(Wethersfield quarterback Craig Elliott is back for an Eagles football team loaded with seniors)
Middletown and Wethersfield highlight kickoff weekend as they battle at Middletown High School on Friday, Sept 7 at 7 pm. The rival teams have split the last four meetings, with the Blue Dragons winning each of the last two years.
Middletown won all ten regular season games a year ago behind a balanced attack. The Blue Dragons offense could look a whole lot different this season but their defense has many familiar faces returning, including standouts Stephen Hill Jr, Gage Davis, Osbourne Richards, and Mike Foster.
Wethersfield won only four games a season ago but has a ton of experience coming back this fall, including a healthy Craig Elliott at the helm. Connor Pace, David Colon, Bobby Balesano, Luke Kelleher, John Tine, Mitchell Quadrato, and Austin Harnish are just a few of the players who made big impacts a season ago and will be back in starting roles this year.
Cromwell/Portland just missed the playoff, finishing 8-2 in 2017. Senior captain Bryce Karstetter is back under center for a third straight season and he’ll be counted on more than ever after the departure of many key pieces on offense. Head coach Randall Bennett will be tasked with replacing some anchors along both sides of the line of scrimmage but that’s his specialty so expect the Panthers to be solid in the trenches again. Keep your eyes on seniors Devon Kilham, Kevin Hinkle, Zac Cyr, Dudley Salmon, and Bryan Lockwood, who could all be primed for breakout seasons. The Panthers open at home (Pierson Park) against Rockville on Friday, Sept 7 at 6 pm.
Newington finished 3-7 last fall during Jason Pace’s first season on the local sidelines. There will be plenty of new faces on the field this season but senior Brandon Kamansky and junior Julian Mulero are back to help solidify both sides of the ball. Junior Keenan Esau seems to be the frontrunner to take over the quarterbacking duties, after getting some experience under center a season ago, but it could be an open competition. Newington has back-to home games to start the season, including the opener against Amistad on Friday, Sept 7 at 6:30 pm.
For the second straight season Rocky Hill graduated a large senior class after finishing the regular season undefeated and advancing to the semifinals. Head coach Mark Fritz only has a handful of senior this season as he looks to retool both sides of the ball. Senior Belall Matar and juniors Alex Boutin and Ja’quan Graham will assume bigger roles this season as the Terriers aim for a third straight postseason appearance. The team opens at home against Northwest Catholic on Friday, Sept 7 at 7 pm.
Wethersfield won five games and qualified for postseason before taking #1-seed Pomperaug to the limit in the opening round of the tourney. Head coach Colleen Budaj graduated a lot of senior leadership but will have a hungry group looking to build off last season’s success. The Eagles home opener is Monday, Sept 10 against Stafford at 4:15 pm.
Newington didn’t win a game last season but have all-conference player Maya Gajowiak returning for her senior season. The Indians have a chance to get off to a fast start, playing five of their first seven at home including a battle with Wethersfield on Friday, Sept 21 at 3:45 pm.
Rocky Hill and Wethersfield start the season in style, facing one another at McVicar field at RHHS on Friday, Sept 7 at 3:45 pm. Wethersfield is coming off an 11-win season, including a tourney win, while Rocky Hill struggled through a 5-11 season last fall, but the arrow is pointing up with all-conference players Chris Conlan and Jake Rajotte returning.
Newington won only five games a year ago but 2018 should be a different story with the return of three all-conference player in Hermish Adarkwah, Trey Sadler, and Aslan Tate. The Indians home opener is against Rocky Hill on Wednesday, Sept 12 at 6 p.m.
Cromwell advanced deep in the Class S tourney last fall and nearly upset the eventual champion, Morgan, in the quarterfinals. The Panthers open at home against rival Morgan on Friday, Sept 7 at 6 pm.
Rocky Hill and Wethersfield are both coming off successful campaigns and will clash at Cottone Field to start the 2018 season on Friday, Sept 7 at 6:30 pm.
The Terriers won 15 games, including a pair of tourney games, before losing on penalty kicks to the eventual Class M champs, Granby, in the quarterfinals. The team could be even better this season as they return four all-conference players in Annie White, Bella Montalvo, Nicole Zarrilli, and Sarah Zarrilli.
The Eagles won 11 regular season games a season ago and also have a lot of talent returning, including Alyssa Prosperi and goaltender Megan Keleher.
Cromwell is fresh off a 12-win season and a quarterfinals appearance in 2017. The Panthers have a chance to get off to a fast start with four of their first six games at home, including the opener against Old Saybrook on Thursday, Sept 6 at 6 pm.
Newington is primed for a breakout season after splitting their games last season. All-conference players Abby Molloy, Zoe Walk, and Olivia Mullings return and there is plenty of young talent behind them. The Indians open at home, hosting New Britain on Friday, Sept 7 at 3:45 pm, before travelling to Rocky Hill for a measuring stick game against the Terriers on Wednesday, Sept 12 at 6 pm.
Newington and Rocky Hill square off in a pivotal early-season match as the Indians welcome the Terriers to NHS for a match on Wednesday, Sept 12 for a match at 6 pm.
Newington graduated a lot of leadership and experience after a 15-win season, which included a tourney victory. Filling the voids will be Carelys Benitez, Alaysia Hall, and Sara Caceres, who should all be back after productive 2017 seasons.
Rocky Hill missed the postseason a year ago and lost two captains to graduation but superstar Julia O’Connor returns for her senior season.
Cromwell won 14 matches, including a pair in the tourney, a season ago before losing some key pieces. Captains Aijha Caccio and Sadie Budzik will assume bigger roles as the team opens the regular season at home against Old Lyme on Thursday, Sept 6 at 5:30 pm.
Wethersfield made the tourney last fall before graduating three all-conference players. The Eagles will have a lot of new faces on the court as they travel to Rocky Hill for their season opener on Friday, Sept 7 at 5 pm.
Cromwell hosts their 8th annual CT River Valley Invitational on Saturday, Sept 15 at 7 a.m. The host Panthers will have senior Emma Drzewiecki and sophomore Taylor Santos pacing the girls, while Connor Daly leading the way for the boys.
Wethersfield will join the festivities at CHS as Michael Dunn will head the boys’ squad and Isabella Samse will pace the girls.
Elizabeth Stockman and Lilah Devine return to the course for Rocky Hill after finishing first and third in the Class M finals last fall. The Terriers will host Northwest Catholic at Elm Ridge Park on Tuesday, Sept 11 at 3:45 pm.
Middletown is loaded with speed on both sides, including Matthew Lecky, Ariana Monarca and Nicole Nenninger. The school will host the Blue Dragons Invitational on Friday, Sept 7 at 3:30 pm.
Newington returns talented trail blazers Samuel Geisler, Aiden Toth, and Samantha Gorski.
Wethersfield always sets the standard in the pool and this season should be no different. The Eagles are coming off a 5th place finish in Class L after winning all ten regular season meets. State champion Abigail Francis is back for her senior season as the team starts with three straight homes meets, beginning with Conard on Tuesday, Sept 11 at 5 pm.
Newington’s first home meet is Friday, Sept 14 against Middletown at 4 pm.
Rocky Hill’s first home meet is Monday, Sept 17 against East Catholic at 3:45 pm.
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Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin