NEW HAVEN >> Kwane Taylor set the school record for receptions last season, while Travis Jones is a physically imposing specimen who often manhandles opposing defenders.
Both are junior members of the Wilbur Cross football team, and a big reason why the Governors are 4-2 and still in the hunt for a Class LL state playoff berth.
Despite his success at wide receiver, Taylor (5-foot-11, 155 pounds) is perhaps more valuable for Cross at cornerback.
“He’s an extremely smart football player, I think that’s the No. 1 asset,” Wilbur Cross coach John Acquavita said. “He’s got decent speed. He’s slender, so it’s not like he’s a big, strong guy out there, but he’s smart. He knows how to cover guys. He’s able to slow the game down as it’s happening and play it really well.”
Taylor is called upon to cover the SCC’s top receivers, like last season against Notre Dame-West Haven’s Nico Ragaini and this year against Foran’s Brett Huber.
“I take it as a great challenge,” Taylor said. “That’s all I want to do, I want to play against the best players.”
Said Acquavita: “He just plays the game smart. If he was a little bigger, I would have made him a safety in a second. If he could throw, I would have made him the quarterback. That’s the of athlete he is.”
Last season, Taylor caught 55 passes for 612 yards. He earned All-SCC honors at defensive back.
“If he stays healthy, he could conceivably have the most yards, career yards — all of it,” Acquavita said about the school records Taylor could potentially break.
This season Taylor has made 32 catches for 504 yards and three touchdowns. Taylor is averaging six catches per game and, with four game’s remaining, would finish this season with 56 catches if that average holds.
Taylor’s production offensively this season has been slightly affected by a season-ending knee injury to Zion Setal, last year’s starter at quarterback, that occurred during summer camp.
“You have to assume it (Taylor’s production) is down a little bit,” Acquavita said. “But he’s kind of in the ballpark of duplicating what he did last season. We’re not throwing the same type of game as we threw last year because we don’t have that mobile quarterback, so it’s a little different. It’s probably down a couple of receptions a game.
“Statistically, he’s got to be one of the better receivers in the league. He doesn’t get the hype of anything like that, but he’s putting up similar numbers this year than he did last year.”
Acquavita said that the University of Rhode Island and Central Connecticut, as well as some Division I-AA schools, are aware of Taylor’s talents.
“He’s between a Division II and a I-AA depending on how his body goes over the next year,” Acquavita said. “He would be an asset to a team. He’s just a smart football player.”
Jones is a two-year, two-way starter.
“We moved him to center this year,” Acquavita said. “It’s been a work in progress. He’s had some great games and some need-to-learn games.”
Jones is not only big — real big — at 6-4, 335 pounds, but Acquavita said Jones has cat-like reflexes and is dedicated in the weight room.
“He benches in the mid-3s, squats mid-5s, dead lifts in the 5s. He’s just a monster,” the coach said.
As a freshman, Jones played on junior varsity but made a relatively easy transition to varsity. Jones admitted he favors playing on the offensive line over nose guard.
“Varsity is faster,” Jones said. “People are bigger and stronger, but you have to just hit the weight room and get stronger. “I like offense because you’re manhandling people, and I think I have good footwork and hand placement.”
Acquavita said UConn and Temple have sent representatives down to take a look at Jones. Acquavita added that he believes Jones has the talent to play at the Division I level and, at the very least, an upper tier Division I-AA program.
During the first part of the season, Acquavita said they were letting Jones take his time in developing at center, while letting him take some plays off on defense. That was until last week when the Governors (4-2) were stunned by Amity 21-8.
“I think he needs to work on consistency,” Acquavita said. “We moved him to center, so he’s learning center; we gave him a little bit of crutch there. He played a lot more downs, I think, as a sophomore than he has now. We were trying to save him a little bit, rest him. The plan was working. If we got by Amity, it was a genius plan. Now, everyone’s going to have to play a lot.”
Now, Wilbur Cross must prepare to host unbeaten New London (6-0), which is ranked No. 10 in the Register Top 10 Poll. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Bowen Field. The Governors will likely have to win out and get some help to qualify in Class LL.
Taylor and the Governors are looking forward to the challenge New London presents.
“I always wanted to play New London,” Taylor said. “We know what we have to do.”