BEACON FALLS >> In March, senior Mike Kenney informed the Woodland staff of his intentions to try out at quarterback.
Kenney, one of the team’s top receivers last season, hadn’t played the position since his first year of Pop Warner at age nine.
But the graduation of Tanner Kinglsey, who threw for 45 touchdowns as a senior, left first-year Hawks coach Tim Phipps with a huge void to fill. Kenney believed his skill set made him a good candidate for the job.
During the preseason, the 6-foot, 160 pound Kenney honed his skills at various camps and passing leagues while battling fellow senior Pat Hale, the backup to Kinglsey last year, for the starting nod.
“We decided just very recently as a staff that we were going to pick Mike as our starter, because he earned it,” Phipps said. “He battled it out with (Hale), those two gave a great effort. Mike fought very hard for it. He studied his playbook. Mike, every single day, improved as much as he possibly could, and we’re very happy with that.”
Kenney, who caught 57 passes for 1,014 yards and 15 touchdowns last season, played a vital role in leading Woodland to a 12-3 record and an appearance in the Class S state championship game. That experience was a factor in Phipps’ decision to name Kenney the starter.
“It’s tough to fill the void of Tanner, but Mike played in all these playoff games for us,” said Phipps, who took over for Tim Shea as head coach after serving as the offensive coordinator last season. “He knows the speed the game’s played at, he knows the intensity it needs to be played at. To have that at the quarterback position, we’re thrilled to death. I think that the competition did well for the whole team, the team responded very well to it. We’re looking forward to seeing what Mike can do at this point on.”
Phipps noted that Kenney has a strong arm, but is still working on drop-back mechanics. Kenney, who Phipps called an intelligent young man, is excited for the opportunity. Kenney feels his agility should be a nice complement to his passing game.
“I felt like I could have a big impact on the team,” Kenney said on the first day of fall camp Monday. “I wanted to have a lot of control and pressure on me. I want to be a leader this year.”
The Hawks, who will operate out of multiple formations, but with Kenney mostly out of the shotgun, return four starters on the offensive line.
Seniors Jake Laliberte and Max McSperrin are three-year starters, while seniors Alex Varhol and Will Flormann will start for the second consecutive season.
Juniors Sean McAllen, Dave Bobbie and Colby Vaccarelli will all see action out of the backfield. McAllen rushed 182 times for 1,586 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. Phipps said McAllen “quietly rushed for 1,500 yards” with Kingsley getting most of the attention from opposing defenses.
“Sean has to be prepared to have defenses focused on him,” Phipps said. “He has to be prepared to carry a big burden on the offense. I believe he can. He worked very hard this offseason.”