After coming back to beat Salisbury School last week, the Brunswick School football team is back home on Saturday and it’s understandable if the Bruins are especially hyped up for this matchup.
Not only are the Bruins celebrating their Homecoming on Saturday, they are facing an Erickson League rival Avon Old Farms — a team that beat them the past two seasons. Brunswick enters the much-anticipated matchup at 5-1 overall and 3-0 in Erickson League play, while Avon is 5-0 in the league. The victor will have the inside track to winning the league title and move one step closer to securing a NEPSAC championship bowl bid.
“It’s definitely going to be a high-energy game,” Brunswick coach Mike Hannigan said. “It’s a magnified game for the boys, so much swirls around the game, with all the Homecoming events that take place. But once the game starts, it’s about the game and we have a lot of alumni coming back to see who is wearing their old jersey number and alumni interested in seeing where the program is at.”
Hannigan, who has been a member of the coaching staff for almost a decade, experienced Homecoming during his football playing days at Brunswick.
“Homecoming as a coach has a totally different feeling than it did as a player,” Hannigan said. “I’ve now had more Homecomings as a coach than a player and I’ve now had more vivid Homecomings being on the sideline.”
The Bruins are facing an Avon Old Farms squad that has cruised through its schedule so far. Coached by Pierce Brennan, Avon has scored more than 30 points in four of its five games and has eclipsed 40 points twice.
Brunswick has been highly successful running the ball, with seniors Jalen Madison and Kevonne Wilder paving the way. Avon meanwhile, has experienced the same type of success.
“They have really shown themselves to be a second-half team and that is true of us as well,” said Hannigan, whose Bruins overcame a 17-0 deficit to beat Salisbury School, 20-17, last week. “They are more multiple in their fronts and they have a similar run game as us, creating run flanks and running to the outside. They have a powerful running back and a great running quarterback, so they are similar to us.”
The Winged Beavers have exhibited the ability to score quickly.
“In terms of big-play potential, they have made a few more dynamic plays than us, when it comes to one player’s effort,” Hannigan said. “That is what concerns me — their big-play potential.”
Indeed, the Bruins’ defense, which has been powered by senior lineman Howard Powell and senior linebacker Aengus Rosato, must be discliplined and physical in this showdown before what is expected to be, a big home crowd.
“We don’t want to leave anything to chance, we have to dot all our i’s and cross our t’s and remain focused,” Hannigan said. “We need to have great technique and pay attention to our assignments up front and we must keep their offense behind schedule, getting them in third-and-long situations.”
On offense, Brunswick’s running game has been consistent through the squad’s first six games. Senior quarterback Nick Winegardner has also provided important yards on the ground.
“Nicky can scramble, he’s very elusive, which he showed last year,” Hannigan said. “Offensively, he is also key to our running game, whether it’s scrambling, or on a designed run.”
Brunswick lost to Avon Old Farms, 17-14, in 2018, and dropped a 36-17 decision to Avon in 2017. In 2016, the Bruins rolled to a 47-14 victory and the 2015 season saw Brunswick beat Avon, 27-21. Avon Old Farms won the first meeting between the two teams in 2014, 49-34.