Mike Hannigan has been a member of the Brunswick School football team’s coaching staff for more than a decade, yet the Bruins’ upcoming season will have a different feel to it for the Greenwich native.
After serving as one of the Bruins’ varsity assistant coaches for 11 years, Hannigan will make his head coaching debut when Brunswick opens its season with a road game against Loomis Chaffee School on Saturday.
Hannigan was named Brunswick’s coach after Jarrett Shine announced his resignation in March, following 10 successful seasons. A 2001 Brunswick graduate, Hannigan lined up at the guard and linebacker positions during his football days with the Bruins.
“I was just a kid from Glenville, who was lucky to find his way to Brunswick,” Hannigan said. “I had the privilege of playing for Bob Sampson, then to work for coaches Sean Brennan and Jarrett Shine. Now, to be in their shoes is pretty exciting. Having the opportunity to coach here is a great honor.”
The Bruins’ new coach takes over a squad that was considered a surprise by some football followers last season. They registered a record of 8-2 and qualified for the NEPSAC Class A Championship Bowl, where they dropped a 25-8 decision to unbeaten Choate Rosemary Hall.
Though the Bruins may have surprised some of their foes last season, they won’t this fall. The opposition knows they will be determined to build upon last season’s success.
“We have high expectations,” said Brunswick senior tri-captain Kevonne Wilder, who will fill several roles for the Bruins during their 2019 campaign. “Last year was supposed to be a rebuilding year for us, but we kind of shocked everyone and went to the Division I bowl game. This year we know we have to have the same mindset as last year — don’t under estimate anyone and play as hard as you can all the time.”
The Bruins should be aided with the return of their starting quarterback from 2018, senior tri-captain Nick Winegardner.
“Coming back for a second year is a great opportunity, because you have a better understanding of everything around you,” Winegardner said. “I’m more familiar with the personnel and the playbook. I’m going out there in my senior year feeling really comfortable and ready to go.”
While Winegardner and Wilder should spark the team’s offense, senior tri-captain Aengus Rosato will help lead the defense. A defensive end, Rosato is continuing the Rosato football tradition at Brunswick. His older brothers Ernie, Will, Colin and Lachlan each played football at Brunswick.
“It’s really cool and two of my older brothers were also captains,” Aengus Rosato said. “It’s definitely cool to have that lineage to back me up. I love it, it makes me want to play harder and it motivates me to do well.”
Indeed, the Bruins have certain goals they want to reach after producing a memorable 2018 season. Yet to attain their championship aspirations, they believe they must follow the motto they have printed on the back of their practice T-shirts. Printed on the T-shirt is 1-0, every rep, every play, every game.
“Right now, our goal is 1-0,” Hannigan said. “These guys want to embrace 1-0. Every rep, every play, every game. What we want to do is to compete in everything we do each day.”
AT THE HELM: A history teacher and dean of the junior class at Brunswick, Hannigan served as an assistant coach on Jarrett Shine’s staff the past 10 seasons, coordinating the defense. He has been on the staff or 11 seasons, overall.
The Bruins’ coaching staff includes Oliver Bierman-Lytle, Marcus Chiofi, Joe Early, Shawn Harris and Joseph Riemer.
During Shine’s tenure, the Bruins posted a record of 53-32, including a 42-13 mark the previous five seasons. He guided the Bruins to the NEPSAC Championship Bowl victories in 2014 and 2015. Brunswick qualified for a NEPSAC Class A Bowl game last fall. Shine’s new job is at Greenhill School in Addison, Texas, where he is the school’s athletic director.
WHO’S GONE?: Graduation claimed Cornelius Johnson, the Bruins’ top receiver the past several seasons and best wideout in program history. Earning All-American and All-New England honors, Johnson had more than 800 yards receiving and caught 11 touchdown passes in 2018. He’s a wide receiver at Michigan, where he is already seeing action as a freshman. Johnson caught two passes for 19 yards in the Wolverines’ season-opener and is also playing on special teams.
Nick Villis, who helped anchor the defense from his linebacker position, is continuing his football career at Fordham.
David Macgillivray (linebacker), Dylan Reynolds (defensive back), Ryan Mulshine (linebacker/defensive line), Nick Pope (defensive back), Whit Knight (defensive back), Michael Gottlieb (running back), Eli Fowler (offensive line/defensive line), Justin Canelli (offensive line/defensive line) and Jose Riera (defensive back), were among some of the graduates from last season’s squad.
“We had a big senior class last year, who filled their roles nicely and set the tone,” Hanningan said. “A lot of guys embraced their role and did what they needed to do. That’s the biggest thing with our guys heading into this year. These guys are hungry to find their roles and embrace it.”
OFFENSE: Winegardner passed for more than 1,200 yards in his first season as the Bruins’ starting quarterback.
“Last year I learned how to be mentally tough, because I had to really work to earn the spot,” Winegardner said. “That was tough for me and it made me mentally tough.”
Junior Danny Lauter and senior Jake Hyde are among the players providing depth at the quarterback position.
“Nicky (Winegardner) did a nice job for us last year and is a leader,” Hannigan said. “We have a nice group of quarterbacks, who put a ton of work in during the preseason.”
Returning at running back is Jalen Madison, who received the bulk of the carries out of the backfield in 2018. Madison rushed for than 700 yards last season and was a force inside the red zone.
“He’s going to be our featured back,” Hannigan said. “He’s the guy the other teams are going to key on, so we are looking for the next guy up to also emerge.”
Junior George Hill, senior Howard Powell and junior Mike Burton will be relied upon to anchor the offensive line. Junior Bo Faughnan, sophomore Miles Walker and junior Steve Kondas are expected to also contribute to the offensive line.
Wilder, senior Bernard Zoungrana, sophomore Jason Agudelo and junior Colin Mulshine will line up at wide receiver.
“We are deep at wide receiver and we have a bunch of young guys pushing for time as well,” Hannigan said.
Look for Wilder to also get some carries out of the backfield.
“Our offense has a lot of potential,” Wilder said. “We have dynamic receivers, a great running back and a mobile quarterback, who can also throw the ball.”
Seniors Rocco DiChiara and Will Coen are back at tight end, which includes junior Aidan Redahan and sophomore Michael Neviera.
DEFENSE: Powell is an imposing presence on the defensive line for the Bruins.
“He is as strong as anyone I’ve seen playing the position at the high school level,” Hannigan said of Powell. “He brings a lot of passion to his position and he’s out there to be explosive and to play to his strengths. Rosato, Coen, Hill, Walker and sophomore Henry Caponiti are among some of the Bruins’ defensive linemen.
“We want to be really physical and work together as a unit,” Rosato said. “Gang tackling and being physical each game are going to be key for us.”
Senior Alex Clarke, Clayton Ostrover (senior), Nolan Morris (junior), Lyndon Gay (junior) and Colin Mulshine (junior) comprise some of the Bruins’ linebackers.
In the secondary, Wilder and senior Alex Burdick are returning cornerbacks, while Lucas Delgado (junior) and Liam Fairback are back at the safety positions.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Senior Chris Chavez returns as the Bruins’ placekicker and can also punt. Chavez was consistent throughout in 2018.
CAPTAIN’S COMMENTS: “We want to go undefeated and win the bowl game, that’s the legacy we want to leave.” Winegardner said. “That’s how we should be thinking coming into the season.”
SCHEDULE: Loomis Chaffee, Sept. 14, away, 7 p.m.; Hotchkiss, Sept. 21, 3 p.m.; Cheshire Academy, Sept. 27, 6:30 p.m.; Choate Rosemary Hall, Oct. 5, 4 p.m.; Taft, Oct. 12, 3 p.m; Salisbury, Oct. 19, 4 p.m.; Avon Old Farms, Oct. 26, 3 p.m.; Williston Northampton, Nov. 2, 1 p.m.