Team-by-Team South-West Conference preview pages with links to complete 2016 team previews. Compiled by Sean Patrick Bowley. Based on interviews and coaches who responded to a preseason survey.
The Dawgs have the best collection of receivers in the league, if not the state state in Brett Bogdwicz and Zhyaire Fernandez. They’re breaking in a new quarterback, Mike Castelot, who’s got the pedigree, the weapons and the line to help Bunnell overcome last year’s 4-6 record.
Is Masuk finally Masuk again? It’s been awhile since the Panthers were players on the statewide stage. Though young — coach Joe Lato’s offense is led by sophomore RB Jack Roberge and junior QB Matt Hersch — it has plenty of experience, especially. Masuk will have to prove it’s ready against the conference’s other big boys.
Receiver Max Vaughey headlines a young squad which lost 2,000-yard passer Tyler Hansen. Coach Larry Badaracco likes his skill players. It’ll be tough in a stacked conference, if a line can jell quickly along with new quarterback Tyler Sullivan, the Green Wave could make a few splashes.
Two-time first team all-state linebacker Ben Mason is back, baby, for his final season at Blue and Gold before he trades it for Michigan’s Maize and Blue. He’s flanked by BYU lineman Seth Willis, second-year quarterback Justin Dunn and tailback Hunter Cobb. The Hawks will have to find new receivers, defensive backs and defensive linemen, but they remain the team to beat until proven otherwise.
Coming off its first winless season in 25 years, Pomperaug returns a wealth of experienced players, led by standout backs and linebackers Jack Harwell, Tom Statkowski and Mike Murgatroyd. They’re anxious to reverse last year’s misfortune.
The Red Devils brushed aside a minor controversy and reached the state playoffs for the first time since 2006. QB Connor Anstis and All-State DB Nate Shields return to help Stratford pack for a return trip. It’ll be a tough task without a host of graduated stars like Mar’Quess Daniels, Pat Lepesko and John Cox, but coach T.J. Cavaliere is confident.
Barlow graduated All-State lineman Connor Mignone and several playmakers from last year’s 4-6 season. The Falcons have just two senior starters returning — receiver Chris Michaels and lineman Jack Scully. Still, coach Rob Tynan loves the potential of his junior class, headed by QB Trevor Furrer, to run the option offense. Look out, there’s also another Shaban coming up the pipeline.
Bethel just about starting all over after graduating a horde of starters from last year’s 2-8 squad. A bright spot is returning senior LB and lineman Jared Zieman. The offensive line, normally a Bethel strength, is being overhauled. Coach Jason Gill says team must play as one if it wants to return to top form.
Brookfield’s historic senior class is gone after playing in three-consecutive state finals and winning back-to-back titles. But the defending Class M champs expect to contend again with yet another massive senior class that has been waiting in the wings. Back Harrison Manesis and linebacker/quarterback Nick Merkel will lead the way.
Last year’s outstanding senior class had the Rebels playing for their first title in 30 years. They’re gone, but, like rival Brookfield, the team that bested New Fairfield for the Class M title, there’s another large group of seniors ready to take command. Injuries have depleted the Rebels’ tailback and they’re starting a new quarterback, but the front lines look dominant.
New Fairfield won three games in 2015. But it was the most wins for the once-dominant program in six years. Eleven starters return for second-year coach Chris Sadler, including All-State LB/WR Mike Bevino and junior QB Michah Brantley. They have a shot at inching up the standings again.
Coach Chris Pace has a bunch of two- and three-year starers at his disposal, including LB Zac Spencer QB Alex Fruhbeis and much of his offensive line. Spencer will be a force on defense and the Trojans have enough weapons to surprise unsuspecting opponents and pull off a winning season, at least.
2016 Team Schedules
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