COACH – JOHN OKO (2nd year, 0-10)
CONFERENCE – CCC Division III East
PLAYOFF CLASS – S (373 boys enrollment)
HOME – Lewis Mills High School
2018 RECORD – 0-10
2019 OPENER – Sept. 13 vs. Bulkeley/HMTCA/Weaver, 7 p.m.
TEAM WEBSITE – Maxpreps
Grayson LaBerge, QB/S; Holden Cowger, OT/DE; Tim Matiello, WR/CB.
Lewis Mills’ program began in 2010 and had its only winning season in 2015 when it went 7-3. Following a one-win season in 2017, the Spartans were 0-10 last year in the Pequot League.
Now the school is making a wholesale move to the bigger and stronger CCC. And Mills is one of the smallest schools in the league.
Without question, the Spartans have their work cut out for them.
“All areas need improvement,” second-year coach John Oko said. “I don’t know what to expect from the CCC, but I like coaching against good teams.”
Oko’s coaching background includes a stint at small-school Derby, back in the Red Raiders’ football heyday, so he has experience in helping teams climb mountains. And, thanks to the CCC’s football size divisions, the league has placed Mills in its smallest Division III.
Nevertheless, Berlin, last year’s Class M runner-up, is included as one of Mills’ CCC Division III East opponents.
“You have to respect them, but we’ve played Valley Regional, Cromwell and Old Saybrook,” said Oko, who reports about 42 players on the roster this season. “They were good teams.”
Oko last year abandoned the I-formation for this year’s wishbone because his quarterback, Colby Nordstrom, is a big, mobile player who was a wide receiver last year. His three starting running backs – Cade Cormier, Sean Polinsky and Matt Riordan – are among the physically strongest players on the team.
“We’ll run power stuff in the middle, then pitch to one of the halfbacks outside,” Oko said. Polinsky and Riordan were injured last year, so their return is a major upgrade in the running game.
On playaction passes, junior tight end Tyler Kolenda (6-foot-2, 200) will see plenty of action, along with senior Aiden Sullivan (6-3, 200).
“(Kolenda) has great hands,” Oko said. “He made some great catches as a starting tight end last year. (Sullivan) sat out for basketball last year after playing football his sophomore year. On some plays, we’ll just throw it up for these two guys and see if they can come down with it.”
The wishbone is a work in progress, but Oko expects the Spartans’ 4-3 defense to be the team’s strength at the outset, especially from the back seven.
Kolenda and senior Nick Romano (5-10, 200) lead the linebacking corps. Nordstrom, junior Josh Martinotti (5-9, 185) and sophomore Colby Cables (5-10, 175) prowl the defensive backfield.
“The plan is to play good D, run the ball and see what happens,” Oko said. “We’ll play a lot of kids.”
The Spartans play their first two games of the season at home, on September 13 and 21, against Bulkeley/HMTCA/Weaver and Rocky Hill. Mills plays at Bethel (SWC) as part of the Scheduling Alliance.
Scheduling difficulties force them to play a Thanksgiving game on November 21, a week before the actual holiday, against Capital Prep/Achievement First at Hartford’s Dillon Stadium.
Sept. 13 – BULKELEY/HMTCA/WEAVER,** 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 – ROCKY HILL,* Noon
Sept. 27 – at Bethel, 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 5 – at Avon,** 1 p.m.
Oct. 19 – BERLIN,** Noon
Oct. 25 – at East Catholic/Cheney Tech,* 6:30 p.m.
Nov. 2 – TOLLAND,** Noon
Nov. 9 – NORTHWEST CATHOLIC,* Noon
Nov. 15 – at Plainville,* 6:30 p.m.
Nov. 21 – at Capital Prep/Achievement First, 6 p.m.