Falling behind powerhouse Cheshire Academy by 21 points in the first half prevented the Brunswick School football team from following its game plan during its home-opener last week.
Saturday, the Bruins will be determined to follow a different script when it returns to Erickson League action against visiting Kent School.
“We didn’t run the ball last week, because it got to the point where we got down so quickly in the game it wasn’t part of our game plan,” said Bruins coach Jarrett Shine, whose squad dropped a 35-14 decision to Cheshire Academy a week ago. “Hopefully, this week we can grind it a bit on the ground.”
Indeed, since the Bruins rushed for less than 10 yards against Cheshire Academy, the onus was on senior quarterback Nick Henkel to get the offense going. Henkel passed for 212 yards and two touchdowns, but faced plenty of pressure from Cheshire’s defensive linemen.
The Bruins are hoping for a bit more balanced offensive attack against a Lions team they’ve built quite a rivalry with. Brunswick has won the last three meetings between the teams, including a 2016 matchup that saw it pull out a 27-26 comeback win on the road.
Following a goal line stand in which the Bruins stopped the Lions on the 1-yard line, Brunswick drove 99 yards the final three minutes for the winning score.
“Kent always finds a way to win football games,” Shine said. “You can never sleep on that team. Even if we are up, we have to push the pedal to the ground, play fast and force turnovers. If you let them hang around, they are going to hurt you.”
Coached by Connor Wells, Kent (0-3) has started its season slowly, losing to Suffield Academy, Williston Northampton and Avon Old Farms. But Saturday marks the Lions’ first league game of the season.
“We are a little banged up right now,” Wells said of his squad. “But we feel pretty good about the guys that are flying around. Hopefully, we can play to our maximum potential and give them problems in terms of our versatility on offense.”
Junior quarterback Chris Guttman directs the Lions’ offense, which possesses a passing game that features tight ends Charlie Shadek (junior) and Noah McDonough (senior). Kent’s main threat on offense is senior running back Troy Thompson.
“They are always a well-coached team and they have played a couple of tough teams,” Shine said of Kent. “They are surely going to re-tool and figure out some of the things they have to do. Offensively, they do a good job of running the ball and their quarterback is athletic. One thing that’s always the case with Kent — they fire off the ball, whether they are a large team or not.”
Junior linebacker Nick Villis was Brunswick’s leading tackler against Cheshire Academy and the team’s defensive unit will again be tested on Saturday.
“We definitely have to stop the run,” Shine said. “They do a lot of different things, using a lot of motion and different formations. Our guys are ready. We have to play physical and faster.”
Junior wide receiver Cornelius Johnson and senior wide Sean Amill each caught four passes last week to pace the Bruins’ passing game. Johnson and Amill each had one touchdown reception against Cheshire Academy.
“Brunswick has a lot of experience at quarterback and Henkel seems to be more versatile with his running ability,” Wells said. “You can tell their offense has spent a lot of time working together.”
Shine believes the defeat against Cheshire Academy was a learning experience for his squad.
“It was a great test for us, there’s no doubt about it,” Shine said. “It shows us where we are right now. We’re happy it didn’t count toward the end of our season goals, but it was a good test and we hope to improve on our mistakes. When you watch the tape, we weren’t as fundamentally sound as we could have been.”
Said Wells: “Field position, special teams and not giving up big plays are going to be key in this game.”