- Coach: Chris Eckert (4th year, 22-12)
- Conference: Pequot Sassacus
- Playoff Class: S (279 boys enrollment)
- Home: Pierson Park, Cromwell
- 2013 Record: 4-7 (4-2 Pequot North)
- 2014 Kickoff: Sept. 12 at North Branford, 6:30 p.m.
- Team webpages: MaxPreps page
- Jarius Bailey, Jr. QB/CB (5-10, 175)
- Emir Cirikuvic, Sr. WR/FS (6-2, 185)
- Kristian Sapp, Soph. RB/CB (5-8, 155)
- Nelson Carlson, Jr. RB/OLB (5-10, 155)
- Jack Hemsley, Sr. OL/DL (6-5, 250)
- Nick Mazzucco, Sr. T/G/DE (6-0, 190)
- Nate Palambiano, Sr. G/DE (5-7, 200)
- Mersad Zilkic, Jr. MLB/C (6-0, 170)
- Jack Wilson, Jr. MLB/G/DE (5-9, 156)
- Justice Taylor, Jr. DT/MLB (6-1, 275)
Jon Weaver, OL/LB; Joey Chaves, OL/DL; Antwaum Burney, WR/DB, Mike McNally, P/K; Mavric Pelletier, Jr. QB (transfer to Sebastian River, Fla.)
Cromwell High has a glorious football history. Which makes last year an anomaly. The 2013 edition of the Panthers was 4-7 and that was about as uncharacteristic of Cromwell football as the New York Yankees finishing under .500.
Panthers coach Chris Eckert said not to look for a rerun.
“I think we’ll be competitive in every game,” said Eckert, who is entering his fourth season at Cromwell. “We’re going to surprise a few teams. We have a very good offensive line and our skill kids are good.”
Indeed, of the 10 top players he named, six were offensive linemen.
These included key returners senior Jack Hemsley, senior Nick Mazzucco and senior Nate Palambiano. Those whom he expects to step up – three more linemen – include juniors Mersad Zilaic, Jack Wilson and Justice Taylor.
As is usually the case at smaller schools, every one of those players is a two-way player. Hemsley will play on the defensive line as will Mazzucco, Palambiano and Taylor. Zilaic and Wilson figure to start at linebacker.
Eckert went on to name Jarius Bailey at quarterback (and corner), Emir Cirikuvic at wide receiver (and free safety), Nelson Carlson at running back (and outside linebacker) and Kristian Sapp at running back (and corner) as the key skill position players he is counting on.
Bailey takes over for Mavric Pelletier, who threw for 1,400 yards as a sophomore but transferred to Sebastian, Fla. and is playing for Sebastian River High School.
Sapp was thrown into the varsity fire as a freshman last season and figures to be much improved.
Eckert said he had 33 players on the team and said that was a typical turnout at Cromwell.
While Eckert is decidedly upbeat, he has scrimmages remaining with Wilcox Tech on Tuesday and Granby on Friday to get a better handle on things. After that, his club opens up with folks who will be no day at the beach.
The opening game is at North Branford on Sept. 12 at 6:30 p.m. North Branford is a notoriously difficult place to play and coming off a losing season, if Eckert had his druthers, it might not be his No. 1 choice to open.
The Panthers open at home a week later on Sept. 20 at 1:30 p.m. with The Morgan School, a team that is already being touted as very good.
“We have a rough stretch at the beginning,” said Eckert. “No question those will be key games. We’re certainly going to be tested right from the beginning, but if we can get off well, that will mean good things for us this year.”
- Sept. 12 — at North Branford**, 6:30 p.m.
- Sept. 20 — Morgan**, 1:30 p.m.
- Sept. 27 — Nonnewaug*, 1:30 p.m.
- Oct. 4 — at Old Saybrook/Westbrook**, 1 p.m.
- Oct. 11 — Valley Regional/Old Lyme**, 1:30 p.m.
- Oct. 18 — Coventry/Windham Tech/Bolton*, 1:35 p.m.
- Oct. 25 — at Hyde**, 12:01 p.m.
- Nov. 1 — at Lewis Mills*, 1 p.m.
- Nov. 7 — at Enfield*, 7:00 p.m.
- Nov. 14 — Haddam-Killingworth**, 6:30 p.m.
- Nov. 27 — at Coginchaug**, 10 a.m.
-Additional reporting by Sean Patrick Bowley