It’s a different season, but the same scenario for the Brunswick School football team.
Another successful regular season earned the Bruins the right to play in a NEPSAC Bowl Game for the fifth time in seven seasons — this time, the Todd Marble Bowl.
The 7-2 Bruins will play 7-1 Governor’s Academy for the NEPSAC title in Saturday’s NEPSAC Bowl matchup.
In his first season as coach, Mike Hannigan has seen his squad progress each week, defeating perennially strong foes such as Cheshire Academy, Trinity-Pawling School and Salisbury School along the way.
“It’s been a great season in terms of the team coming together,” Hannigan said. “You start every season and there is speculation about who is gone and who is going to make an impact. This team has done a great job of writing their own story. A lot of credit goes to the senior class, especially the captains, for setting the tone.”
Brunswick beat Governor’s Academy for the NEPSAC title in 2014 at Avon Old Farms School and lost to Choate Rosemary Hall, in last season’s NEPSAC Class A Bowl game at Choate.
“The experience our team has of playing in bowl games helps tremendously,” Hannigan said. “I am the most nervous person about the bowl. In practice with our players, it’s been pretty business like.”
Governor’s Academy is coming off a 35-0 win against Belmont Hill School and two weeks ago topped Noble and Greenough School. They have only yielded 20 points or more once this season.
“Defensively, they have some linebackers who are really skilled,” Hannigan said of Governor’s. “Their interior line play is strong, their front is really impressive.”
So is Brunswick’s running game, featuring senior Jalen Madison. Madison has turned in a sensational final season for the Bruins, rushing for more than 200 yards in a game several times this fall, while punishing opposing defenses with his bruising running style. Senior quarterback Nicky Winegardner has capitalized on the Bruins’ vaunted running attack, effectively executing play-action passes and bootlegs for significant yardage.
“The bootleg with Winegardner on the move is such a good weapon for us,” Hannigan said. “It’s great to have a quarterback who can run and throw on the run — it’s a nice complement to the running game.”
Paving the way for Madison, senior Kevonne Wilder and the running attack are offensive linemen Howard Powell, Michael Burton, George Hill, Miles Walker and Bo Faughan — a unit that’s consistently jelled.
Defensively, Clayton Ostrover (linebacker), Alex Clarke (linebacker), Colin Mulshine (linebacker) and Powell (defensive line) are geared to go up against an effective Governor’s Academy offense that’s had little trouble scoring points.
“They have an excellent quarterback, who is a great all-around athlete,” Hannigan said. “He will run the ball on fourth and four between the tackles and is definitely someone we always have to be mindful of. We need to be aware for their plays that have resulted in big gains.”