is the leading receiver and go-to player offensively for the Bruins, who have received effective play from Winegardner throughout.
“I haven’t really had a chance to see him outside of the past two days on film, but he is a rare talent, he’s a special talent,” Spinnato said of Johnson. “I am not sure we have seen someone with his abilities before and they try to get him the ball in many different ways.
“He’s a problem, someone we have to try and slow down. I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to neutralize him, but at least try to slow him down a bit.”
Brunswick’s achieved balance on offense with running backs Jalen Madison and Michael Gottlieb leading the ground attack.
“Our offense has experienced bumps in the road, but strong moments as well,” Shine said. “I’m proud with how far our offense has come. Nicky Winegardner has improved and has done a good job of managing the game, Cornelius has made big plays for us throughout the season and our offensive line has opened up enough holes for our running backs to be strong. Against Choate, we have to be fundamentally sound on offense as well. We can’t affort to make mistakes against a team like that — our kids know what’s at stake.”
Pete Paguaga contributed to this article