Rocky Hill football senior captains (l-r) Alex Peruta, Frankie Guerrera, and M.J. Torres will lead a Terriers team that finished 5-5 a season ago.
Rich Dance is entering his fourth year as the head football coach at Rocky Hill High School and there is plenty of reason for optimism.
The Terriers had 60 players come out to play football this year, which marks the single biggest turnout in the 23 years of the program.
“Kids are excited about playing football in Rocky Hill,” stated Dance, who credited his staff with providing a welcoming culture. “The kids are having fun and receiving a rewarding experience in terms of what they are learning and being a part of something special.”
The increased numbers reflect a bright future for the program and this season could be just as fruitful with multiple skill positions returning.
Captains Alex Peruta, M.J. Torres, and Frankie Guerrera are back following all-conference campaigns as juniors.
Peruta returns as a do-it-all middle linebacker after posting a team-high 72 tackles (51 solo) a season ago. He believes the team has a chance to have a “shutdown defense” and added that people should expect to see a “high-octane” team that “plays fast and plays hard.”
Torres started at running back and ran for 574 yards last fall, averaging 5.6 yards per carry, and now adds a senior mentor to his list of duties.
“Nothing in my eyes has really changed,” Torres said of his expanded role. “Yeah I got the captain’s spot, but I still want to push people to the next level and push myself to the next level.”
Guerrera led the team in receiving yards and starred as a defensive back, breaking up a team-high seven passes last fall. He’ll serve in both capacities again and could be utilized in multiple roles offensively. He said there is an infectious energy around the team this year.
“Since we have a lot of returning starters we’ve picked up a lot of things quicker and are installing new things,” added Guerrera.
The toughest piece to replace will be two-way star, Tyreice Dominique, who was the team’s starting quarterback and made all-state as a defensive back.
Dominique is now playing football for the Ravens of Franklin Pierce University in New Hampshire and leaves behind a void of 1,200 rushing yards and 22 total touchdowns offensively, along with a team-high five interceptions on the defensive end.
Replacing Dominique behind center will come down to a competition between senior Thomas Garrahy and sophomore Joey Motes.
Whoever gets the nod will be surrounded by an athletic group of skill positions players, headed by Guerrera, Torres, and junior receiver Oleg Korotkyy.
Both sides of the line are shaping up with returning starters Rockwell Spalding and Chris Adamczyk being joined by up-and-comers Nick Miceli, Eddie Kocaqi, and Aryan Hafeez.
Dance also noted that junior Daryl Asante had a great offseason and should make a big impact defensively.
Seniors Tamoor Ahmed and Yazdan Aftab have the size and athleticism to make waves this season as well.
Entering year four, Dance is happy to have the team at full strength for consecutive seasons for the first time.
Following a 2-8 season in his first year, the ensuing season was canceled because of Covid-19. Last fall, the team posted a solid 5-5 record last fall and gave eventual Class S state champion and undefeated Cromwell/Portland their toughest test of the season in the regular season finale.
Dance said the team has picked up right where they left off a season ago and feels his system, expectations, and culture are all finally in place.
Of the 60 players that turned out for the team, 19 are incoming freshmen. Dance credited the expanding numbers with a strong youth program and a welcoming high school program that incorporates the junior varsity and varsity teams together during practice.
“I wear it as a badge of honor and I think our coaches and our community should too,” added Dance. “It's an exciting time to be part of Rocky Hill football.”
The Terriers open at home, welcoming Hartford Public to McVicar Field on Friday, Sept. 9. Kickoff is at 6:30 p.m.
Guerrera said to expect a team that plays with high energy and never stops competing.
Torres added, “We have to play with a lot of heart this year. Last year we may have gotten down after some bad plays, but this year if that happens we keep our head up. Positive vibes only.”
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin