- COACH — JOE CEFARATTI
- CONFERENCE — CTC
- PLAYOFF CLASS — S (Co-Op)
- HOME — Palmer Field, Middletown
- 2017 RECORD — 1-9
- 2018 OPENER — Sept. 14 vs. ATI, 6 p.m.
- TEAM WEBSITE — Maxpreps
- MARK FRANCIS, Sr., QB (5-8, 215)
- NEHEMIAH BROWN, Sr., RB (5-7, 155)
- LATRELL LINDSAY, Sr., RB/S (6-0, 185)
- JULIAN CRUZ, Sr., FB (5-8, 240)
- MERRICK LANKARGE, Jr., C (5-9, 225)
- NEFARU MURRAY, Soph., TE/DE (6-3, 190)
- MANNY DeARCE, Sr., LB (5-7, 200)
- JEREMIAH STONE, Jr., LB (5-8, 200)
- TYREESE CLEMONS, Jr., DB (5-6, 190)
- ANDRE CLEMONS, Jr., DB (5-7, 195)
The new color combination ties three schools together into one football team. Black is for Goodwin Tech of New Britain, royal blue for Whitney Tech of Hamden and gold for Middletown’s Vinal Tech, the host school of the program.
With Whitney jumping into the tri-op following the departure of East Hampton players, the program that has been practicing since Aug. 13 on the field off Daniels Street is reveling in its new identity: The “VGW Techs.”
“We are one team. You would never know the kids we have are from three different schools,” said coach Joe Cefaratti, whose ninth season with the program officially kicks off Friday night at Palmer Field, where the Techs host Abbott Tech/Immaculate. “The main reason why they have (meshed) is the tech-school experience. They all have the same philosophy and come from the same school culture, even though the kids might come from different backgrounds and three different cities.
“They’re learning a trade and that’s why they are in these schools. They’re not attending for sports (per se), but they want to play and they’re here to play. They’re taking advantage of the opportunity.”
The team, which plays out of the Connecticut Technical Conference, formed with players from Vinal and Coginchaug 12 years ago and began playing varsity in 2010. Coginchaug left soon after to form its own program, and East Hampton stepped in to fill the void. After the 2017 season, East Hampton broke away to join the Coginchaug/Hale-Ray tri-op in the Pequot Conference, a move that aligns East Hampton with its brethren in the Shoreline, where it plays in all other sports.
With a new identity comes a fresh outlook after a 1-9 season. Cefaratti said he has close to 60 players in the program across the varsity, junior varsity and freshman squads. The varsity has experience and speed at the skill positions, more than in past years, and the coach thinks a .500 record is realistic if the lines’ play improves over the course of the season.
“We have everything — a mix of some experience, minimal experience and then absolutely no experience,” Cefaratti said. “The players meshed incredibly well right from the first day of practice.”
The offense will have the familiarity of three key returning players — quarterback Mark Francis, H-backs Nehemiah Brown and Latrell Lindsay and fullback Julian Cruz. Cefaratti likes their experience (all are seniors) and speed as well as Francis’ growth at his position.
“Mark’s ability to read the defense has increased so much,” the coach said. “He can tell when he gets up to the line if they are playing a cover 3, or man, or cover 2, or if they are rotating with motion. I’m giving him a green light to change a play at the line of scrimmage as he sees fit.”
The Techs’ most versatile player might be sophomore Nef Murray (6-foot-3, 190 pounds), who will start at receiver and defensive end.
“He’s also our punter and kicker,” Cefaratti said.
The Techs’ line play will be a determining factor in how much success they have this season, Cefaratti said. Junior Merrick Lankarge has moved to center from the defensive line, Jo’el Hutchinson plays both ways (tackle and defensive end), Manny DeArce is the most experienced linebacker, and Lindsay at safety is another two-way player.
“Again, it comes down to the trenches. That’s where we need (to perform),” Cefaratti said. “With the lines and the linebacker corps, once this group realizes what they’re capable of doing … I don’t think they’ll feel it completely until we get in a real game and have success.”
In Friday’s opener, the Techs are facing an Abbott/Immaculate team that is returning only two offensive starters from last year’s 6-4 squad, so there is an opportunity for the Techs’ defense to make a mark.
“I think the biggest thing I want to see out of this team this year — offense and defense and special teams — is to be able to take command on the field,” Cefaratti said.
They’ve already done that in the uniform department. Techs’ home jerseys are black, with royal blue numbers trimmed in gold. The road jerseys are white, with blue and gold in the numbers. Black pants, too. The helmets are black with royal blue and gold details.
“Something from all three schools,” Cefaratti said. “We look sharp.”
Sept. 14 — ABBOTT TECH/IMMACULATE*, 6 p.m.
Sept. 21 — MCW UNITED*, 6 p.m.
Sept. 29 — at Bullard Havens*, Noon
Oct. 6 — at Thames River*, 11 a.m.
Oct. 19 — at Quinebaug Valley*, 6 p.m.
Oct. 26 — O’BRIEN TECH*, 6 p.m.
Nov. 3 — at Prince Tech*, Noon
Nov. 9 — at Cheney Tech*, 6 p.m.
Nov. 16 — PLATT TECH*, 6 p.m.
Nov. 21 — WILCOX TECH,* 6 p.m.
Home games in CAPS.