COACH — ADAM STARVISH (7th year, 37-27)
CONFERENCE — CTC
PLAYOFF CLASS — Class M (487 boys enrollment)
HOME — Beaver Stadium, Manchester
2018 RECORD — 8-3, lost to Killingly in Class M quarterfinals
2019 OPENER — Sept. 14 at Bullard Havens, 2:30 p.m.
TEAM WEBSITES — Maxpreps
Jaedon Jones, RB/LB; Nijzire Vanallen, RB/LB; Alquan Brown, WR; Pedro Rios, C; Macken Laroche, LB
With seven starters returning, Cheney Tech head coach Adam Starvish thought his team might need to rebuild last season. Instead, the Beavers won eight of 10 regular-season games before getting blasted by Killingly in the Class M state quarterfinals.
The rebuilding may come this fall.
Cheney Tech returns only two starters on offense after losing its top two running backs, its top receiver, and its entire offensive line to graduation.
“Our offense will need to progress and improve throughout the season,” Starvish said. “We are a very young team in general and that’s more the case on offense. We only have one senior starter on offense. This will be a season of improvements, especially along the offensive line. The players who are there are capable, but nothing substitutes for experience at the varsity level.”
The situation is a little less dire on defense, as Cheney Tech welcomes back six returning starters.
“We feel our defense will keep us in close games,” Starvish said. “We have experienced linebackers and defensive backs led by Dillon Hepton, Julian Davis and Caleb Beneygani. We also have a great rotation at defensive tackle led by senior Devin Smith.
Hepton, a junior middle linebacker, had a team-best 69 tackles in 2018, including five sacks. Smith added 47 tackles and three sacks, and Davis intercepted two passes.
One of the two starters back on offense is junior quarterback Ben Gendreau, who threw for 1,002 yards last year.
“He took over last season after injuries to our starter in week two and went 7-2 for the season in games he started as a sophomore,” Starvish said about Gendreau. “He will be working with entirely different personnel this year and looks up to the challenge.”
Senior Caleb Benegyani and junior Jayshawn Figueroa face the challenge of replacing running backs Jaedon Jones and Nijzire Vanallen. Jones ran for 1,233 yards and 13 touchdowns, becoming the second leading rusher in school history.
“They (Benegyani and Figueroa) have been patiently waiting for their moment to shine, and the coaching staff has confidence that they will perform,” Starvish said.
Junior Isaiah Brothers is the top returning receiver after catching nine passes for 116 yards last season.
“Isaiah Brothers has a great chemistry with Gendreau from last year,” Starvish said. “Xavier McCall (sophomore) and Barry Howard (junior) have both made huge jumps from their play last year to this year.”
The biggest concern is the offensive line. “We lost our entire offensive line and our key backup due to graduation,” Starvish said. “No linemen on this year’s roster have played a down of varsity football.”
“We are a very young team coming off of graduating 18 seniors,” Starvish added. “Our learning curve at key positions will be the determining factor on whether we progress to the next tier this year or the next.”
Sept. 14 — at Bullard Havens*, 2:30 p.m.
Sept. 20 — MCW UNITED*, 6 p.m.
Sept. 27 — O’BRIEN TECH*, 6 p.m.
Oct. 1 — PRINCE TECH*, 6 p.m.
Oct. 18 — WILCOX TECH*, 6 p.m.
Oct. 26 — at ATI*, 2 p.m.
Nov. 2 — at Thames River*, 1 p.m.
Nov. 8 — at Platt Tech*, 6 p.m.
Nov. 15 — QUINEBAUG VALLEY*, 6 p.m.
Nov. 22 — at Vinal/Goodwin/Whitney*, 3:45 p.m.