COACH — CHAD NEAL (16th year, 77-85)
CONFERENCE — ECC Division II
PLAYOFF CLASS — M (387 boys enrollment; CIAC school-of-choice playoff success promotion)
HOME — Killingly High School Sports Complex, Dayville
2017 RECORD — 10-2, ECC Division II champions, lost to St. Joseph in Class M semifinals
2018 OPENER — Sept. 13 at Cumberland (RI), 6:30 p.m.
TEAM WEBSITE — MaxPreps | killinglyfootball.wixsite.com/khsfootball | TWITTER: @KillinglyFBall | INSTAGRAM: Killinglyfootball
Nsaiah Harriet, DE/RB; Luke Desaulnier, QB/CB/K; Josh Montpelier, WR/CB; Matt Phelan, G/LB; Quinn Gervasio, TE/DE; Derek Turner, FB/LB.
While it didn’t repeat as state champions, Killingly once again put forth a formidable squad in 2018, continuing what has become a dominant run of state championship contention over the last few years.
The former-Redmen — Killingly announced it was dropping its Native American mascot this summer and has yet to come up with a replacement — won nine games, reached the state playoffs for a fourth-consecutive year and fell one game short of playing for a second-consecutive state title.
Their title run ended against the previous year’s Class S champion St. Joseph which, like Killingly, had been bumped up in Class as a CIAC-designated ‘school of choice.’
St. Joseph is gone now, as is Berlin, its championship opponent. The success modifier bumped both to Class L this year. Killingly, a Class S school by enrollment, remained in what looks to be a wide-open Class M.
Though Killingly graduated its leaders in passing, rushing and on defense — especially All-Staters RB/DE Nsaiah Harriet and QB/K Luke Desaulnier — coach Chad Neal does back about half of last year’s team, chocked with new stars and studs ready to make another state playoff run.
Neal can barely contain his excitement over his offensive line, the heart-and-soul of his smashmouth RPO (Run People Ovah) style that has become an icon of Connecticut football.
Three starters return, including guard Ben Morin, tackle Justin Maiato and massive Jacob Galarza, a 6-foot-4, 245-pound left tackle, who figures to assume Harret’s role on the defensive line.
“Galarza had a huge offseason,” Neal said, “and has Division I talent at left tackle.
Also returning is Jackson Lopes, who figures to take over as the team’s primary running back after running for 665 yards and 8 touchdowns last year next to Harriet’s 871 yards and 14 TDs.
“Lopes got a majority of carries late in the season after an early-season injury,” Neal said. “(He has) terrific field vision and the fastest player on the team. He looks to continue the great tradition of running backs at Killingly.”
Similarly, Jacob Nurse takes over at quarterback after two years spent backing up Desaunlier. “We’re very excited about our QB,” Neal said. “He has a great grasp of the offense after running it at the JV level the last three years. He definitely could have started his junior year if not for Desaulnier being there already.”
And, while Killingly prides itself on punishing running, Neal opened up the offense last year, allowing Desaulnier to double his output (891 yards) compared to his junior year, something that figures to continue with Nurse.
“The offense will revolve around a strong running game, but will be more diverse than in the past,” Neal said.
Jack Sharp, a sophomore, will also get a turn carrying the ball (“He’s shown a lot of promise,” Neal said). Killingly’s receivers, often the forgotten men in the lineup until they burn opponents with a well-timed strike, will consist of returners Kameron Crowe and Josh Heaney, with sophomore Nate Keefe at tight end.
Defensively, Killingly is reloading somewhat with their top four tacklers and sack specialists graduated, including most of the linebackers and defensive linemen. Neal said the defense will be relying on Jonathan Creswell at linebacker, Rodriguez at defensive end and the secondary manned by Crowe, Lopes and Cooper Morissette.
“They all started last year and will have to make plays for us,” Neal said. “We’ll need to keep developing our secondary and linebackers. There is talent there, it’s just a matter of how fast they come along.”
After winning the ECC Division II title last year, Killingly has been bumped into the ECC’s Division I alongside Norwich Free Academy, East Lyme, Fitch and New London — incidentally, the only league team to beat Killingly over the last three seasons.
This also means Killingly was given two Scheduling Alliance games. They face Berlin (CCC) in Week 3 and then travel all the way across the state to face fellow Class M playoff hopeful Brookfield on Nov. 1.
It’s a decidedly tougher schedule than normal, but Neal believes his program is prepared.
“We feel we will be able to compete in Division I and hope playing many of those games late in our schedule will give your younger players time to develop,” Neal said.
Sept. 13 — at Cumberland (RI), 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 20 — CAPITAL PREP/ACHIEVEMENT FIRST, 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 27 — BERLIN, 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 5 — FITCH,** 11:00 a.m.
Oct. 18 — at Ledyard,* 6:00 p.m.
Oct. 25 — at Brookfield, 7:00 p.m.
Nov. 1 — STONINGTON,* 6:30 p.m.
Nov. 8 — at NFA,** 6:30 p.m.
Nov. 15 — EAST LYME,** 6:30 p.m.
Nov. 22 — NEW LONDON,** 6:30 p.m.