The postseason is still several weeks away, but the Brunswick School football team considers its last two games of the regular season playoff games — and rightly so.
After last week’s 36-17 loss to visiting Avon Old Farms School, the Bruins most likely need to win their remaining two games in order to qualify for a NEPSAC Championship Bowl game. The same could be said for Erickson League foe Trinity-Pawling School, which visits Brunswick Saturday at 6:30 p.m.
The Bruins and Pride are tied for second place in the Erickson League with records of 4-1. Avon Old Farms School is atop the league at 6-0, but in year’s past (last season included) the NEPSAC took two teams from the Erickson League to play in a bowl game.
“The winner of this game will be in second place in the league, so there is a lot on the line,” Bruins coach Jarrett Shine said. “Trinity-Pawling has won four straight games and they’re a very dangerous team.”
The Pride (4-2 overall) enter the game in top form, having registered a 41-21 win over Salisbury School last week. They defeated the Bruins last season, 31-20, and hold a 7-3 advantage in the all-time series between the two squads — though Brunswick has won three of the last four meetings.
Led by junior linebacker Nick Villis, Brunswick’s defense, which shutout Avon Old Farms in the first half, before the Winged Beavers’ offense capitalized on their opportunities in the second half, faces another strong offense Saturday. Junior quarterback Re’mahn Davis has rushed for more than 900 yards on the season, after running for two touchdowns in his team’s triumph against Salisbury. He has 16 rushing touchdowns for the season.
“Their quarterback is very elusive and very explosive, so we have to figure out a way to contain him,” Shine said. “They run a triple option, wishbone type of offense, with some motion. So it’s important for our players on defense to understand their keys.”
Senior running back Chizurum Umunakwe has run for more than 500 yards for the Pride, who go into Saturday’s game playing their best football of the season.
“They lost two games early on, but they have figured it out,” Shine said. “They got their offense moving and their defense has stopped their opponents.”
Brunswick scored on its opening possession of the second half to take a 7-0 lead against Avon Old Farms last week, but poor field position, turnovers and penalties prevented it from building on its momentum. They can’t afford to suffer the same fate on Saturday.
“Last week, we had opportunities and we didn’t take advantage of those opportunities,” Shine said. “We didn’t play fast or physical enough. Our defense played an excellent first half, but we couldn’t contain a great team like Avon the entire game. Our defense was on the field too much and Avon began controlling the clock.”
The Bruins hope to use their balanced offense to dictate the pace of Saturday’s showdown. Senior quarterback Nick Henkel is in the midst of another impressive season, as are senior wide receiver Sean Amill and junior wideout Cornelius Johnson.
Senior tight end Harrison Caponiti has become an integral part of the passing game the past two weeks and senior wide receiver Jack Montinaro is having a solid senior season for the Bruins.
“I expect Nicky (Henkel) to have a great game and Cornelius Johnson to have a fantastic game,” Shine said. “There’s no doubt if we can get an early lead on these guys, we’ll be in good position to win. Getting off to a good start is one of the keys to this game. We have be balanced. We can’t abandon the run too quickly and we have to recognize our mismatches and take advantage of them.”