Saturday’s football showdown featuring Brunswick School and Choate Rosemary Hall marks a rematch of the 2018 NEPSAC Class A Championship Bowl, yet both squads have changed a lot since then.
“Choate graduated about 20 starters and we graduated so many important players,” Bruins first-year coach Mike Hannigan said. “A lot of guys from both teams didn’t play in the bowl game, so this is a regular season game between two improving teams, who want to win.”
However, the Bruins do remember what transpired when they last played Choate in the 2018 Mike Silipo (Class A Championship) Bowl. Choate, which finished undefeated last season, posted a 25-8 victory over the Bruins to capture the championship trophy.
“There’s some rumblings about last year’s game, but our team is embracing their motto of 1-0 — go 1-0 every week.”
The Bruins enter Saturday’s 4 p.m. matchup against against visiting Choate at Cosby Field with a record of 3-0, after blanking Cheshire Academy last week, 17-0. Choate is coming off a hard-fought 14-7 victory against Phillips Exeter Academy, a win moving its mark to 2-1.
The squads, who each have displayed potent running attacks the early portion of the season, seem to be mirror images of each other.
“They have a dynamic running back and a full complement of running plays,” Hannigan said of Choate. “That’s exactly what they have done for years, they coach up their linemen really well and they are sound in their scheme and execution.”
In last season’s meeting Choate held a 10-0 halftime lead on the Bruins, who struggled offensively, before being able to move the ball in the third quarter.
“What you see is what you get from Choate,” Hannigan said. “They are a team that does not beat themselves and that speaks to them being well coached. Coach (LJ) Spinnato has done a great job with the team for years.”
Brunswick is fresh off a 17-0 victory against Cheshire Academy in a game that saw it establish its running game early and rely on its defense to pressure Cheshire’s quarterback. Senior Jalen Madison ran for both touchdowns for the Bruins, finishing with 193 yards on the ground.
“The was the most physical we ran the ball all year,” Hannigan said. “Our interior run game was fantastic.”
Senior Kevonne Wilder, one of the captains, also gained significant yards out of the backfield, using his speed to get to the outside, which will be an important factor against Choate on Saturday.
“It was a really nice complement to have Kevonne out there hitting the edges,” Hannigan said. “I was super pleased with the way we ran the ball and how physical we were.”
The Bruins will try to follow the same pattern on Saturday against Choate’s imposing defense.
“They are physical year in and year out, so we just have to try their physicality,” Hannigan said. “If you run the football and play great defense, that will never be an unsuccessful plan. That’s been Cheshire’s formula, so we have a team that is their identity — two teams who want to do the same things.”
Choate Rosemary Hall has size on its offensive line and the Bruins have been led thus far by senior standout Howard Powell, who has garnered a lot of attention from the opposition.
“Howard Powell has to be accounted for,” Hannigan said. “We have seen two teams in a row game plan for him and we are definitely aware that some schemes may change to account for his power and quickness on the defensive line.”
Brunswick junior linebacker Colin Mulshine has made a habit of getting into the opposition’s backfield, where he has pressured the quarterback and disrupted the running game. Senior linebacker Clayton Ostrover has been active each week, while cornerbacks Alex Burdick (senior) and Wilder are tough to throw against.
“Our linebackers are doing a good job of locating the football and everyone has been stepping up and playing physical,” Hannigan said. “Our mentality on defense is, next guy up, let’s make plays.”
HONORING A FELLOW STUDENT
Prior to Brunswick’s game against Choate Rosemary Hall on Saturday, there will be a moment of silence to honor Ike Dolphan, a Brunswick student, who died on Tuesday at the age of 16, after a valiant battle with cancer.
Dolphan was in his sophomore year at Brunswick. Bruins fans wore black and red — Dolphan’s favorite colors, during last week’s game in honor of him.