- COACH — RICK MILTON (5th year, 21-21)
- CONFERENCE — CCC Division I East
- PLAYOFF CLASS — LL (903 boys enrollment)
- HOME — East Hartford High School Field
- 2017 RECORD — 9-2, lost to Darien in Class LL quarterfinals
- 2018 OPENER — Sept. 7 at South Windsor, 4 p.m.
- TEAM WEBSITE — Maxpreps
- RAQUAN TOMPKINS, Sr., QB/S (5-10, 200)
- DAVID ORTIZ, Sr./DB, RB (5-9, 210)
- JAQUAN ALLEN, Sr./S, WR (6-2, 190)
- JAYDON GARDENER, Sr., DB/WR (6-1, 170)
- JON MCNEIL, Sr., OL/DL, (5-9, 260)
- ONDRE TOLAND, Jr., C/NG, (6-3, 290)
- JUSTYN GARDENER, Soph., MLB, (6-1, 190)
- MALIK BENNETT, Soph., RB/LB, (6-2, 200)
LB Kevon Jones, C Bobby Turner, OL/DL Antoneil Phillips
East Hartford’s 9-2 finish, including a trip to the Class LL quarterfinals, in 2017 was the culmination of hard work on the field and hard work off the field over the past five years, coach Rick Milton said.
“I had to find the coaching staff that could connect with the kids,” he said. “After that, everything kind of fell in place.”
Milton said he and his staff would go to the middle school and talk to the kids and would go watch them play on the weekends.
“Just getting out there and being visible and being in the hallways,” he said. “It was about building a culture.”
He admitted that winning helped, too.
Since 2014 the Hornets have gone, 1-10, 6-4, 5-5 and then they broke out last season going 9-2 and reaching the state playoffs for the first time since 1987.
A big reason for the program’s growth and success is that Milton built a program for which East Hartford kids wanted to play.
“This senior group I have, has been playing together since they were six years-old,” Milton said. “Kids are now choosing to stay in East Hartford instead of spreading out and going to magnet schools and other schools.
“It’s nice to be able to continue a tradition,” he added.
Along with the talented senior group this season — led by all-world quarterback and defensive specialist Raquan Tompkins — the Hornets have 52 players in their freshman class.
East Hartford lost just three starters from last season’s team, including Kevon Jones who is starting at UConn as a true freshman. But they still have Tompkins, an All-CCC selection and NHR All-State honorable mention last season, who returns as one of the state’s best players.
“I love Kevon Jones, he’s a great talent, a great kid. He helped bring football East Hartford back,” Milton said. “But Raquan Tompkins was the reason were 9-2. He was the best player, most consistent player all season.
“Last year he played quarterback, linebacker, safety. He would line up against the other teams best wide receiver all game and then turn around and run for an 80 yard touchdown.”
Tompkins threw for 1,950 yards and 16 touchdowns and added another 1,066 yards on the ground and eight touchdowns.
With Jones gone, David Ortiz takes over at running back after rushing for 402 yards and four touchdowns as a junior.
Senior receivers Jaquan Allen (34 catches, 701 yards and seven touchdowns) and Jaydon Gardener (14 catches, 337 yards and two touchdowns) give Tompkins his top two weapons back from a year ago. Both receivers are garnering interest from Division I programs, Milton said.
Senior Jon McNeil and junior Ondre Toland will anchor the offensive line and defensive line.
Tompkins will be shuffling around on defense wherever he is needed, while Allen and Gardener will be in the secondary.
Sophomore Justin Gardener, Jaydon’s younger brother, will start at middle linebacker and sophomore Malik Bennett will start at weak side linebacker.
East Hartford opens up with South Windsor, its lone regular season loss last season.
“Our focus and motto is play together and play one game at a time,” Milton said.
Despite the one game at a time motto the senior group has their minds on the big prize.
“Their personal goal is to win and to win it all,” Milton said. “We know how hard that is. Class LL is filled with tons of talented teams.”
- Sept. 7 — at S.Windsor**, 4 p.m.
- Sept. 14 — CONARD*, 6:30 p.m.
- Sept. 21 — SIMSBURY*, 6:30 p.m.
- Sept. 28 — at Glastonbury**, 6:30 p.m.
- Oct. 5 — at Hall*, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 19 — at Enfield**, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 26 — SOUTHINGTON*, 6:30 p.m.
- Nov. 2 — at New Britain*, 6:30 p.m.
- Nov. 9 — NEWINGTON*, 6:30 p.m.
- Nov. 21 — MANCHESTER**, 6:30 p.m.
Home games in CAPS
** Division games