- COACH — ERICK KNICKERBOCKER (1st year)
- CONFERENCE — Pequot Uncas
- PLAYOFF CLASS — M (415 boys enrollment)
- HOME — Rockville High School Field, Vernon
- 2017 RECORD — 1-9
- 2018 OPENER — Sept. 7 at Cromwell/Portland, 7 p.m
- TEAM WEBSITE — Rockvillefootball.com | TWITTER — @therockfootball | INSTAGRAM — therockfootball
- BEN AMBRO, Sr. QB (5-11, 155)
- KEJUAN GREENE, Sr. RB/DB (5-8, 150)
- JAQUAN DUFOUR, Jr. WR (6-2, 170)
- SAM BITOUSHARE, Sr. OL/DL (6-0, 260)
- NICK FOLEY, Sr. RB/DB (5-10, 160)
- COLBY MULLINS, Sr. OL/DL (6-0, 220)
- RYAN WALKER, Sr. WR (5-10, 175)
- KAI ARMSTRONG, Sr. RB/DB (5-9, 150)
- JONATHAN O’COIN, Jr. RB/LB (5-11, 175)
- CLAYTON AEFEDT, Sr. RB/LB (5-10, 175)
DB/WR Tyler Allen (Bryant)
The Keith Tautkus coaching tree continues to spread its roots across Connecticut’s northern hinterlands.
It started with Sean Byrne taking over for Tautkus at Ellington, then with Brian Mazzone reviving the program at Stafford. Now comes Erick Knickerbocker, who will attempt to pave his own way at Rockville after spending 14 successful years as an assistant coach and defensive coordinator Ellington.
Rockville, best known for producing former NFL All-Pro linebacker Bill Romanowski and Holy Cross All-New England back Tom Kelleher, hopes the veteran assistant will jump-start its long-dormant program as it begins its second year in the Pequot League.
If appearances account for anything, Knickerbocker already has the Rams on the right track. He’s infused enthusiasm in the program, declaring a slogan — Restore the Rock! — debuting a sparkling-new locker room and focusing on creating a family atmosphere.
The first order of business for Knickerbocker, a self-described “history guy,” was to make his players aware of Rockville’s illustrious past. The Rams regularly competed for state championships in the 1980s and 1990s under 26-year head coach Tom Dunn.
But Rockville hasn’t had a winning season since Dunn left after the 2004 season.
“A big thing was to show them where they came from,” Knickerbocker said. “When I first got here, the kids told me, we get made fun of because we always lose.”
While refurbishing the locker room, Knickerbocker and his staff made a trophy case to showcase the team’s 1990 state championship and all of its newspaper clippings from the glory days. “We had fun with it and, when they came in, the kids were amazed,” Knickerbocker said. “That’s our whole vision, to Restore the Rock, and talk about what it used to be like at Rockville.”
To help, Knickerbocker has brought along with him many of Ellington’s former assistants, including Tautkus, who built Ellington’s football program from scratch and had recently been coaching at WestConn.
The good news is Knickerbocker inherits a relatively experienced group, albeit one that lost the services of its best player — all-state DB Tyler Allen, now at Bryant. Then again, Rockville did go 1-9 last year, its first as a member of the Pequot. So this team has some work ahead.
Overall, six starters return on both sides of the ball, including three starting linemen and starting quarterback Ben Ambro.
Ambro, a senior, has started since his sophomore season and has compiled 2,200 yards and 19 touchdowns, the lion’s share coming last year when the passed for 1,744 yards and 14 touchdowns. “We will lean on his leadership this year,” Knickerbocker said.
Now that Allen has graduated, Rockville look to senior back Nick Foley, who returns after leading the team with 52 catches for 570 yards and four touchdowns to go with his 918 all-purpose yards. Backs Kejuan Greene, senior, and Jonathan O’Coin, a junior, will be counted on to shore up the offense, which scored a pedestrian 201 points last season.
Defense, however, is where Rockville really needs the work. The Rams allowed 361 points last season. Fortunately for Rockville, defense is Knickerbocker’s forte.
Rockville graduated its top two tacklers, but it does have a veteran presence in linebacker Clayton Aafedt, who returns after averaging 6.5 tackles per game as a junior. O’Coin also returns to the linebacking corps after averaging 5.8 tackles a game as a sophomore.
But, for now, Knickerbocker’s focus is molding his new players into a cohesive unit. While Rockville should improve on last year’s record, there will be a learning curve, especially for a program that hasn’t had a winning season since going 8-2 in 2004 — the last year of championship coach Tom Dunn’s 26-year tenure.
“The challenge we will have is learning, installing and getting good at what we are trying to do on offense, defense (and) special teams,” Knickerbocker said. “Everything will be new for the players.
“I think the most important thing for us is that we are just going to worry about becoming the best team we can be. Where we fall at the end of the year will play out along the way.”
Rockville will get thrown to the wolves early with three of its first four games on the road. The Rams open at perennial Pequot power Cromwell/Portland. They face two other state playoff teams in Coventry Co-Op and SMSA Co-Op during back-to-back weeks. That kicks off a rough stretch which includes a pair of home games vs. Granby and Valley Regional.
- Sept. 7 — at Cromwell/Portland,* 6 p.m.
- Sept. 14 — GILBERT/NORTHWESTERN,** 6:30 p.m.
- Sept. 22 — at W.Locks/Suff./E.Gran.,** 1 p.m.
- Sept. 28 — at Cov./WT/Bolt/Lym,** 7 p.m.
- Oct. 5 — SMSA/UNIV/CLASSICAL,** 6:30 p.m.
- Oct. 19 — at Staf./E.Wind./Som.,** 6:30 p.m.
- Oct. 26 — GRANBY MEMORIAL,** 6:30 p.m.
- Nov. 2 — VALLEY REGIONAL/OLD LYME,* 6:30 p.m.
- Nov. 9 — at Canton,** 7 p.m.
- Nov. 21 — ELLINGTON,** 6:30 p.m.
Home games in CAPS