COACH – MIKE BAKLIK (6th year, 30-24)
CONFERENCE — Pequot
PLAYOFF CLASS – S (332 boys enrollment)
2018 RECORD – 11-2, Pequot Sassacus champion, lost to Bloomfield in Class S final
2019 OPENER – Sept. 13 vs. Cromwell/Portland, 6:30 p.m.
TEAM WEBSITE — Maxpreps
RB/LB Tobey Callendar (Pequot Player of the Year); RB/LB Zach Kauffman; DB/WR/P Jordan Callahan; OL/DE Aiden Maher; LB Jake Young.
The H-K faithful won’t soon forget just how special the 2018 season was: a school-record 11 wins, a Pequot Conference division title and a state championship game appearance, only the second in 43 years of Cougar football.
Last year’s team will be a hard act to follow, indeed.
Its legacy, though, has crossed over to this year. At a time when high school football participation is dropping nationwide, coach Mike Baklik says the overall numbers in his program are up.
“Interest is high, morale is good,” said Baklik, who played at H-K and took over for the program’s only other head coach, Dennis O’Rourke, six years ago. “We ended last year with only 40 kids, maybe 39. At sign-ups last winner we had 73 names. Obviously, you know you will lose some.
“We started camp with just over 60. Right now we are 56, or at about the numbers when I first took over. I think we’re doing OK. We will do similar things this year that we were doing last year. We have a staff that has been together quite a while. The consistency is there. Kids know what to expect.”
At the time of Baklik’s hiring, the Cougars had the personnel to be a passing offense. Nowadays, they are firmly rooted in the run game.
In the single/double-wing system last season, they rode thoroughbreds Tobey Callendar (1,542 yards, 22 total touchdowns) and Dalton Modehn (1,384 yards, 6.6 per carry, team-best 21 rushing TDs), plus Zach Kauffman (691 yards, nine TDs), all the way to the Class S final.
They are going to “wing” it again this season behind Modehn, a third-year starter who is closing in on the Cougars’ all-time rushing record and looks to follow up Callendar’s Pequot Player of the Year season with one of his own.
“Dalton is a big part of this team,” Baklik said. “He will get quite a few carries.”
With 209 carries last year, six fewer than Callendar, Modehn was just as much a focal point of Baklik’s offense. H-K rushed for a school-record 4,065 yards, averaging 313 per game, and ran the ball 17 times for every pass attempt (37 total).
Seniors Andrew Inkel and Jimmy Bobbi, who played mostly on defense as juniors, are vying for time in the backfield with Modehn. The other skill positions remain somewhat unsettled. Senior Andrew Weiss and junior Alex Riccitelli are competing at quarterback.
“You could see a different starter out there (depending on the situation). Both have really impressed us,” Baklik said.
Can he see another 4,000-yard season from his backfield?
“We have a lot of linemen returning. The guys up front can block,” was as far as Baklik would go.
“We have a kid coming back,” he said. “Thomas Perry (6-1, 260), with the best technique we’ve seen in my six years as coach. We’re looking for big things from him and Chris Moore (6-6, 215) this year on both sides of the ball.”
Perry has been a staple on the offensive line. He also will start on the defensive side of the ball along with Moore and two-way starter Trey Callendar (6-2, 270), giving the Cougars experience and depth. All three have Division I potential, their coach said.
H-K’s offense last season perhaps overshadowed how well the defense played from start to finish. The Cougars held eight opponents to two scores or less (all H-K wins) and had 28 interceptions. Modehn is a shutdown corner in a unit that gave up few big plays.
The Cougars also need a reliable successor to All-Pequot, All-State punter Jordan Callahan.
“He bailed us out of tight situations and really made special teams an equal third of the game,” Baklik said.
With membership at an odd 16 teams, the Pequot has gone away from two divisions this year, so there is no Sassacus title for the Cougars to defend. Baklik expects they will be in the top tier this fall at the very least.
“With an experienced line that also brings depth on both sides of the ball, along with (Modehn), we have the same expectations,” he said.
Sept. 13 – CROMWELL/PORTLAND*, 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 20 – at North Branford*, 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 28 – at Old Saybrook/Westbrook*, 10:30 a.m.
Oct. 5 – at Gilbert/Northwestern*, 3 p.m.
Oct. 11 – GRANBY/CANTON*, 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 25 – COGINCHAUG/HALE-RAY/EAST HAMPTON*, 6:30 p.m.
Nov. 1 – at Morgan*, 6:30 p.m.
Nov. 15 – at Stafford/East Windsor/Somers*, 6:30 p.m.
Nov. 21 – COVENTRY/WINDHAM TECH/BOLTON/LYMAN MEMORIAL*, 6:30 p.m.
Nov. 26 – VALLEY REGIONAL/OLD LYME*, 6:30 p.m.