2014 High School Football Preview
QB Jake Hedberg will lead Newington in 2014
School is back in session, the leaves are falling, and the temperatures have started to dip. This can only mean one thing—football season has arrived! Last season we saw some incredible individual accomplishments and team performances from our local schools. 2014 is shaping up to be just as compelling with two new head coaches and several budding stars ready to make a name on the gridiron. Here is a preview of what to expect.
Cromwell Eyes Turnaround
Cromwell is looking to rebound after a disappointing 2013 season. Coach Chris Eckert’s squad finished 4-7, losing their final six games. The team had several underclassmen starting last season and the experience the young Panthers gained should help them reverse their fortune this season.
The quarterback position is unsettled, but last season’s leading receiver Jarius Bailey returns for his junior season. He led the team with 856 combined yards and scored six total touchdowns in 2013. Bailey and running back Kristian Sapp will again be asked to carry a bulk of the offensive responsibilities. Sapp burst onto the scene as a freshman last season, leading the team with 609 yards and six touchdowns on the ground.
Junior middle linebacker Mersad Zilkic will be one of Cromwell’s leaders on the defensive side of the ball. He led the team in tackles as a sophomore and is also the team’s center on offense.
The team is searching for a few good legs. Mike McNally, who excelled as a punter and placekicker, graduated and will be kicking it elsewhere in 2014.
New Era in Newington
Eric Hennessy enters his first season as the head coach at Newington High School. He was previously an assistant coach at Concordia University Chicago. The new coach will look to use his collegiate experience to help the team close out games better this season. The Indians finished with a record of 5-6 in 2013, but three of those losses came down to the final possession.
Hennessy takes over a team that is loaded with offensive weapons. Newington’s talented trio of quarterback Jake Hedberg and wide receivers Kyle Armour and Andrew Grenier are all entering their senior seasons. The aerial attack was the team’s strong suit last season. Hedberg threw 22 touchdowns, 17 of those scores had either Armour or Grenier on the receiving end.
Last season’s leading rusher Isaiah Young won’t be back, but senior Tony Orwa will assume the ground duties vacated by the graduate. Orwa also stars as an outside linebacker for the Indian’s defense.
Defensive stalwarts Marcus Gaudarramma and Christian Zotti also graduated. However, Christian’s younger brother, Brendan Zotti returns for his senior season, following a 104 tackle performance as a junior.
Middletown Looking to Make Next Step
Sal Morello is entering his fifth season as the head coach at Middletown High School. He took over a team that was coming off a dismal 1-9 campaign and has since accumulated a record of 32-12 in his four seasons at the helm. Last season, the team was on the cusp of a Class L finals appearance, but Darien upset the Blue Dragons in the semi-finals.
Electrifying quarterback Dario Highsmith returns for his senior season after capturing Connecticut’s Gatorade Player of the Year as a junior. He will again be flanked in the backfield by running back Isaiah Thompkins, who is also entering his senior season.
Junior strong safety Hunter Belzo will help lead a well-rounded defense. The vaunted Middletown defense registered two shutouts and held three other opponents to single digits in scoring last season.
New Regime at Rocky Hill
Rocky Hill is coming off of their best season in the school’s short history, finishing with a 10-2 regular season and winning their first ever playoff game before falling to Ansonia in Class S semi-finals. The loss to Ansonia was the last game in the illustrious career of Dave Coyne, who had been the first and only head coach for the Terriers. Coyne retired following the playoff defeat, opening a new era in Rocky Hill football.
Mark Fritz, who played for Coyne from 2002-2006 and was an assistant of his staff last season, takes over as the sideline leader for Rocky Hill. Fritz, who played collegiately at Central Connecticut State University, has big shoes to fill and also has to replace the bulk of the team’s production last season.
Andrew Jenkelunas, Chris Young, Greg Marzilli, Nick Carducci, and Tommy Seaver helped lead the team on and off the field during last season‘s playoff run. The five seniors combined to lead the team in passing, rushing, receiving, sacks, tackles, and handled the placekicking duties in 2013.
Senior Dave Sevigny, juniors Jason Carducci and Patrick Sullivan, and sophomores Grant Nieves and Ricky Montalvo will be ask to fill the voids left by the exiting graduates.
Wethersfield Riding Wave of Momentum
John Campanello’s team won the final seven games of 2013, finishing 8-3. The seven consecutive victories made the Eagles one of the hottest teams at the end of the regular season, but the team still missed the postseason in the ultra-competitive Class L.
Quarterback Matt Sanzaro returns for his senior season as one of the state’s best signal callers. He shook off an early-season shoulder injury in 2013, finishing with 28 touchdown and only 4 interceptions. The accurate righty will be asked to work with a new group of receivers after losing his top target from last season to graduation. The receivers currently on the roster only caught ten combined passes in 2013.
The team also lost all-conference offensive tackle Geoff Skowronek, who protected Sanzaro’s blindside. Fortunately the team has several offensive linemen returning, led by anchor Andrew Dowd, who is entering his senior season.
Linebacker Richard Williams will again be counted on to be the inspirational leader on defense. The junior led the team in sacks, tied for the team-lead with three interceptions, and finished second in tackles at a sophomore. The all-world athlete also handles the Eagle’s placekicking duties.
Xavier Looking to Get Back to Championship Form
Xavier missed the postseason in 2013, following three straight years as Class LL State Champions. A late-season loss to rival Fairfield Prep ruined the Falcons chances of competing for an unprecedented fourth straight title.
Coach Sean Marinan and his team are looking to get back to championship form, but they will have to replace a couple of key offensive weapons. Quarterback Joe Carbone and running back Andrew Meoli graduated, taking away a big chunk of their offensive production from last season.
Senior Michael Scherer will assume a bulk of the offensive responsibilities and should be the team’s starting quarterback. Fellow senior Chidi Broderick anchors a talented offensive line that will be protecting Scherer. Broderick also shines on the defensive line.
Edwin Luster is a ball hawking cornerback who will patrol the defensive secondary. Linebacker Cole Thorburn will also help lead a talented Falcons’ defense. Both players are entering their senior seasons and combined for five interceptions and nine pass breakups in 2013.
Wethersfield’s Patrick Hallisey is headed to Boston College this fall to further his education and play golf. He spent the summer honing his craft and dominating golf’s junior division before heading north to join the Eagles.
Hallisey, who attended Kingswood Oxford School in West Hartford, shot a 1-under par to capture the American Junior Golf Association Championship at Arcola Country Club in Paramus, New Jersey. He trailed by three strokes going into the final round, but used a handful of birdies to erase the deficit and defeat Brent Ito in a sudden-death playoff. The tournament featured 96 kids from all over the world.
The Boston-bound 18-year-old was also victorious at the Danbury Amateur Golf Championship last month at Richter Park Golf Course. He won that tournament in similar fashion, sinking an 18-foot putt on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff.
Hallisey future may be golf, but he also played hockey as a youth and was part of the elite a cappella group, Crimson 7, at Kingswood Oxford. The former Wyvern vocalist now joins four other Connecticut graduates on Boston College’s golf squad. He will help a team that placed 12th at the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Championship this past season.
Some religions believe that waterfalls symbolize “a place of peace and rest during life’s journey.” This may explain why Newington has an overwhelming feel of tranquility and is the perfect setting for any health and fitness enthusiast.
Newington is home to Mill Pond Brook, which is the smallest natural waterfall in the United States and located in the heart of the diverse town. What the fall lacks in size, it makes up for in character and serenity. The 16-foot waterfall is the backdrop for the Mill Pond Park, located on Garfield Street, which is the ideal venue for anyone looking to get fit this summer.
What’s makes the park fantastic is that it can accommodate people of all fitness levels, offering countless activities that will make working up a sweat pleasurable. The park has eight tennis courts, featuring two separate surfaces and shade coverage. A full-sized basketball court with some of Connecticut’s most-forgiving outdoor rims is located next to the tennis courts.
A swimming pool sits adjacent to the courts and is sectioned off with areas for open swim and designated lanes for lap swim. The pool has changing rooms, showers, lifeguards, and is surrounded by a fence to keep your little ones in and the unwanted critters out. The pool’s water is crystal clear, but they use chlorine to keep it that way, so remember to bring your swimming goggles to prevent eye irritation.
Surrounding the courts and pool are several fields to enjoy all the games we loved as kids, such blindfold tag. The fields are large enough to accommodate any activity, but please be aware that geese migrate from the nearby pond and use these fields as their personal lavatory. Friendly ducks also visit these fields, but if you feed them they will not leave your side and may even follow you home.
Encompassing all these activities and wildlife is a path around the perimeter on the park. The path is wide enough for both leisurely walkers and high intensity runners. The partially paved path takes you directly by the waterfall and a concession stand, which is open to the public.
The waterfall, courts, pool, and fields are enough to put other parks to shame, but the town took its dedication to fitness even further by equipping the park with a handful of exercise machines. The machines--- which include leg extensions, pull-up bar, and seated rows--- are located on the north end of the park. This is your chance to do your favorite fitness center workout without having to hear the steroid-infested guy at the local gym grunting his way through deadlifts.
There is plenty to do at the park, but if you decide to venture out you won’t have to go far to explore the other trails Newington has to offer. You can access Indian Hill Trail directly from the park, which goes in two different directions. If you head west, you will see a beautiful golf course and many of the great neighborhoods of Newington. If you head east, you will reach Cedar Mountain Trail in less than two miles.
On your way to Cedar Mountain you’ll pass through Market Square. This section of town is the epicenter for health and fitness. The square is home to the Newington Yoga Center, CT Workout, World of Nutrition, and Connecticut Kenpo Karate. All four establishments have received glowing reviews online and make the square an exerciser’s paradise.
Just beyond square is the Cedar Mountain Trail. This is a great hike for those that love elevation or an amazing view. The trail will take you up a steep quarter-mile incline before climaxing at the Cedar Mountain ridgeline, which is a lookout with one of the most exquisite views Connecticut has to offer. The entire city can be seen from this lookout point, including the park. To prevent tomfoolery there are local police notices posted, as well as signs reminding hikers to use extreme caution in this area due to the ridgeline’s sudden drop off. Legendary climber and author Reinhold Messer put it best when he said, “Mountains are not fair or unfair. They’re just dangerous.” Amen Reinhold.
The outlook from the Cedar Mountain ridgeline is phenomenal, but this is also where a suspected phenomenon occurred decades ago. In 1965, and again in 1966, there were reports of possible extraterrestrial activity when two separate unidentified flying objects were spotted and reported in the local paper. It’s been nearly fifty years since the last reported sighting, but Halley’s Comet is visible every 75 years, so one can only hope that ALF will make his return to the Newington skies soon.
Beyond the UFO outlook you can continue hiking into the heavily-shaded woods and see a variety of tress, birds, and the occasional possum. Keep in mind that these woods are filled with poison ivy, so it’s best to live by the old adage, “Leaves of three, let it be. Leaves of four, eat some more.” On second thought, I wouldn’t eat any of the foliage. Bring a Clif Bar instead.
The park and Cedar Mountain are great way to spend an afternoon, but if you’re looking for a quicker workout you should visit the other trails around town. Newington Greenway is a mile long jaunt through the woods and Black Hole Trail will take you from Clem Lamire Field to Young Farm. Both will give you the welcoming sights of Newington’s neighborhoods combined with the peacefulness of the surrounding woods.
Now that you’re equipped with the knowledge needed to navigate Newington it’s time to go enjoy all the outdoor offerings of this friendly town. Just remember to follow the Girl Scout’s motto of “Take Only Photos; Leave Only Footprint” along your journey. If one of those photos happens to be of an alien spacecraft or extraterrestrial, please send photo to email@example.com to be published.
Wethersfield is one of the few places remaining in Connecticut that truly symbolizes a typical New England town. It’s rich history and quiet, yet friendly atmosphere makes this area of the state a fabulous place to live and gives fitness fanatics the scenery they crave during the warm summer months.
The town is uniquely separated into two sections by a once-prominent railroad track. On one side of the tracks is the paring of city life with a sprinkle of hometown qualities. The Silas Deane Highway, named after one of Connecticut’s most historical figures, passes through this side and features long sideways to explore the more contemporary aspects of the city. The spacious sideways are a perfect way to spend a weekend afternoon working off the stress from a hectic workweek, while visiting the countless business that fill the busy street. It’ll feel like you’re exploring New York City without the strong scent of garbage wafting in the air.
The town becomes less Seinfield and more Happy Days on the other side of the tracks. This section of the town is referred to as Old Wethersfield and offers an amazing green, local shops, and endless sidewalks to explore as you walk, run, bike or unicycle through one of the nation’s most historical landscapes.
One of the nice qualities of Old Wethersfield is the peace of mind that you’ll enjoy while visiting. Unlike other nearby cities, there is plenty of free parking available before setting out to enjoy the vast array of exercising options available. The Wethersfield Green, located on Broad Street, is a great place to start your workout regimen, offering parking around the length of its perimeter. The green is surrounded by massive trees that offer coverage from the glowing sun and gives workout warriors a brief glimpse into the history that awaits them.
Main Street runs adjacent to Broad Street and is where you can saunter through the heart of our country’s profound past. The historical street is home to both the Silas Deane House and Joseph Webb House. The homes are two of fifty structures in Wethersfield that were built before the Revolutionary War. Most of the buildings and houses on the street have remained in their original state and the sidewalks that pass by them are layered brick, which completes the old-world feel. The bricks are great for the ambiance, but can be uneven, so protect those ankles and knees by watching your step. It might not be a bad idea to dust off the Converse high-top sneakers for this outing.
Main Street is also the place to be if you’re lacking fuel during your workout or need a quick pick-me-up. There are several places that serve outstanding food and beverage, all offering some form of outside seating to allow your muscles to stay warm as your satisfy your empty belly. Part of the charm of Old Wethersfield is that there are no chain eateries, so you can rest assured that you will get a taste that is unlike any other. Most establishments are also animal-friendly, so feel free to bring Fido or your pet chicken for a leisurely stroll down memory lane. Just remember that both your canine and poultry must be on a leash at all times.
While moseying down Main Street make sure to visit Comstock, Ferre & Co., especially if you’re in need of a cold beverage. They are the oldest operating seed company in the United States and offers Connecticut-based products, as well as many products from around the world. More importantly, they have a refrigerator filled with refreshing iced-cold beverages to cool you down during your ventures. I recommend the bottled apple cider, it’s local and delicious.
The street is also home to the First Church of Christ, for those who could use the Lord’s help finishing off a lengthy workout. George Washington once attended this church in the late 1700’s while he was in town for a conference at the Webb House--- which is directly across the street from the church. Washington was known for his affinity for fitness, so he may have scheduled a workout or two during his time in Wethersfield. The nation’s first president was an avid horseman and dancer, but his favorite outdoor activity was chopping down trees, preferably the cherry variety.
About a mile beyond the church you will reach the end of Main Street, but no need to worry, because there is still more immaculate scenery awaiting you. The Wethersfield Cove, which is a huge body of water formed from the runoff of the Connecticut River, is located at the end of Main Street and offers a stunning view of the water, as well as fishing and river access. To the left of the cove you can physically challenge yourself more by exploring the Wethersfield Cove Path. The smooth dirt path will take you into the woods and is ideal for both jogging and biking. A large park is located at the end of the path. The park is perfect for flying kites, playing catch, and chasing squirrels.
In all, the area of Old Wethersfield is approximately 2.3 square miles in size, making it the state’s largest historical district, and perfect for those with slow twitch muscles. Its impressive size also makes it the ideal spot for many events during the summertime. This includes a farmer’s market, which is held every Thursday during the summer from 3-6 p.m. The outdoor fruits and vegetables festivities take place at 220 Hartford Avenue on the outskirts of Cove Park. This is your chance to taste Wethersfield’s world-famous red onions or buy local cucumbers that haven’t been genetically modified in a lab by Bill’s brother, Dill Nye the Science Guy.
Walking Wethersfield is a must for any history buff or for those looking to become buff this summer. Come enjoy the sights and sound of an important place in American history. You will not be disappointed and, if you take advantage of all this tremendous town has to offer, you will leave you with a better sense of history and a few less calories.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin