CROMWELL >>Things are going to be different with the Cromwell High football team his fall.
Just about every year, Cromwell was written down as a league and state contender and year after year, the Panthers delivered. Cromwell went to Class S title games in 2003, 2004, 2008 and 2011. After losing to Ansonia and Hyde Leadership in its first two appearances, Cromwell beat Ansonia 14-12 in 2008, then lost a dramatic title game in 2011 when Holy Cross (Waterbury) edged the Panthers 32-27 at Rentschler Field.
In 2012, Cromwell was in the hunt all year, just missing the playoffs with an 8-2 mark.
Which brings us to 2013. Some 17 seniors graduated from last year’s successful season, leaving just 11 upperclassmen â€“ seven seniors and four juniors â€“ and the word that best describes this year’s edition is young.
Make that very young.
“We are a sophomore-laden team,” said third-year coach Chris Eckert. “We have 14 sophomores and 13 freshmen, and that’s good. It’s unusual to have so few upperclassmen because for years we had a lot of kids coming out and had a big roster. But in those two years we didn’t have big turnouts.”
So it’s a rebuilding year?
“I call it retooling,” said Eckert. “Rebuilding sounds like you’re tearing the house down and starting over and we’re not doing that.”
Eckert was frank in assessing his team’s outlook.
“The ball’s got to bounce in our direction,” he said. “This year success might be measured in different ways. A lot depends on how much work the seniors put in.”
The offensive line is a clear strength, said Eckert. Four of the five starters are seniors. “We’ll ride the shoulders of those guys,” said the coach.
Eckert listed seniors Joey Chaves (OL), Jon Weaver (OL/ILB), Antwuan Burney (WR) and Noah Yankowski (OL/DEL) as key returning players.
He also said that junior Mir Cirkovic (WR/FS), and senior kicker Mike McNally, whom he called a Division I prospect, are other key returning players.
“We also have some young kids that we are looking to,” said Eckert. “Christian Sapp (freshman RB), sophomore Mavric Pelletier (QB) and junior Derek Raginac (WR/OLB) will be important players for us.”
Eckert named Pelletier as his starting quarterback.
Cromwell opens its season on Thursday, Sept. 12, against Gilbert/Northwest Regional at 3:30 p.m. at Pierson Park. The game will be preceded a ceremony in which the press box will be dedicated to the memory of Kevin Greene, the Cromwell public address announcer who unexpectedly passed away last season.