- COACH — JOE ARESIMOWICZ (3rd year, 17-6)
- CONFERENCE — CCC Division III East
- PLAYOFF CLASS — M (491 boys enrollment)
- HOME — Scalise Field at Sage Park, Berlin
- 2017 RECORD — 9-3, lost to Killingly in Class M semifinals
- 2018 OPENER — Sept. 8 at Bulkeley/HMTCA/Weaver, noon
- TEAM WEBSITE — MaxPreps
- ZACH HRUBIEC, Jr. DE/FB (5-11, 235)
- KEVIN DUNN, Sr. QB (6-0, 175)
- LARRY ST. PIERRE, Jr. ATH (5-10, 185)
- NICK PASZCUZK, Sr. C (5-10, 201)
- ALEX HALKIAS, Sr. RB/DB (5-11, 220)
- GIANCARLO TUFANO, Sr. WR/DB (6-2, 195)
RB/LB James Mazzarella, DB Matt Wojiechowski
It’s been three years since Berlin’s football program was crushed under the weight of recruiting violations. But you’d never know it based off the last two seasons under coach Joe Aresimowicz’s guidance.
Berlin hasn’t skipped a beat. The Redcoats have been to the state playoffs twice and have reached as far as last year’s state semifinal round, where it hung tough with eventual champion Killingly early before the wheels fell off in a 49-7 loss.
Consider that Berlin got that far with roster stacked with talented underclassmen.
We don’t have to tell you what that means.
Seventeen starters (nine offense, eight defense) return in Berlin’s ongoing quest to get over the that playoff hump and into its first state final since 2014. Berlin hasn’t won a state championship since 2009.
Among them are 11 seniors, including second-year starting quarterback Kevin Dunn, third-year starting tailback Alex Halkius and junior studs Zach Hrubiec and Larry St. Pierre, who have been starring for the Redcoats they were freshmen… Well, let’s just say it: Berlin is loaded.
Aresimowicz, for one, can feel it.
“We have senior leadership, 11 seniors who will all see substantial playing time and then you add in the youth that got significant playing time,” said Aresimowicz, who moonlights as the Speaker of Connecticut’s House of Representatives. “These kids have been together for a while. They’ve played youth football all the way through to high school. So, there’s good chemistry and they understand what it takes to win.”
They also have the proper motivation.
“This is our third year,” Aresimowicz said. “First year, we got knocked out in the first round. Second year, we got knocked out in the second round. Third year… Fingers crossed.”
Dunn, who has played since he was a freshman, returns after setting the school’s single-season passing mark with 1,824 yards and 19 touchdowns (against 13 picks) in his first season as the starter. Aresimowicz expects Dunn to have an even better season now that he’s entrenched as the team’s QB.
All of his primary weapons return, including Halkias, St. Pierre and senior receiver Giancarlo Tufano, who led the team with 35 catches for 469 yards and six touchdowns.
He’ll also have the benefit of, perhaps, the best three-headed tailbacks in the state. Halkias has compiled over 1,400 yards and 17 touchdowns rushing in two seasons as a starter. St. Pierre, the team’s jack-of-all-trades, scored seven touchdowns last year as a sophomore.
“They’re 4.5 speed guys who want to run the ball,” Aresimowicz said. “And, Larry St. Pierre, out in the open field, he moves like nobody we’ve had here in awhile.”
The jewel of the returning starters is Hrubiec, who became a force at defensive end and earned All-State honors as a sophomore. The 5-foot-11, 235 pound end made 77 tackles (28 for a loss), had seven sacks and forced three fumbles. He’s already a target for Division I recruiters.
Hrubiec also ran for 216 yards and three touchdowns on 42 carries, a role that will likely expand this year — unfortunately for the rest of the CCC.
“Last year he was dominant as a D-lineman, and I imagine that’s what’s going to happen this year,” Aresimowicz said. “A guy like him coming out of the backfield, not many kids want to get out there and tackle him. He wants to hit them as much as they want to hit him, so that’s going to be a problem (for defenders).
“He’s still young, he’s a young kid. This is his year.”
Aresimowicz admits his offensive line, which returns three starters led by senior center Nick Paszcuzk, is deceptively talented.
“They’re not huge, but all of us coaches call them ‘grinders,'” Aresimowicz said. “They just want to work. They’ll get on sleds for hours on the hills, staying afterwards, doing their technique. We might not be bigger or heavier than you, we might not be stronger, but if you stand up for a moment, they’re going to get underneath you and they’re going to fight like heck.”
“With Kevin Dunn and the skill players we have across the board… I feel very comfortable,” Aresimowicz added. “You’ve to to watch out of injuries and it always comes down to the O-line, but I like what I’ve seen so far.”
Berlin’s schedule will certainly help the Redcoats. It doesn’t get truly daunting until later in the season when some of the CCC Division III’s best teams come calling, especially a season-ending stretch vs. Bloomfield, Rocky Hill and New Britain.
The hope is, by season’s end Berlin can take the next step to the state championship game.
“We were very young,” Aresimowicz said of last year’s team. “You don’t want to use the excuse but, look, you get into semifinal game and whether you’re coach or player, you’re a little tighter. I think that had a lot to do with it.
“Now, these kids are feeling comfortable. Hopefully the coaches don’t mess it up.”
- Sept. 8 — at Bulk/HMTCA/Weav,** noon
- Sept. 13 — EAST CATHOLIC,* 6:30 p.m.
- Sept. 22 — at Northwest Catholic,* 10:30 a.m.
- Sept. 28 — PLAINVILLE,* 6:30 p.m.
- Oct. 6 — at Avon,** 2:00 p.m.
- Oct. 19 — RHAM,** 6:30 p.m.
- Oct. 26 — at Tolland,** 6:00 p.m.
- Nov. 2 — at Bloomfield,* 7:00 p.m.
- Nov. 9 — ROCKY HILL,* 6:30 p.m.
- Nov. 16 — NEW BRITAIN,* 6:30 p.m.
Home games in CAPS