DANBURY — After going 3-15 over the past two seasons, there’s nowhere for the Danbury football team to go but up.
How far up is what third-year coach Alex Trasacco is desperate to find out as the Hatters look to awake from their recent slumber.
“With the attitude and leadership we have, conservatively we’re looking at going from 2-8 to .500,” Trasacco said. “But that’s conservative; we’re shooting to win every week. I don’t care who comes here; they’re going to have to stop our offense every week and what we throw at them.”
One of the biggest sources for optimism comes at the quarterback position. Athletic junior Diante Vines will be under center for Danbury, which opens the season Sept. 8 at Trinity Catholic. A sprinter and jumper on the track team, Vines bring several key traits to the group.
“He’s one of the better athletes I’ve coached in 30 years,” Trasacco said. “And there is no loss of confidence in this young man, which you need playing quarterback in our offense. That’s probably his biggest strongpoint.”
Danbury figures to have depth in the ground game as fellow captains Solomon James and Fabio de Olivera return to the backfield. Jack Pompea and Juan Jimenez will also get carries, Trasacco said.
Vines has a pair of track teammates in RJ Hopkins and Malachi Hopkins to throw the ball to, creating a potentially uber-athletic offense.
“I have more experience now in my second year, I’m more familiar with the offense and what teams will try to do to stop me and our offense,” Vines said.
Danbury has a roster of about 40-to-45, a healthy number to give players a break on defense, Trasacco said. The recruitment remains persistent with Trasacco, several assistants and principal Dan Donovan — a former coach — reaching out to as many students as possible.
“On a daily basis,” Trasacco joked. “We’re all in the building which helps; a lot of the teachers know us. We have a lot of support from the school.”
Though the last 24 months have been a struggle on the field, Danbury is just three years removed from an 8-3 mark that narrowly kept it out of the state playoffs. That’s the lone winning season since 2004, leaving this group eager to put Danbury back on the map.
“We’re really close this year and hungry,” Vines said. “Everyone on this team is like a brother and everyone is really hungry this year; We’re a lot stronger there than where we were last year.”
With the Danbury weight room closed for most of the summer, the Hatters were left to train the old-fashioned way: on the field by flipping tires and pushing sleds.
“It was way more tiring than the weight room and we got more work because we were moving our legs and upper body,” Vines said. “We got stronger. faster and better conditioned.”
COACH: Alex Trasacco (3rd year)
CONFERENCE, CLASS: FCIAC, LL
2016 RECORD: 2-8
TOP RETURNEES: Jr. QB/S Diante Vines; Sr. FB/MLB Solomon James; RB Jack Pompea; FB Juan Jimenez; Jr. WB/DB RJ Hopkins WR; WR/DB So. Malachi Hopkins; Sr. HB Fabio de Oliveira.
REASON TO SMILE: A spring and summer season has the Hatters optimistic of gaining ground, led by Vines. He was second-team All-FCIAC a year ago at safety, recording five interceptions. Vines saw time at both quarterback and running back last season.
REASON TO WORRY: The Hatters lost a lot of size up front on the offensive line. Danbury graduated many seniors across the board; most of its playmakers are juniors and sophomores.
DID YOU KNOW?: Facing one of the toughest schedules in the state a year ago, Danbury’s opponents went a combined 70-43.
KEY GAME: At Trinity Catholic, September 8, 6 p.m. What better way to open the season against a team that went above .500 last season; the exact goal of the Hatters.
OUTLOOK: There are enough winnable games on the schedule to get the Hatters to the 5-5 mark. Games at Greenwich and Ridgefield at the end of the season mean Danbury better be ready to start the season if it wants to crack .500.