Unbeaten Hamden Hall found itself with an extra week off when Wilbraham & Monson Academy backed out of playing the Hornets just three days before last week’s scheduled game. The school had determined that the Hornets were too much for it to handle, Linta said. They even declined Linta’s offer to send his backup squad.
Oh well, that’s life for one of New England’s best small school prep teams.
Besides, it gave the Hornets and extra week to prepare for their massive showdown with Fairchester rival King School on Saturday, 6:30 p.m. at the Beckerman Sports Complex. Hamden Hall is ranked No. 1 and King No. 2 in the MaxPreps NEPSAC Class C rankings.
Hamden Hall, which was the only team to beat King last year, is riding an 18-game win streak dating back to October 2014.
“This unbeaten string… it’s pretty intoxicating,” Linta said this week. “You’re scared to lose right now. You’re petrified of losing. That means we have to prepare, prepare, prepare and leave no stone unturned.”
Last week King (4-0) defeated Kingswood-Oxford, 27-13, in the the first big game of the Fairchester season. The Kingsmen boast an all-star lineup which includes quarterback Renn Lints, receiver A.J. Greene and big back Evan Henry.
“They certainly make us nervous,” Linta said. “We have to play well.”
He shouldn’t be too worried. After all, Linta has stocked his roster with some of top talent from around Connecticut. And they’ve all had a hand in keeping the Hornets unbeaten thus far.
Key for the Hornets has been Old Saybrook’s Luke Schoonmaker, a former quarterback at Xavier and a Michigan commit who has transitioned into one of the team’s top playmakers at receiver and cornerback. He has 307 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns this season.
Instead, at quarterback Hamden Hall has relied on the steady play of Nick Bailey, who has thrown for nearly 700 yards and seven touchdowns against no interceptions while rushing for 163 yards and seven touchdowns.
Bailey started the second half of his sophomore year and Linta said he’s made great strides at the position running the Hornets’ spread offense.
“He was only a sophomore and still wet behind the years last year. This year I knew he’d be the real deal,” Linta said. “The biggest thing has been his mental maturity. He’s not rushing things. He’s seeing things down field. He’s also become a pretty good running threat. People have to scheme against him running the ball. He’s really developed. I couldn’t be happier with him.”
Michael Johnson, a 6-foot-1, 235-pound senior is the Hornets’ primary back, with Jordan Benoit backing him up. Hamden Hall’s line is anchored by 6-1, 260-pound guard and defensive tackle Billy Porto, whom Linta calls the one of the best lineman in Connecticut, “He’s fast, explosive and tough both ways,” Linta said. He teams up with tackle Padraic Cooper (6-1, 275) to give the Hornets a formidable front.
But defense is where the Hornets have really stood out. Hamden plays an aggressive 3-3 stack and features plenty of blitzes to bring pressure. It has only allowed two first-half touchdowns this season.
It’s been led by 5-11, 230-pound senior A.J. Repollet, a senior linebacker who, Linta calls a “killer on defense.” Another standout is 5-10, 230-pound nose guard James Sansone, who averages 5 tackles per game and has a sack. “He’s been a terror,” Linta said. “He’s more than most teams can handle up front.”
Hamden Hall also boasts Klyde Auba, an all-state linebacker at Notre Dame-Fairfield last year, who leads the team with six tackles for a loss.
Senior safety David Spitz, a speedster who has a number of offers from Georgetown and the Ivy League, has made three interceptions on defense when he’s not starring playing receiver.
Junior Byron Breland III, who transferred from Hillhouse, where he made his mark as an a Register All-State basketball forward, has impressed Linta at cornerback. “He’s going to be a real good football player,” Linta said. “He has potential be the guy next season. He’s still learning how to run routes, but he’s tough on defense. He can be special if he stays with (football).”
Last year, Hamden Hall had standout Corey Millhouse and a team that went undefeated. and won the Mike Atkins Bowl. Linta thinks this year’s team is better. “We’re better than we were last year and we were 11-0 last year,” he said.
Hamden Hall will know for sure after Saturday.