COACH — CLAY KILLINGSWORTH (2nd year, 2-8)
CONFERENCE — ECC Division II
PLAYOFF CLASS — S (384 boys enrollment)
HOME — Bill Mignault Field, Ledyard
2018 RECORD — 2-8
2019 OPENER — Sept. 13 vs. Woodstock Academy, 6 p.m.
TEAM WEBSITES — Maxpreps | FACEBOOK | TWITTER — @ledyard_fb ; INSTAGRAM — @ledyardcolonels_fb
Anthony Rose, RB/LB; James Smith, WR/DB; Seamus McGrath, C/DE; Jacob Sylvia, QB; Jacob Hobbs, G/DT; Brenden Thornton, DB; Matthew Thornton, DB.
It’s been a few years since Ledyard inspired fear just by merely showing up on an opponents schedule.
The Colonels were once a mainstay in the upper echelon of the ECC and a state playoff contender. They went 20 years without a losing season — the last 12 of Bill Mignault’s legendary career as head coach, and all eight under his replacement, Jim Buonocore.
Since Buonocore was bumped to the school’s executive level, the Colonels have struggled through three-consecutive losing seasons — none with more than three wins — while cycling through three different coaches.
Clay Killingsworth, who took over for Jonathan Hernandez last season, is back for a second year, giving Ledyard at least a measure of stability. Now comes the second step: Returning the program to its former glory.
Some extra pains might be needed to get Ledyard there. The Colonels graduated many of last season’s top players, especially on defense, where the top-three tacklers have all graduated, including All-ECC linebacker Anthony Rose and All-ECC back Brendan Thornton.
But Killingsworth says he expects his team to be competitive. Ledyard does return Brayden Grim, last year’s leading rusher with 504 yards and four touchdowns. And a majority of its top receivers, Jaiden Bickham, Robbie Petriel and Caden Foote, return as well.
Bickham was also an All-ECC selection at kicker, having made 4-of-5 field goals and 10 extra points last season. Petriel, who doubles as a linebacker and is Ledyard’s top-returning tackler with 51, was an All-ECC honorable mention pick.
— GameDay (@GameDayCT) August 16, 2019
Two big bodies, senior Ben Askew and junior Andrew Allen, return at fullback along with two of five starting offensive linemen, Andres Pardo and the 6-foot-4, 240-pound junior Davin McIver, who played both ways and made 45 tackles as a sophomore on the defensive line. “He’s had a great offseason,” Killingsworth said of McIver. “He is bigger and stronger than last season.”
Killingsworth says there’s an open competition for the quarterback job vacated by the graduated Jacob Sylvia. Grim is among those in the running for the job. Regardless of where he lines up, Grim will factor into Ledyard’s plans in 2019. “He is very smart and tough,” Killingsworth said of the senior, an All-ECC academic selection.
“One of our biggest strengths is that we have many players that are versatile and can help us in several positions,” Killingsworth said.
Take Askew and Allen, for example: Both are two-way standouts at linebacker and fullback. Killingsworth said they’ll be expected to contribute wherever the team needs them.
“We look to have open competition at many positions,” the coach said.
Ledyard only scored 136 points last year (13.6 per game), so improving the offense is paramount for the Colonels, who found themselves in a number of tight games last year. Ledyard went 2-3 in games decided by a touchdown or less.
“We must work on finishing games,” Killingsworth said. “We have to put our players in stressful situations in practice to see how they react and teach them the proper responses. Mental toughness is key and we must develop it to compete in close games.”
The good news is Ledyard’s schedule is a lot more manageable compared to previous seasons, giving the Colonels an opportunity to learn on-the-fly.
Ledyard didn’t receive any Scheduling Alliance games (the Colonels were stomped by Bunnell 44-6 and lost to Lyman Hall 20-13 in its two non-conference games last season). But they do face two of the ECC’s best in New London and Killingly in back-to-back games, with a well-timed bye placed in between.
Those midseason contests will be a good barometer of the team’s progress heading into the season’s second half and beyond.
“We had a great offseason,” Killingsworth said. “Coach Matthew Roberts led our summer strength and conditioning program and did an outstanding job preparing our players for the long season. We will be in much better shape and stronger to start camp.”
Sept. 13 — WOODSTOCK ACADEMY**, 6 p.m.
Sept. 20 — GRISWOLD/WHEELER,* 6 p.m.
Sept. 27 — at Montville,* 6 p.m.
Oct. 5 — at New London,* 1 p.m.
Oct. 18 — KILLINGLY,* 6 p.m.
Oct. 26 — at Bacon Academy,** 1:30 p.m.
Nov. 1 — at Windham,* 6:30 p.m.
Nov. 8 — at Waterford,** 6 p.m.
Nov. 15 — at Stonington,** 6:30 p.m.
Nov. 28 — at Fitch,* 10 a.m.