Brunswick School knew it had to turn the page quickly and get over its loss against Choate Rosemary Hall last week — its first defeat of the season.
While the loss was, of course, disappointing to the Bruins, it was a non-conference game and on the horizon for the squad is a schedule loaded with Erickson League football foes.
The 3-1 Bruins have only played one league game so far and have five remaining, the first of which takes place Saturday against rival Taft School.
The host Rhinos enter Saturday’s Erickson League showdown at 3-1 overall and 2-1 in league play. Brunswick is 1-0 in the Erickson League.
“We are running straight through the league schedule now the rest of the season,” Bruins coach Mike Hannigan said. “Our crossover games are done. Taft is right there at the top, so this is a huge game for our team.”
The last seven meetings between the two squads has seen the Bruins go 5-2, including a hard-fought 33-26 win at Cosby Field in 2018. Brunswick won the last time it traveled to Taft in Watertown in 2017, 34-21. Taft last beat the Bruins in 2016, pulling out a 29-26 victory.
Indeed, the Bruins know their defense, which has been stingy all season, must be in top form against a Taft team that hasn’t had trouble scoring.
“Taft offensively is explosive,” Hannigan said. “They have great wide receivers, a good offensive line, a big running back and a shifty running back. They have a lot for us to worry about.”
Diante Vines, a Danbury native, is among Taft’s best offensive players. A senior receiver, Vines has committed to play at the University of Iowa.
“There’s just so many guys on their team that can and should, touch the ball,” Hannigan said.
The Bruins’ first-year coach liked what he saw from his squad following its loss against Choate.
“Our team took the right approach to last week’s loss,” Hannigan said. “We reflected on it and put it behind us. They didn’t stay upset for too long and they are focused on this week now. We had an up-tempo practice yesterday (Thursday) and a high-energy practice.”
Brunswick, which struggled to move the ball and sustain drives against Choate in Week 4, will seek to get its offense back on track Saturday at Taft. Whenever the Bruins and Rhinos have met, each game has included numerous big offensive plays.
Senior Jalen Madison leads the Bruins’ running attack, while senior Kevonne Wilder is one of the main receivers senior quarterback Nick Winegardner looks to throw to. Wilder is also a threat out of the backfield.
“On offense, I want to see us return to fundamental football,” Hannigan said. “We have to focus on fundamentals and execute our assignments and run the ball the way we ran it against Cheshire — with physicality. As an offense, you want to be on schedule, you don’t want to get behind the chains and out of rhythm like we were against Choate.”
Brunswick’s defense, led by senior lineman Howard Powell, senior linebacker Aengus Rosato and defensive back Alex Burdick (senior) has plenty to focus on Saturday.
“It’s important for us to get off the field defensively,” Hannigan said. “When teams are driving and your offense is off the field for so long, it creates a lack of rhythm for your offense.”