COACH — ANDY GUYON (3rd year, 6-14)
CONFERENCE — SCC Tier I
PLAYOFF CLASS — L (692 boys enrollment)
HOME — Larry McHugh Field at Xavier High School, Middletown
2018 RECORD — 2-8
2019 OPENER — Sept. 13 at Norwich Free Academy, 6:30 p.m.
TEAM WEBSITES — Maxpreps | TWITTER — @xfalconfootball and @xavierhfbc
LB Nick Hasselman, TE/DE Quinn Zdojerski, S/WR Mike Goralski
This season will be one of intrigue at Xavier.
The Falcons of 2018 did not have the depth of talent of this year’s squad, endured a revolving door at quarterback (five altogether) and had to reset each week for one elite opponent after another. The end result: 2-8.
This season, which begins Friday at NFA, Xavier returns a formidable, senior-laden defense, four returning starters on the offensive line, as well as depth at receiver and in the running game.
What’s new is the starting quarterback — 6-foot-1, 160-pound Drew Kron, who was vying for the role with fellow sophomores Ethan Coady and Kevin Gilhuly. The three got equal time at summer camps and in Xavier’s recent scrimmage games against Wethersfield and Southington to prove themselves before Kron separated himself and won the role.
“He’s got poise, command of the offense, command of the huddle, command of the team,” coach Andy Guyon said. “He kind of won the team over. That’s not to say the others did a bad job. They did a good job, but Drew was just a little bit better.”
Seniors Ryan Miner and Matt Ryan were among the five getting playing time behind center last season. This fall, their ability will be on display at receiver and defensive back, along with seniors KJ Grisham and Osiah Wiggins.
“This is a completely different group that we are still building up as a team,” Guyon said. “Yes, they have experience and know what it’s like to play at this level. We had a good offseason with conditioning, but at the same we still had to dust off the schemes and get them back to doing it again.”
In the backfield, 5-10, 185-pound senior Bryce Sweetapple will be featured alongside senior Andrel Correa. Sweetapple was injured most of last season and is now primed for a breakout year, while Correa did not play last fall after transferring in from Coginchaug. Dom Cartelli, a junior, and sophomores D.J. Wright and Tommy Manganiello also will compete for touches.
“Our offense is extremely multiple in the fact that, with the receiving depth and running back depth we have, we will have the ability to get in and out of many formations,” Guyon said. “We’re not running a thousand plays. We’ll have a few plays, but with different formations and different motions to get into those formations.”
Correa will be a “big factor” in Xavier’s return game, Guyon said, and freshman Ethan Belzek, a former soccer player, will start the season at kicker and also do the punting.
“He is a phenomenal athlete who keeps getting better,” the coach said. “He’s the type of kid who works very, very hard and soaks everything up. He just wants to play and get better.”
Perhaps the heaviest expectations are on the defensive side of the ball. Guyon’s confidence in his front seven is evident, and he singled out senior outside linebacker/tight end and captain Marcellus Ruiz as a Falcon to watch.
“Our defensive line and outside linebackers are very good and we’ve got a couple of corners that are good,” he said. “Marcellus is a really special player, much along the mold of some of the other special outside linebackers we’ve had in the program in the past. If he plays well on defense, we could be very successful.”
Xavier opens the season with three road games in eastern Connecticut – NFA, Fitch and New London – before the schedule turns to an almost-full complement of SCC Tier 1 opponents. Among them are Hand and Shelton, Nos. 1 and 6, respectively, in the GameTimeCT Preseason Top 10.
“I hope we fit in somewhere in the middle (of the division),” Guyon said. “(The SCC) is one of the best football conferences in the state. It’s a different brand of football, I’ll say that. We have an extremely difficult schedule with a team that is improving, but we think we are going to be much better this year. We’ll have to be ready to go in every phase of the game every single week.”
Sept. 13 – at Norwich Free Academy, 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 20 – at Fitch, 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 27 – at New London, 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 5 – HAMDEN,* 7 p.m.
Oct. 11 – at Fairfield Prep,** 6 p.m.
Oct. 25 – SHELTON** (at Palmer Field), 7 p.m.
Nov. 1 – at Notre Dame-West Haven,** 7 p.m.
Nov. 8 – DANIEL HAND,** 7 p.m.
Nov. 15 – NORTH HAVEN,** 7 p.m.
Nov. 22 – WEST HAVEN,** 7 p.m.