- Coach: T.J. CAVALIERE (3rd year, 12-10)
- Conference: SWC Colonial
- Playoff Class: M (485 boys enrollment)
- Home: Penders Field
- 2015 Record: 7-4 (4-1 Colonial), lost to Killingly in Class M quarterfinals
- 2016 Kickoff: Sept. 9 at Masuk, 6 p.m.
- Team website: StratfordHSFootball.com | MaxPreps
- NATE SHIELDS, Sr. DB/WR (6-2, 185)
- CONNOR ANSTIS, Sr. QB (6-1, 175)
- BOBBY VENA, Sr. OL (5-11, 245)
- ALEX PENA, Sr. DB/RB (5-10, 165)
- DANTE FRANCIS, Sr. DB (5-10, 165)
WR/DL Mar’Quess Daniels; FB/LB David Davidson; WR Jack Duffy; C Adam Diaz; DB Freddie Clark; G/DT Luis Villanueva;DL John Cox; DL Pat Lepesko, FB Brett Patrick.
Stratford had quite the roller-coaster season in 2015. The Red Devils dealt with an early-season (and, let’s be honest: overblown) controversy which resulted in a two-week suspension for coach T.J. Cavaliere. But they paid it no mind, played well and reached the postseason for the first time in 10 years.
Though Stratford lost to Killingly in the first round of the Class M tournament, the season, which included the program’s first Thanksgiving Day victory over Bunnell, was vindication for Cavaliere’s young program and its large and talented senior class.
But as the 2016 season dawns, a significant chunk of the team’s starters have graduated, including all-state WR/DE Mar’Quess Daniels, who led a fearsome defensive front with John Cox and Pat Lepesko and held opponents to 17.7 points per game.
Yet, Cavaliere believes there are enough pieces to earn back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 2006-07.
Above: Highlight reel for DB Nate Shields, who was a CHSCA Class M all-state player for Stratford last season.
Seven starters (three on offense, four on defense) return to help including All-State defensive back and receiver Nate Shields and quarterback Connor Anstis.
Shields, who is also a starter on Stratford’s boys basketball team, averaged 3.4 tackles a game and had an interception and eight pass defenses last year.
Shields is joined by fellow veteran DBs Dante Francis and Alex Pena. Francis led the team with three interceptions last season and is one of Stratford’s top-returning tacklers. So, Stratford’s secondary looks to be a strength. But the defensive front seven will be hard-pressed to repeat last year’s dominant performance unless new stars emerge.
On offense, Anstis is a steady hand who threw for 1,343 yards and 12 touchdowns in Stratford’s ball-control offense. But the Red Devils also lost a majority of their wide receivers and running backs. Pena looks to be an option at tailback and, despite the heavy graduation, Cavaliere says the team has plenty of upcoming athletes to fill the gaps.
One of Cavaliere’s biggest concerns is his offensive line, which graduated just about everyone except senior Bobby Vena. “(We) need players to step up quickly,” he said.
Stratford started last season 4-0, which went a long way toward spurring the team to the playoffs. This year, Stratford kicks off the season with two home games, albeit against contenders Masuk and Newtown. So unless this group discovers itself quickly, Stratford could find itself in an early hole.
Fortunately for the Red Devils, the rest of the schedule appears much more manageable against teams of similar strength. It’ll be tougher, but there’s still plenty of opportunity to make the same kind of run as last year.
|Sept. 9||vs. Masuk**||3 p.m.|
|Sept. 16||vs. Newtown**||7 p.m.|
|Sept. 23||at Weston*||1:30 p.m.|
|Sept. 30||at Barlow*||2:30 p.m.|
|Oct. 14||at Pomperaug**||1:30 p.m.|
|Oct. 21||vs. Brookfield*||1:30 p.m.|
|Oct. 28||at New Milford**||1:30 p.m.|
|Nov. 4||vs. Bethel*||7 p.m.|
|Nov. 11||vs. Notre Dame-Fairfield*||1:30 p.m.|
|Nov. 24||at Bunnell**||10:30 a.m.|