NEW CANAAN — As quarterbacks Fin Signer and Nick Winegardner are well aware of, opportunities are available on the Brunswick School football team.
The graduation of a wealth of seniors from last season’s squad means there are positions to be filled, most notably at quarterback, where Nick Henkel flourished the past three seasons.
The Erickson League’s Offensive Player of the Year in 2017, Henkel, will soon start his collegiate football career at Yale University. Signer, a rising senior, and Winegardner, who is entering his junior year, are competing for the role as the Bruins’ starting quarterback.
The duo showcased their skills the past two days at the Grip It & Rip It Passing Tournament at New Canaan High School — a competition that enabled the quarterbacks to build rapport and rhythm with their wide receivers.
Helping the new Bruins’ new starting quarterbacks is the return of wideout Cornelius Johnson. A rising senior, the 6-foot-3, 197-pound Johnson has already received scholarship offers from Alabama, Stanford, Penn State, Michigan, Notre Dame, Cal, West Virginia and Vanderbilt.
“I feel confident in our quarterbacks,” said Johnson, an All-New England Class A Team and All-Erickson League selection in 2017. “Whoever it is he’ll be competitive. Obviously, he will have big shoes to fill with Henkel going to Yale. But if we all just work hard, we’ll get it done.”
The Bruins make it a point to participate in the Grip It & Rip It Passing Tournament each year at New Canaan.
“It is beneficial, because this is the first time some schools in this area get to compete against some other schools in the area,” said Johnson, who totaled 33 receptions for 485 yards and seven touchdowns last season. “For us, we are all trying to get our chemistry down, which is important. It’s a good thing to kick start the season.”
Winegardner and Signer each received reps throughout the Bruins’ seven games during the 7-on-7 passing tournament. After playing five games on Friday, Brunswick lost to Greenwich High School and Brien McMahon on Saturday.
“We have a lot of holes to fill, but we have kids who can step up,” Signer said. “We have a lot of great wide receivers. Cornelius Johnson is a huge part of our offense and a phenomenal receiver.”
The Bruins signal callers welcome the preseason competition.
“Fin and I have been playing football together since third grade with the Cos Cob Crushers,” Winegardner said. “We both have been good friends and quarterbacks together for a long time. I think it is going to be a good competition. That is how people play better, by competing against each other.”
Said Signer: “We are always helping each other and getting better every day. We are learning from each other’s mistakes. This season, we may also may have a good dual quarterback system.”
Henkel, who passed for 1,910 yards with 23 touchdown passes in 2017, provided a good example for the up-and-coming quarterbacks.
“Nicky (Henkel) taught me how to stay calm and play as I practice,” Signer said. “I do that in all of my 7-on-7s and games. He also taught me to go on to the next play with a clear mind and don’t stress about throwing an interception.”
At the wide receiver position, Johnson, who will serve as a captain, along with linebacker Nick Villis, will be complemented by soon-to-be seniors Kavonne Wilder and Charles Packard.
“There are a lot of spots open,” said Brunswick coach Jarrett Shine, whose squad registered a record of 5-3 last season. “We graduated 17 seniors, which is the biggest class we had in a long time. The quarterback position is wide open, with Fin and Nicky Winegardner bringing different talents to the field. Being a quarterback is all about accuracy, understanding the offense and making plays.
“We are going to get the ball to (Cornelius) Johnson a lot and he should bring a lot of attention to himself, which will open up opportunities for other receivers to get the ball. We feel we have the potential to fill the holes that we have.”