- COACH — JOHN OKO (1st year)
- CONFERENCE — Pequot Sassacus
- PLAYOFF CLASS — S (377 boys enrollment)
- HOME — Lewis Mills High School field, Burlington
- 2017 RECORD — 1-9
- 2018 OPENER — Sept. 7 at Coventry/Windham Tech/Bolton/Lyman, 7 p.m.
- TEAM WEBSITE – Maxpreps
Grayson LaBerge, Sr. QB; Cade Cormier, Jr. LB/OG; Colby Nordstrom, CB (injured); Dylan Halett, K.
First-year coach John Oko and his assistants have a coaching mountain to climb, coming off a 1-9 Spartan season with just four experienced returners, including one who is injured and another who serves exclusively as Mills’ excellent kicker.
Add Mills’ impending move from the Pequot League to the CCC next year and it’s a job tailor-made for veteran Nonnewaug coach Oko, who retired, then found himself stir-crazy without a football challenge.
“We’re looking to win some games for the seniors and develop the program in a hurry to get ready for the move to the CCC,” said Oko, struggling for practice time along with many other heat-restricted coaches in the state.
His advantages are relatively good numbers, with six seniors, six juniors, 20 sophomores and 14 freshmen and an experienced quarterback.
In an optimist’s world, the skew toward youth is an advantage for a new coaching staff molding the team into their systems: a wing T “with variations” on offense and a 4-3 scheme on defense.
Nevertheless, they’ll be starting several sophomores, “a couple of freshmen” and lots of inexperience.
They’re working on senior quarterback Grayson LaBerge’s timing and accuracy in the passing game while “trying to run the ball” as their bread and butter.
Sophomore Sean Polinsky and junior Nick Romano join LaBerge in the backfield at tailback and fullback, running behind a line anchored by returning starter Cad Cormier at guard and a trio of seniors in center Tyler Rouseau, guard Alex Nicoletti and tackle Holden Cowger.
Cooper Matiello is a prime target for LaBerge’s passes.
On defense, Cormier, converted from tackle to linebacker, and end Nicoletti stood out in scrimmages against Wilby, Wilcox Tech and Notre Dame-Fairfield. Other defensive notables include tackle Dominic Hagen, linebackers Josh Martinotti and Romano free safety Nate DiChiara. Returning cornerback Colby Nordstrom is out indefinitely with a hip injury.
Dylan Halett is a four-year kicking specialist whose father kicked for Ansonia.
“He’s real good,” said Oko, who may have to rely on the kicking game more than he’d like. Halett, who regularly kicks off into the end zone, will handle punts and field goals as well.
Since taking the job last May, Oko visited eighth graders as well as the booster club and parents, along with the area youth football team to promote the program’s future.
But, in the end, “The difference between a good program and a bad one is commitment, especially in the weight room,” Oko said.
- Sept. 7 at Coventry* 7 p.m.
- Sept. 14 at SMSA* 6:30 p.m.
- Sept. 22 CROMWELL** noon
- Sept. 29 OLD SAYBROOK** noon
- Oct. 5 At North Branford** 6:30 p.m.
- Oct. 20 COGINCHAUG** noon
- Oct. 27 MORGAN** noon
- Nov. 3 HADDAM-KILLINGWORTH** noon
- Nov. 9 at Valley Regional** 6:30 p.m.
- Nov. 17 at Windsor Locks* 1 p.m.
Home games in CAPS