BRIDGEPORT — The résumé has become longer and the opportunity has grown larger for the Bullard-Havens Technical High School football team.
For the third consecutive year, the Tigers can proclaim they are one of the best 32 high school football teams in Connecticut as well as one of the finest eight Class S programs in the state.
Here in 2018, the job for Bullard-Havens is to take the next step.
“To keep our season going is very important,” Bullard-Havens senior running back/cornerback/captain Ed Holmes said. “There are still a lot of doubters about us out there. We’ve all worked harder this season. So we will be coming harder Tuesday night.”
Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. is when the No. 2 seeded Tigers (10-0) will host No. 7 seed Haddam-Killingworth (9-1) in the Class S football quarterfinals at Bridgeport Central High’s Kennedy Stadium.
It has been a great three-year run for Bullard-Havens. However, the No. 5 seeded Tigers (9-1) lost 56-8 at No. 4 seed and eventual Class S runner-up Rocky Hill in the 2016 S quarterfinals.
In 2017, as a No. 4 seed Bullard-Havens (9-1) lost 20-12 to Stafford/East Windsor/Somers Co-op in the S quarterfinals. A touchdown after a blocked punt turned the tide against the Tigers.
Coach John Johnson moved over to Notre Dame of Fairfield after that defeat. Chris Pace took over and directed this 2018 Bullard-Havens squad to a perfect 10-0 record in the Connecticut Technical Conference and another Class S home contest.
“It’s been fun. I was blessed to come into a program with lots of success in the past,” Pace said. “I just had to build on the foundation already in place. The kids bought in to my message. These kids really believe in the potential of what they can do.
“The team has been in some tough spots over the course of the season. And these kids refuse to quit,” Pace continued. “They are excited about this latest challenge.”
The weather forecast for Tuesday night is clear and cold, but dry. Haddam-Killingworth is making its first Class S playoff appearance since 2011 when the No. 7 seeded Cougars lost to eventual S champion Holy Cross in the quarterfinals.
The 2018 Cougars have employed a simple formula on offense. They run. And run. And run.
Bullard-Havens’ defense will have to stop senior running back/quarterback Tobey Callender (164 carries, 1,277 yards rushing, 17 TDs), junior running back Dalton Modehn (139 carries, 1,054 yards, 18 TDs), senior running back Zach Kauffman (92 carries, 557 yards, 5 TDs) and senior running back Dalton Brown (32 carries, 302 yards, 7 TDs).
Haddam-Killingworth’s kicker, Jordan Callahan (28 of 30 PATs, 3-for-3 FG) is consistent.
“Haddam-Killingworth runs the ball very well,” Pace said. “It will be a true test of our grit and our heart.”
Bullard-Havens has displayed balance on offense this season despite the graduation of All-State quarterback Tyrese Wright (4,098 yards passing, 4,856 yards rushing over four years).
Junior quarterback Cyrus Cotto has been a dual threat (1,454 yards passing, 15 TDs; 422 yards rushing) for the Tigers.
Senior running back Holmes (172 carries, 1,577 yards rushing, 20 TDs) will get the bulk of the attention from HK’s defense. But Bullard-Havens can do damage passing the ball.
“We aren’t relying just on the older kids. We aren’t a one-man team,” said Bullard-Havens junior middle linebacker Marcus Johnson (65 tackles). “We all have value. We are a family. We risk everything together. We’ve all taken the Tiger oath.”