Brunswick and Cheshire Academy may not play in the same league, but they sure are football rivals.
The Bruins and Cats met in a 2016 NEPSAC championship bowl game, which was won by Cheshire Academy, and the past two seasons have seen Brunswick take an upper hand in the rivalry.
Friday, Brunswick (2-0) plays its much-anticipated home-opener against Cheshire Academy (2-1) at 6:30 p.m.
“It’s a Friday night game, they’ve got tons of schoolmates, friends and family coming out and they’re excited,” Brunswick first-year coach Mike Hannigan said of his squad. “We’ve had good games with Cheshire the past few years — night games, bowl games, you name it. It’s a non-league game for us, but it’s a very tough game and we are going to embrace the challenge.”
Brunswick won last season’s matchup between the two squads, 19-11, and was victorious in 2017, 35-14. Cheshire Academy posted a 45-20 win over Brunswick in the NEPSAC bowl game in 2016 and was a 16-9 winner in 2015.
The Cats are known as a big, physical squad that with a diversified offense.
“They have two really solid running backs, a returning quarterback, who can really spin it, speed at wide receiver and size on the offensive line,” Hannigan said.
Anchored by senior defensive lineman Howard Powell, junior linebacker Colin Mulshine and senior defensive back Alex Burdick, Brunswick’s defense has been stingy the first two weeks of the season, allowing just 21 points. The unit must be on point against a talented Cats squad.
“Our defense has been good so far, but we will be tested by their wide receivers this week,” Hannigan said. “They have some speedsters out there and they cycle a bunch of guys through. Traditionally against us, they’ve had the most success running the ball.”
Offensively, the Bruins were solid their opening two games, with senior Jalen Madison leading the running attack and senior quarterback Nick Winegardner navigating the passing game. Despite being whistled for numerous penalties, the Bruins pulled out a big road win at Hotchkiss School in Week 2.
“I am really happy the team faced some adversity, though some of it was self inflicted with 14 penalties,” Hannigan said. “We never got outwardly frustrated, where as a team we gave up. Hopefully, we learned from it. Friday, we’e got to be able to move the ball on the ground, spread the ball around, give everyone a bunch of touches, a bunch of catches and a bunch of carries.”
Senior Kevonne Wilder has emerged as a playmaker for the Bruins. His spectacular 51-yard punt return for a touchdown with less than two minutes remaining gave Brunswick its 21-14 win over Hotchkiss a week ago.
“Kevonne Wilder is the X-factor for us,” Hannigan said. “He is contributing on special teams, offense and is playing great defense. On offense and special teams, we want the ball in his hands.”
SPECIAL FUNDRAISER FOR A CLASSMATE
The Brunswick players are wearing black and red stickers on the back of their helmets to support a Brunswick sophomore student, who is battling glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer.
He has been fighting the illness for more than one year and has taken time off school to undergo treatment. T-shirts will be sold at Friday night’s game to raise money for the student, and donations will taken for St. Jude’s at the game as well.
An account has been set up by the school to help support the family.