- COACH — JOE LATO (5th year, 31-14)
- CONFERENCE — SWC Division I
- PLAYOFF CLASS — Class L (529 boys enrolled)
- HOME — Benedict Field, Masuk HS, Monroe
- 2017 RECORD — 11-2 (Lost to Daniel Hand in the Class L final)
- 2018 OPENER — Sept. 7 vs. Brookfield, 7 p.m.
- TEAM WEBSITE — MasukFootball.com, Maxpreps | TWITTER @MasukFB
- COLIN MEROUPOLIS, Jr., DE/OL, (6-2, 210)
- CHRIS TILLOTSON, Jr., WR/CB, (5-8, 155)
- THOMAS JULIANO, Sr., QB, (5-11, 200)
- KEVIN LUKE, Jr., QB/DB, (5-11, 155)
WR/DB Ryan Shaw (All-State), QB Matt Hersch (All-State), RB/LB Jack Roberge (All-State, Transferred to Cheshire Academy), WB/DB Tyler Michalka, WR/LB Michael Zuk, WR/DB Nicholas Lorusso, WR/LB Peter Cosmedy (All-State), LB/OL Jack Duignan (All-State), OL Curtis Swain (All-State), OL/DL Max Mirizio (All-State)
It sure did not take long for Joe Lato to return Masuk to its place among Connecticut’s elite programs. In only his fourth year after coming over from Weston, Lato brought the Panthers back to the Class L championship game, where their bid for the school’s first state title since 2010 was squashed by Daniel Hand, 35-21.
Can Lato keep them there?
It might be difficult.
A whopping 19 seniors graduated, six of whom landed on the All-State team. Also, star running back Jack Roberge — who rushed for 1,299 yards and scored 16 touchdowns in 2017 — transferred to Cheshire Academy. Only two starters return.
“We had 19 great seniors,” Lato said Friday. “We loved them to death. … But now new kids have to make names themselves.”
There’s a gaping hole at quarterback following the departure of Matt Hersch, who passed for a state-best 3,406 yards, 36 touchdowns and only five interceptions in 2017.
Senior Thomas Juliano and junior Kevin Luke — neither of whom has attempted a pass at the varsity level — have split reps throughout preseason.
Lato said he’s liked what he’s seen from Juliano and Luke so far, but has yet to officially announce a starter.
“They are both spread quarterbacks, and they are both progression-type kids,” said Lato, whose team opens the season Sept. 7 against Brookfield at home. “They both throw a good ball. We’ll let it unfold as the season goes.”
The Panthers also must replace Hersch’s two favorite targets, receivers Ryan Shaw and Nicholas Lorusso. They combined to catch 82 passes for 1,566 yards and 21 touchdowns as seniors. Chris Tillotson, who started four games as a sophomore, will be thrust into a larger role at the position.
Almost the entirety of defense that shut down phenom quarterback Drew Pyne and New Canaan in last year’s state semifinals is gone, as well.
While junior Colin Meroupolis is back up front, the departure of all-state lineman Max Mirizio and linebackers Peter Cosmedy, Jack Duignan and Michael Zuk could make it more inviting for teams to run against the Panthers.
When asked if he’s worried about the state of his defense, Lato replied, “Let’s put it this way, I worry every week. I worry about everything. But that’s coaching. In high school football, you cannot just tailor-make a team every year. You get what you get and that’s what you’ve got to do. That’s your identity.
“I’m sure North Haven, even though they like to pound the ball, they’re different every year.”
Lato and Co. will get to see for themselves when they visit the SCC contender on Sept. 14. The Panthers will also host Shelton on Oct. 12, and visit Bunnell and rival Newtown during the second half of the season.
- Sept. 7 — BROOKFIELD,* 7 p.m.
- Sept. 14 — at North Haven, 7 p.m.
- Sept. 21 — POMPERAUG,** 7 p.m.
- Sept. 29 — at Notre Dame-Fairfield,* 12 p.m.
- Oct. 12 — SHELTON, 7 p.m.
- Oct. 19 — at Bunnell,** 7 p.m.
- Oct. 26 — NEW MILFORD,** 7 p.m.
- Nov. 2 — JOEL BARLOW,* 7 p.m.
- Nov. 9 — at Stratford,** 7 p.m.
- Nov. 21 — at Newtown,** 7 p.m.
Home games in CAPS