2018 Rare Reminder NFL Mock Draft
The National Football League draft starts tonight and runs through the weekend. Here’s what the first two rounds of the draft would look like if we entered The Land of Make Believe, in which NFL teams selected from the pool of talented athletes who starred at the five local schools.
Welcome to the 4th Annual Bizarro Draft…
1. Cleveland Browns: Joe Catania (RB- Rocky Hill): The Browns have completely revamped their offense and Catania should be the final piece of the rebuild. His explosiveness, incredible balance and punishing running style will remind Clevelanders of Jim Brown.
2. New York Giants: Stone Belzo (QB/DB- Middletown): A unique two-way player that has thrived as a defender, both in-the-box and in space, and also shined as a quarterback in the fall. Regardless of how new head coach Pat Shurmur uses Belzo, he’s found his field general for the next decade.
3. New York Jets: Damon Stewart (DL- Newington): Stewart’s dominance on the line is unmatched. His length, athleticism, and brute strength will provide position flexibility for a Jets team that has lost a lot of talent on the d-line in recent years.
4. Cleveland Browns: Bryce Karstetter (QB- Crom/Port): The future is now in Cleveland and they pull the trigger on the strong-armed Karstetter. Underrated athlete with great pocket awareness and ability to throw on the run. Made tremendous strides in 2017.
5. Denver Broncos: DeAaron Lawrence (CB- Middletown): There seems to be nothing that Lawrence can’t do athletically. The track and basketball star shined on the gridiron in the fall, intercepting three passes and knocking down seven others as the leader of a vaunted secondary.
6. Indianapolis Colts: Matt Osgood (WR- Rocky Hill): A rare receiving talent with sure hands and the versatility to play outside, in the slot, or as a flex tight end. Osgood will quickly become Andrew Luck’s best friend because of his ability to get open and his physicality after the catch.
7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Max Cyr (OL- Middletown): Exactly the type of fierce lineman that Tampa covets. Drive blocking ability of a guard with prototypal size and pass protection skills of a tackle. An anchor for years to come.
8. Chicago Bears: Dianta Highsmith (WR- Crom/Port): A magnet for the ball. Production in the passing game speaks for itself, but he also came up with four turnovers (two interceptions, two fumble recoveries) on defense. Special combination of ability to separate and physicality.
9. San Francisco 49ers: Conor Keane (OT- Wethersfield): Keane comes with a ton of experience. Ideal size and natural movement to protect San Fran’s new franchise QB. A safe, but wise selection for a team on the rise.
10. Oakland Raiders: James Johnson (DE- Middletown): Production from the opening snap until the last, racking up 7.5 sacks and 17 tackles for loss in the fall. Quarterbacks will quiver at the thought of Johnson and Khalil Mack.
11. Miami Dolphins: Luke Pappalardo (DB- Newington): Instinctual leader with a ton of game experience and production. Ball skills of a receiver with a knack for coming up with game-changing plays and is a great locker room guy.
12. Buffalo Bills: Danny Cavallaro (QB- Rocky Hill): Cavallaro’s confidence and grit will be welcomed in Buffalo. Proven winner with beautiful touch and accuracy, even in colder weather. Has ability to make plays with his feet and not afraid to mix it up or lower his shoulder to finish runs.
13. Washington Redskins: Connor Pace (DB- Wethersfield): Rising star that gets stronger each game. Worker bee with a nose for the ball (four interceptions) and enjoys contact (45 tackles).
14. Green Bay Packers: Joseph Ferreira (RB- Rocky Hill): Decisive, powerful runner with breakaway speed and the ability to cut on a dime. A touchdown factory that will solidify the backfield in Green Bay.
15. Arizona Cardinals: Robert Sanchez (QB/S- Newington): Intriguing two-way prospect. Could be Arizona’s future quarterback or defensive backfield leader because of his tremendous adaptability and athleticism.
16. Baltimore Ravens: Kyle Martin (OL- Crom/Port): Grinder who will help get Baltimore’s rushing attack back on track. Well-coached and ready to start from day one.
17. Los Angeles Chargers: Connor Brennan (DB- Newington): Don’t let Brennan’s size fool you, because he packs a punch. Maximum effort athlete with attacking nature from his time on the lacrosse field.
18. Seattle Seahawks: Will White (S- Rocky Hill): White will put the boom back in the Legion of Boom. Consistent, non-stop motor and is willing to play any position to help the team.
19. Dallas Cowboys: Kitrell Lauray (LB- Crom/Port): Lauray had his fall hampered by injuries, but his burst and explosiveness is hard to duplicate. Plays downhill and with purpose.
20. Detroit Lions: Rossano DiGiacomo (LB- Wethersfield): Zach Thomas-type player who uses his leverage and football acumen to take over games. A tackling machine that is difficult to block.
21. Cincinnati Bengals: Anthony Feliciano (OL- Rocky Hill): Pro-ready mauler that fills a need in Cincy. Great short-area blocker with power to eliminate bigger opponents and quickness to get to the second level.
22. Buffalo Bills: Mike Souza (LB/S- Middletown): Versatile athlete that thrived near the line of scrimmage and may be a safety at the next level. Plays with an edge and is disciplined.
23. New England Patriots: Dante Baker (LB- Rocky Hill): Steal at this point in the draft. Fast-twitch athlete with explosive power. Willing to play multiple roles, which will serve him well with the emperor of New England.
24. Carolina Panthers: Derrick Vereen (DL- Middletown): Makes his living in the opposing team’s backfield (15 tackles for loss) and can play in both 4-3 and 3-4 schemes. A matchup problem.
25. Tennessee Titans: Ryan Skelly (WR- Wethersfield): Captains mentality and is deceptively long with run-after-catch ability. Runs the entire route tree with precision and has outstanding body control.
26. Atlanta Falcons: Matt Wolak (OL- Crom/Port): Adds linebacker’s mobility and intelligence to Atlanta’s front line. High-character prospect with an incredible drive and will not be outworked.
27. New Orleans Saints: Austin Harnish (DT- Wethersfield): Wrestling background allows him to dominate with leverage and power. Versatile athlete, excelled on both sides of ball.
28. Pittsburgh Steelers: Stephen Hill Jr (LB- Middletown): Young, tenacious prospect with a ton of upside. 80 tackles this fall and is exactly the type of dynamite defender that excels in Pittsburgh.
29. Jacksonville Jaguars: Kyle Sanzo (OL- Rocky Hill): Adaptable lineman that plays with passion and can fill multiple roles. Solid choice for budding team loading up on talent.
30. Minnesota Vikings: Carlum Caldwell (WR/KR- Newington): Adds explosiveness to an offense in transition. Speedster can take any pass or kick to the house.
31. New England Patriots: Jack Hansen (DB- Rocky Hill): Long, lean athlete that can jump and is a major asset on special teams. Blankets receivers and is always around the ball.
32. Philadelphia Eagles: Nico Cavaliere (DB- Middletown): Experience defensive back with active hands. Not afraid to support the run, which is a must in Philly.
33. Cleveland Browns: Mitchell Quadrato (DE/OLB- Wethersfield): Youthful, rising star that is explosive off the edge, racking up a handful of sacks this fall.
34. New York Giants: Brendan Dowd (LB- Wethersfield): Intriguing prospect with great size. Tough as nails and a natural leader, having played both middle linebacker and quarterback over the last two seasons.
35. Cleveland Browns: Diamante Baker (LB/DB- Rocky Hill): Supreme athlete with a ton of upside. Rangy and can play in space or near the line, reminiscent of Thomas Davis when he came out of Georgia.
36. Indianapolis Colts: Osbourne Richards (OL/DL- Middletown): Immovable brick wall, offering a lot of flexibility on both sides of the line. Ascending stud is just entering his prime.
37. Indianapolis Colts: Mike Foster (DE/OLB- Middletown): Relentless motor, high-intensity thumper that reminds many of Clay Matthews III. Ceiling is sky high.
38. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Aveontae Frazier (RB- Newington): Shifty back with supreme lateral burst and finishes runs with purpose. High-character kid who comes from an athletic family.
39. Chicago Bears: Bobby Balesano (DE/OLB- Wethersfield): Natural instincts and explosion off the line. Also played running back and is great with the ball in his hands.
40. Denver Broncos: Brent Robbins (RB- Crom/Port): Captain who can adapt to multiple roles. A leg-churning back with a nose for the end zone, evidenced by dozen TDs in 2017.
41. Oakland Raiders: Liam Coleman (LB/S: Crom/Port): Great vision and instincts. Doubled as a receiver, and will high-point and compete for 50/50 balls.
42. Miami Dolphins: Cole Fishberg (FB- Rocky Hill): Old school football mentality and toughness, brings defensive mindset to the offensive side. Tom Rathman clone at the next level.
43. New England Patriots: David Colon (CB- Wethersfield): Great technique and breaks on the ball quickly. Not shy about supporting the run either.
44. Washington Redskins: Jack Shauck (DT- Crom/Port): Stout run-stuffer, who has the size and length for the next level. Heady captain with a fantastic work ethic.
45. Green Bay Packers: Nick Kerlejza (LB- Newington): Fluid from sideline to sideline and remarkable recognition in pass defense. Speed and surge to chase down ball carriers.
46. Cincinnati Bengals: Johnny Cravero (S- Wethersfield): Equally impressive in run support and pass coverage. A playmaker who will continue to grow and flourish with more experience.
47. Arizona Cardinals: Kevin Hinkle (CB- Crom/Port): An absolute steal at this point in the draft. Excels when the ball is in the air and is a shadow to receivers. Mature beyond years and came into his own this fall.
48. Los Angeles Chargers: Ryan Pirre (C- Rocky Hill): Incredibly adaptable player who turned into a devastating blocker this fall. A team-first guy that will do all the dirty work inside.
49. Indianapolis Colts: Camryn Wynn (TE- Middletown): Athletic enough to play outside and a daunting matchup as an in-line tight end. Natural hands catcher.
50. Dallas Cowboys: Gage Davis (LB- Middletown): Plays downhill and attacks the ball. Workout warrior wants to deliver a statement on every play.
51. Detroit Lions: Xzavier Reyes (RB- Middletown): Highly productive back that is swift through the hole and can carry a heavy load. Thievery this late in the second round.
52. Baltimore Ravens: Alex Boutin (DL- Rocky Hill): Burgeoning star with superior size and strength. Sneaky good athlete who is assertive and will not be pushed around.
53. Buffalo Bills: Julian Mulero (DL- Newington): Young buck who exploded onto the scene this fall. Phenomenal run-stuffer that will continue to shine with more experience.
54. Kansas City Chiefs: Matt Gerhart (LB- Wethersfield): Reliable three-down backer who pursues and tracks the ball well. Game intelligence is off the charts.
55. Carolina Panthers: Greg Fernstrom (DL- Rocky Hill): Injury hampered season, but has the size and attitude to dominate the line of scrimmage. Willing to do anything for the team, including lead block.
56. Buffalo Bills: Josh Cronkhite (OLB- Wethersfield): Team-player who sets the edge very well. Locker room leader and won’t be outworked.
57. Tennessee Titans: Isayah Burgos (DL/LB: Newington): Solid enough to play the line and athletic enough to play in space. Sure tackler with a lot of field time.
58. Atlanta Falcons: Devon Kilham (DB- Crom/Port): Next level footwork, tracks the ball well, and flies downhill to support the run. Duel threat with breakaway speed and can be used on either side of the ball.
59. San Francisco 49ers: Tyreece Lumpkin (RB/PR- Middletown): Lightning in a bottle that can take it the distance on any given touch, evidence by his 10 TDs this fall. The next Darren Sproles?
60. Pittsburgh Steelers: Garrett Dandridge (DB/KR- Middletown): Elite track speed makes him a return threat from day one. Coverage skills are overlooked but he picked off two passes and knocked down 10 others last season.
61. Jacksonville Jaguars: Craig Elliott (QB: Wethersfield): Works hard at his craft and has a lively arm. Battled injuries, but has all the tools to be an upper echelon signal caller.
62. Minnesota Vikings: Bryan Lockwood (RB- Crom/Port): Just getting started. Explosive back that has the chance to become something really special.
63. New England Patriots: Mike Aresco (K-Middletown): Record-breaking kicker is too good to pass up. Checks all the boxes --- leg strength, accuracy and cool in the clutch.
64. Cleveland Browns: Kamani Chambers (OT- Newington): Great value at the end of the second round. Ideal size, aggressiveness, and finishing skills to pass protect and pave the way for the run.
Middletown's Stone Belzo and Cromwell/Portland's Kitrell Lauray
Winning state championships have become the norm for the boys’ volleyball program at Newington.
Coming off a Class M state title last spring, the Indians opened the 2018 season with back-to-back wins over Simsbury. They defeated the Trojans in three sets at Simsbury last Monday and then won their home opener (25-12, 29-27, 25-8) at NHS last Wednesday night.
“We have a good group back. Six guys are on the team from the 2017 title team but they were in lesser roles and a lot of them never saw the court, but now they have morphed into starters and that’s a big difference,” head coach Curt Burns said following the successful home opener, “Even though they were on the team last year their roles are much more demanding this year.”
Junior Leonel Caceres is one of those who have been thrust into a larger role this season. He was integral part of the rotation during the championship run a season ago, earning all-conference honors along the way, and has expanded his game even more this season.
“Over the offseason I worked really hard on passing and serving and being an outside instead of a middle,” said Caceres, who had a team-high ten kills in Wednesday night’s win, “In the middle you only play three rotations but I wanted to be a bigger part of the team so I focused more on my passing and my hitting.”
Fellow junior Louis Egbuna saw very little varsity action a season ago, but leads the team in kills and is tied for a team lead with four aces after the first two matches.
“He’s a little taller and a little stronger,” Burns said of Egbuna’s development, “He’s taken his game to a higher level than it was last year, but that’s excepted because he’s a junior and he’s going to take on a bigger role.”
The players may change every couple of seasons but the results remain the same and the one constant has been Burns, who has guided the Indians to four state titles in since 2012.
Last season ended with a exhilarating five-set victory over South Windsor in Plainville. The Indians dropped the first two sets before rallying to take the next three, securing their fourth championship in six seasons.
Eight seniors from the 2017 title team graduated, including three all-conference players and all-state libero Kevin Bilbraut.
Bilbraut was instrumental in helping turn the state championship game around, registering 31 digs and diving all over the court to making several match-altering saves.
Understudy Collin Liedke has assumed the role and picked up where the Bilbraut left off.
“Collin has stepped in with the extra work that he did in club season. He’s a soccer player in the fall but in the winter time he plays club volleyball, which I think six of my guys did,” said Burns, “They come in with a lot of extra volleyball and reps and that’s important.”
Senior Evan Metzger and Dan Cloutier also played club volleyball in the offseason and are splitting time at the setter’s positions this season. As juniors they both played very well, especially in the state championship game when Metzger dished out 55 assists and Cloutier came off the bench to serve up a pair of timely aces.
A trademark during Newington’s dynasty has been constancy from the setter’s position and this spring the veteran coach has two players with the talent and experience to do the job.
“It’s a nice problem to have. I would like to play them both but it’s like when you have two quarterbacks on a football team. It’s nice to have two that are capable of playing that role. They are both very capable, but as a coach I have to make the decision on who is the starter but it doesn’t mean that it’s going to be that way the rest of the year,” said Burns, who gave Cloutier the starting nod in the home opener, “He’s a very good athlete. He’s very smooth. I like to say that he’s a cool customer, he’s very calm and cool and he doesn’t get rattled and he knows how to right the ship when we need it.”
“They’re both great setters. I feel comfortable with both of them,” added Caceres, who is one of the team captains, “The way they play is different, their tempo is different, but they are both phenomenal setters. It’s fun to play with both of them.”
The two setters and the overall depth give Burns an added luxury that the team needed during the second set Wednesday night. The visiting Trojans went toe-to-toe with the Indians and forced extras, before Carceres finally ended the long set with a spike.
“We just want to make the game interesting,” joked Carceres, “It’s good to get it out of the way now and it’s good for our team to get that experience for later.”
“Give credit to them, they played hard and got after it defensively. They really frustrated us, but at the same time we showed enough resolved with our abilities to be able to weather that and still close out the set. We didn’t except it to go into extra points, but we came out very dominant in the third set, which is more what I except of our group.,” said Burns, whose team scored the first eight points of the third and final set, “One thing we have on this team is depth. I have guys that I brought in at the end of the set that could be starters. Maybe a little test is good for us, but you never want to go more than the three set. That’s what you shoot for every match.”
The team is not only deep, but they’re young and versatile as well. Cloutier was the only senior to start in the home opener, but the other six starters come with an extensive athletic background.
“We had 42 guys try out which is the highest in recent memory. We sell it because we have the championships and guys want to jump in and play for a ring. We have some new athletic guys joining the program this year, like Mason Romano who plays basketball,” stated Burns, “The real difference is that we’re getting the multi-sport athletes. Keenan Esau plays football and basketball, Teddy Fravel also plays football and basketball. Now we’re getting the true athletes of the school that are coming out for the sport. The physical strength and size, plus the athleticism, is a nice thing to have in volleyball. If a guy can play tight end in football and center in basketball, he can probably play volleyball as well. Basketball ability translates well to volleyball, we’re a jumping sport and you have to be big and tall.”
Romano and Fravel are manning the middle, standing 6’4” and 6’6”, respectively. Their length allows Caceres and Egbuna to do what they do best on the outside, which is ending rallies with thunderous spikes.
“Personally I like the spike. I’ll leave the blocking to the middles,” stated Caceres, who improved his vertical leap by three inches since last spring, “Last year we were more of a laid back team and this year it is more focused. Losing five starters is no easy task so we have to be focused in practices and focused in games and we just want to get the job done. If we have highs, we get hyped for a couple of second but then it’s back to business. If we have lows, nobody is going to hang their heads. We like to be level.”
Caceres added that the team must get better and more aggressive with their serving as the year progresses in order to give them a shot at repeating.
“We’re a work in progress, it’s only the first week. Obviously weather has been a factor, we only get one court and we have limited space because of the weather, but once weather breaks we’ll have more gym space and we can do more training and things like that. Right now we just got thrown into the fire,” added Burns.
So far it’s been a good start for Burns and his boys, who are aiming to duplicate the feat of the 2014 and 2015 teams, which won back-to-back state titles.
The team is finishing up a pair of road matches before returning to NHS this Friday, April 13 for a rematch with Lewis Mills, who they also rallied to defeat in last season’s tournament after dropping the first two sets.
Friday’s home match starts at 5 p.m.
Winter Sports Wrap-Up
Rocky Hill's Lilah Devine, Elizabeth Stockman, Victoria Bowers and Annie White shined on the local tracks and also combined for 3rd place in the distance medley at the Eastern States Championships in New York on Feb 20
Thanks to several nor’easters, which rocked Connecticut for a majority of March, the winter sports season was literally a blur. Once the dust---err---snow settled it ended up being one of the most entertaining and successful local seasons to date. Here’s a look back at a snowy season that was.
Cromwell won the Division V state championship, defeating Wamogo 58-40 at Mohegan Sun on March 17. Noah Budzik led all scorers with 22 points in the victory, ending his senior season averaging a team-high 15.7 points per game. Budzik and fellow senior Reese Reyes (9.5 points and 5.7 rebounds) were named all-state following the program’s first title since 2009.
Rocky Hill back-pedaled into the Division IV tournament before steamrolling their way to the championship game with four road victories over higher-seeded teams. The Terriers fell to Kolbe Cathedral in the title game, but the team gave the locals a real life underdog story and earned the much-deserved name of Road Dawgs. Senior Andrew DiMatteo solidified the middle all season, earning all-state honors.
Wethersfield won 16 of 20 regular season games and a tournament game before falling to Glastonbury in the Division II quarterfinals. Mike Mozzicato earned all-state recognition following a very productive senior season.
Wethersfield won 14 regular season games and added three tourney wins, including a thrilling 71-69 overtime victory over East Lyme in the Class L quarterfinals. Nicole Gwynn posted a triple-double (15 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) in the quarterfinals victory and the Eagles drained 15 three-pointers as a team. The Eagles were eventually ousted by Farmington in the semifinals but will return three starters next season.
Rocky Hill earned their first ever trip to the semifinals, winning 16 regular season games and three more Class M tournament games, including a historic 55-42 home victory over Stonington in the quarterfinals. All-state selection Nikki Lukens reached the 1000-point career mark in a gut-wrenching semifinal loss to East Haven.
Cromwell won the Shoreline Conference championship, defeating Coginchaug 55-51 in title bout, following a 17-win regular season. The Panthers also won in the opening round of Class M action, but were upset in the second round by Career. Jenna Serrantino led the team in scoring, averaging over 17 points per game and earning all-state honors during her senior season.
Wethersfield finished fourth in the Class M state finals at Pomperaug in late February. Madison Bradbury led the way for the Eagles, including posting an impressive 8.925 score in the floor exercise. Erin Nargi, Abby Sullivan, Sarah Gordon, and Jessica Pratt also performed at the event.
Bradbury and Sullivan went on to compete in the State Open on March 3. Bradbury placed 23rd overall, posting an 8.6 in the uneven bars to finish 12th in the event.
Newington co-op won 13 regular season games to qualify for the Division III tourney. The Indians then defeated Housatonic-NW-Wamogo 3-2 in overtime to win in the opening round. Matt Lavoie scored the game-winning goal in the extra session, while Kyle Bucher and Ethan Ranger netted goals in regulation. The team fell in the second round to Southington. Ranger, who had a team-high 30 points, and goalie David Mix earned all-state honors.
Following a 12-win regular season, co-op Wethersfield/Middletown/Rocky Hill/Plainville also won their opening round game in Division III, downing Brookfield/Bethel/Danbury 7-2. Junior Ben Mroczka tallied a hat trick and freshman Aaron Cholewa added another goal and two assists. Trevor Piecewicz, who tallied a team-high 40 points, and defenseman Cameron Partridge, who had 224 steals, were selected to the all-state team.
Rocky Hill sophomore Elizabeth Stockman continues to outrun the competition. Stockman won the 3200 meters at the Open Finals on Feb 17 at Floyd Little Athletic Center in New Haven. At the same event, Stockman combined with Lilah Devine, Annie White, and Maren Valente for a fourth-place finish in the 4x800 relay.
As a team, the Terriers finished at the runner-ups at the Class M championships in early February. Stockman won both the 1600 and 3200 meters at the event, while Devine, White, Valente, and Talia Carlone finished second in the 4x800. Victoria Bower also had a third-place showing in the 300 meter.
Cromwell’s Andraya Yearwood won the 55 meter dash and finished as the runner-up in the 300 meters at the Class S finals.
In the Class L finals, Middletown’s Garrett Dandridge won the 55 meters, while Wethersfield’s George Stoughton won both the long and high jumps.
Wethersfield finished third overall at the Class M finals. Blake Fulton won the 100 freestyle and finished as the runner-up in the 100 backstroke. The senior joined forces with Caleb Skowronek, Austin Bovino, and Holden Hoon for a second place finish in the 200 medley relay, and a third place showing in the 400 freestyle relay with Skowronek, Hoon, and Shane Bresnahan.
Freshman Hadden Gault finished as second overall in the diving competition.
Wethersfield placed sixth overall at the Class L finals thanks to five top-five placements. Alec Arnold finished second in the 160 pound weight class, falling to Bristol Eastern’s Michael Barrett in the championship match. Austin Harnish (195) finished third, Michelangelo Bolorin (138) finished fourth, and Matthew Laurie (126) finished fifth.
At the same event, Middletown’s Elijah Cyr placed fifth in the 106 pound division.
In Class S action, Rocky Hill’s Thomas Dimatteo (220) took home fifth place.
Wethersfield’s cheer team won the CCC-North and also posted a score of 142.7 to place 12th in the Class L championships.
Cromwell cheerleaders finished 7th in the Class S final, finishing with an overall score of 131.1.
Wethersfield’s dance team finished as the runner-up in the Pom Division at the state competition in Hamden on Feb 24. The host Green Dragons edged the Eagles to take the title.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin