CHESHIRE – Every time Cheshire’s Jake McAlinden crosses the goal line for a touchdown he looks for one of his big guys.
“He always says thank you after a touchdown,” senior right tackle Will Bergin said. “He always celebrates with us.”
The running back knows how he got there and, if he doesn’t thank his lineman, he knows he might not have such an easy time on his next carry.
“He’ll probably get killed on the next play,” Bergin said with a laugh.
Yes, his speed, strength and elusiveness have made him one of the best running backs in the SCC and the state. But McAlinden knows that without his big guys up front, he isn’t going anywhere.
“Sean Cangiano bullies guys around and Will Bergin beats them to attack,” McAlinden said. “Those are our two big guys up front and we like to run to their side.”
The two seniors – Bergin (6-3, 260) at right tackle and Sean Cangiano (6-2, 260) at right guard, solidify one side of the line and they are joined by juniors, center Dan Bourdeau (5-11, 190), left guard Chisolm Okoro (5-9, 200) and left tackle Collin Crowe (6-1, 215) have helped the Rams to a 3-1 start.
“Those five guys have done a tremendous job of sticking together, working together, working hard,” Cheshire coach Don Drust said. “They show up every day at practice and just work and work.”
How do you they know they their hard work has paid off?
“Film session the next morning, when we’re not getting yelled at, that much,” Cangiano said. “That’s a successful night.”
“Points on the board,” Bergin added. “Twenty-something plus points on the board, obviously a win would equal our success.”
The group of lineman understand that how they perform on the field, directly indicates how the team does each week.
“We feed off of that pressure,” Cangiano said. “We love the pressure, we love that the game is pretty much decided on our performance every single week.”
The results have shown on the field.
Through four games the Rams have rushed for 171.5 yards a game and 10 touchdowns as a team, with McAlinden — a starter since he was a sophomore — leading the way with 457 yards, seven touchdowns, including two games with over 100 yards and two games with three touchdowns.
“We’re big, we’re fast and we’re physical,” McAlinden said. “This is what we have been waiting for.
“We want to win, we want to win real bad.”
They have won, of late. Coming off an un-Cheshire like season where the team lost their first five games and finished 3-7, the Rams have won three of their first four games, including a convincing 24-12 win against then No. 5 Shelton, in their last game.
They have a date with 3-1 Masuk coming up this Friday.
“When you believe and you know you can compete with teams like that, it helps you mentally and that’s a huge, huge part of this,” Drust said. “I am just really proud of these guys for staying at it and working as hard as they have.”
The hard work on and off the field have helped the team become closer. Groups of them spend time together away from the field, including McAlinden and his offensive line.
Over the weekends the group watches football and eats… a lot.
“We eat a ton of food, as you can see,” Bergin said. “Wings, pizza and everything in between.”
Who eats the most when they’re together?
“Will Bergin and Sean Cangiano think (they do),” McAlinden said. “They need to eat more than I do, but I think I carry the weight in the bill.”
“J-Mac does eat a lot, he does eat a lot, but I am giving the title to us two,” Bergin said, pointing to Cangiano, who bragged that he eats the most McDonalds after games.
Despite the competition over food intake, group’s bonding has helped the team become more confident and keeps the team loose.
“They’re jokesters pretty much all the time,” Drust said. “That’s what this is. It’s supposed to be fun. If you’re not having it becomes too much of a job and then you’re not successful.
“It’s a fun group, it’s a fun group to be around,” he added. “You learn something from them, sometimes you have to lighten up as a coach and they definitely teach me that frequently.”