STAMFORD—Fairchester Athletic Association football may be taking a hiatus this 2018 season, but one of the NEPSAC true gridiron rivalries will add another chapter Saturday when King School hosts Hamden Hall in a 1 p.m. meeting.
“Hamden Hall has a good football head coach in Joe Linta. They have an excellent coaching staff,” King’s veteran coach Dan Gouin said. “Both our football programs got good at about the same time (last five or six years) so that’s made the rivalry strong. There always seems to be a title or postseason invitation (NEPSAC playoffs) on the line. Both sides always circle this date on the calendar each year when the schedules are released.”
The late defection of Hopkins, Rye Country Day and Kingswood-Oxford in the off-season has played havoc with both King’s and Hamden Hall’s schedule this season.
But the Vikings and the Hornets are set to do battle Saturday.
King (2-2) will be playing only its second home contest of the season. The Vikings are coming off a 27-26 overtime loss at Pennington (NJ) last Saturday night.
In that clash, King lost sophomore starting quarterback Chris Gaine to a hand injury.
Running back Chris Della Jacono took over at QB as King scored 20 points in the fourth quarter to forge a 20-20 deadlock and force overtime.
“We were fortunate in that Chris Gaine and Chris Della Jacono have a lot of common traits,” King coach Gouin said. “Both are more runners than throwers. Both have tons of toughness. So it’s not a huge change in style for the offense. If we had lost (current Bucknell University quarterback) Renn Lints last year who was a tremendous passer and runner. That would have been a big deal for the offense.
“Where Della Jacono playing quarterback affects us more is on defense,” Gouin continued. “Chris is our middle linebacker and can play defensive end. We had a number of special defensive packages built around Chris’ abilities. So that’s where we’ve had to adjust.”
King will try to snap a two-game losing streak as the Vikings lost 14-6 at home back on Sept. 22 to Capital Prep Harbor of Bridgeport.
Gouin saw signs against Pennington that make him optimistic about the rest of the season.
“Mental mistakes are holding us back. We had first down and goal three times in the first half against Pennington. And we were foiled by bad snaps over the quarterback’s head including one at the one-foot line,” Gouin said. “But I felt we played some of our best football of the season in the last 16 minutes against Pennington. We really ran the ball so well. The kids watched the films last Tuesday and saw we can play at a high level. Hopefully it can spark us for Saturday.
Hamden Hall has captured the last three meetings and four of the last six battles with King. Hamden Hall has won two straight NEPSAC titles and lost in the 2015 final.
The Hornets enter at 1-2 overall having also lost (24-21 on Oct. 5) to Capital Prep Harbor. Hamden Hall beat St. Luke’s, 26-6 and lost its opener (52-24) to St. Joseph of New Jersey.
Hamden Hall has also been hit with injuries. Starting senior quarterback Nick Bailey’s status could be a gametime decision.