- COACH — CHAD NEAL (14th year, 67-83)
- CONFERENCE — ECC Division II
- PLAYOFF CLASS — M (377 boys enrollment; CIAC school-of-choice playoff success promotion)
- HOME — Killingly High School Sports Complex, Dayville
- 2017 RECORD — 13-0, Class M Champion
- 2018 OPENER — Sept. 7 vs. Plainfield, 6:30 p.m.
- TEAM WEBSITE — MaxPreps | killinglyfootball.wixsite.com/khsfootball | TWITTER: @Redmenfootball1 | INSTAGRAM: Killinglyfootball
- LUKE DESAULNIER, Sr. QB/DB (6-2, 170)
- MATT PHELAN, Sr. G/LB (5-11, 210)
- NSAIAH HARRIET, Sr. DE/RB (6-4, 235)
- DEREK TURNER, Sr. FB/LB (5-10, 175)
- JOSH MONTPELIER, Sr. WR (5-11, 165)
- TYLER COURNOYER, Sr. RB/CB (5-7, 150)
- QUINN GERVASIO, Sr. DE/TE (6-2, 195)
- DYLAN SANFORD, Sr. FB/LB (5-7, 195)
- JONATHAN CRESWELL, Jr. RB/LB (5-10, 175)
- THOMAS BERNIER, Sr. WR/S (5-10, 170)
RB/LB Spencer Lockwood (Gatorade/Walter Camp CT Player of the Year; Trinity College), RB/LB Zach Caffrey (All-State), OL/DL Alex Fontaine (All-State), TE Jake Gauthier, WR Zack Burgess, G Ethan Canova, WR Vasileios Politis, T John Cacciapuoti
Killingly in 2017 produced the best football season in school history and there was nothing anyone could do to stop this train.
The Redmen went 13-0, crushing opponents by an average score of 43-10, won their first state championship since 1996 (and third overall), produced the Gatorade State Player of the Year and the Walter Camp Player of the Year and the Walter Camp and New Haven Register’s Coach of the Year.
Killingly finished ranked No. 3 in the final GameTimeCT / New Haven Register Top 10, the school’s highest ranking in history.
After graduating a host of starters, including All-Staters Spencer Lockwood, the aforementioned State Player of the Year, back Zach Caffrey and lineman Alex Fontaine, what could Killingly possibly do for an encore? Logic would suggest the Redmen couldn’t possibly replicate that kind of success so soon.
But the cupboard is far from bare in the Quiet Corner and coach Chad Neal is optimistic this year’s team is capable of great things.
Killingly returns just four starters from its offense, which scored nearly 600 points and amassed 5,100 rushing yards in 13 games in Neal’s version of the RPO: Run People Over. (Just ask Baker Mayfield)
It makes sense that Killingly’s first order of business will be rebuilding the backfield. It’ll be no small task, however: Lockwood barreled through opposing defenses for an insane 3,137 yards and 44 touchdowns while Caffrey, chipped in with 1,174 yards and 14 scores.
The Redmen will also have to replace four of last year’s starting offensive linemen who made the whole operation hum.
To replace Lockwood et. al. Killingly will turn to senior Tyler Cournoyer, who ran for 346 yards and three touchdowns in a backup role, junior Jon Creswell and senior fullbacks Derek Turner and Dylan Sanford, among others. “I’m very impressed with the depth we have there,” he said.
Given Killingly’s backfield inexperience, however, Neal admits the team will have to be more balanced than last year’s bulldozer. “We have to be,” he said. “Realistically, we have to be more diverse.”
The good news is three-year starting quarterback Luke Desaulnier returns for his senior season. Even though he was mostly charged handing the ball off to Lockwood and Caffrey, Desaulnier was efficient when needed. He completed 13 passes, 11 of which went for touchdowns, and finished with 412 yards passing with just two picks.
Senior guard Matt Phelan, the only returning starter on the offensive line, will be charged with leading the revamped offensive line which has the size and talent, if not the experience.
“The talent is there upfront and at the skill positions,” Neal said of his offense. “It’s just a matter of how soon everything gels.”
Fortunately for Killingly, seven starters return on a defense that allowed just over 10 points per game, including its top three tacklers. “They’re going to keep us in a lot of games,” Neal said.
Though Killingly will sorely miss Lockwood and Caffrey at linebacker, it does return a three-year starter in Phelan, who was second on the team with 105 tackles, 11 of which were for losses.
Turner proved himself a capable defender at linebacker, as well, with 56 tackles last year. Sanford will shore up the unit after missing 2017 due to injury.
Killingly will count on a strong returning core of defensive linemen, senior Quinn Gervasio, who led the team with seven sacks last year, and a Division I prospect in 6-foot-4, 235-pound stud Nsaiah Harriet, a former soccer goaltender who is blessed with size and speed to counterbalance his relative inexperience. Harriet had five sacks last season and has already received offers from Central Connecticut State and Bryant College.
“He’s really come onto the scene,” said Neal, whose staff commandeered the athlete from Killingly’s soccer fields. “We saw him play soccer and watched him basketball. He hung out with a lot of our guys and got into the weightroom with them. I think he just decided football was for him.
“His sophomore year, it was just a matter getting his stance down. Then he really came on for us last year and just blew up this offseason.”
Narriet could also get some carries in Killingly’s offense.
Desaulnier and Cournoyer return as starting cornerbacks. Cournoyer led Killingly with three interceptions last season.
Though Killingly’s enrollment changed enough to drop it from Class M to Class S this year, the school was subjected to CIAC football’s new ‘tournament success” modifier, which rules that schools of choice must move up in class if they reach the state semifinals in successive seasons.
Killingly has been designated a “school of choice,” due to its vo-ag program. Therefore, the Redmen are subject to this new rule, which is perplexing to Neal.
“People talk about St. Joseph and Xavier being schools of choice,” he said. “They’re schools of choice for the entire state. We’re a school of choice for 10 towns. Our Ag program is very selective. It’s really competitive. The few kids coming in aren’t coming in for sports.”
Killingly was bumped up to the ECC’s Division II and has picked up games vs. Ledyard, Waterford and Norwich Free Academy (while losing East Lyme and Windham). Killingly also lost its Thanksgiving Day game vs. Woodstock Academy, which declined to continue its series.
Not that it should matter. Neal believes this group will be playing in December again.
- Sept. 7 — PLAINFIELD,* 6:30 p.m.
- Sept. 14 — at Griswold,* 6:30 p.m.
- Sept. 21 — at New London,* 6:30 p.m.
- Sept. 28 — BACON ACADEMY,** 6:30 p.m.
- Oct. 12 — at Stonington,** 6:30 p.m.
- Oct. 19 — at Waterford,** 6:30 p.m.
- Oct. 26 — LEDYARD,** 6:30 p.m.
- Nov. 2 — at Trinity Catholic, 6 p.m.
- Nov. 9 — NORWICH FREE ACADEMY,* 6:30 p.m.
- Nov. 16 — at Capital Prep/Achievement First, TBA
Home games in CAPS