The GHS freshman football team won nine of ten games this fall.
Glastonbury High School’s freshman football team has laid the groundwork for a bright future for the program.
The first-year Guardians just wrapped up a 9-1 season with a commanding 34-6 win at Xavier on Nov. 18.
First-year high school coach Ken Falzone took over as the freshman head coach/offensive coordinator following years of coaching youth football in Glastonbury.
Varsity head coach Eric Hennessy knew Falzone had worked closely with the incoming freshmen and asked him to guide the 9th graders this fall.
“It definitely helped that I had established a relationship with these kids. It’s a close group,” said Falzone, who has coached some as the players dating back to second grade. “One of the great parts about the Glastonbury program is that Coach Hennessy runs it like a college program. Our varsity coaches spend just as much time with the freshmen as they do the upperclassmen. That’s a great setup and benefits the freshmen tremendously.”
The incoming players entered GHS after having their 2020 youth season cancelled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Falzone said the lost eighth grade season motivated the group, adding, “Right away I knew that they cared and you can tell they don’t take anything for granted. They immediately built comradery and you could see that coming through on the field.”
The season started with impressive conference wins over Conard and Southington before a COVID scare left them with only 14 players for their third game against East Hartford.
Despite playing ironman football, the young Guardians pulled off a miraculous home win against a big, physical team from East Hartford.
Falzone stated it was one of his proudest moments as a coach, “Somehow we pulled that out. Kids stepped up into new positions and the effort they made to get through that week with that skeleton crew was amazing. I knew at that point we had something special.”
Once the team was back at full strength, they breezed through the next five opponents, improving their record to 8-0.
Offensively they averaged 29 points per game thanks to equally impressive air and ground attacks. Quarterback Nick Falzone (coach Falzone’s son) and speedy receiver Luke Shannon had a natural chemistry, connecting on eight touchdowns. Shannon led a deep receiving group, featuring Adam Howey, Jalen Welch, Alex Giroux, Peter Ethier, and Kyle Hatcher.
The ground game was powered by an offensive line that consistently controlled the line of scrimmage. Center Sean Gherard, tackles Dylan LeTourneau, Niall Easton, and Logan Thomas, along with guards Luke Baran and Ryan Jackson open holes for a stable of talented backs.
Running backs David Smith and Anthony DuBaldo provided the smash-mouth running inside, while Isaiah Aviles and newcomer Carmelo Rafala provided the flash on outside runs.
The defense, led by defensive coordinator Kurt Thomas, surrendered a paltry 11 points per game.
Baran, Easton, and Jackson controlled the first line of defense, creating a havoc-wreaking defensive front.
Manning the second level was a group of fast, physical linebackers, led by inside backers Smith (the team’s leading tackler) and DuBaldo. Savvas Aspris, Amish Bhattarai, Kyle Amirault, and Max Bonadies provided the edge rush as outside linebackers.
The strength of the defense was their pass defense, which intercepted 13 passes and returned four of them for touchdowns. The secondary consisted of cornerbacks Massimo DeFranco, Tanner Thomas, Mason Amato, and Welch, along with multifaceted safeties Camden Combs and Luke Lavery.
The one blemish in the team’s record came during a week nine loss (25-22) to Maloney.
“That was a tough one and [the players] could have easily checked out, but thankfully they regrouped,” said Falzone, who credited his captains, particularly David Smith with motivating the team during a tough week of practice.
Thanks to the captains (Smith, Gherard, Falzone, DuBaldo, and Lavery) the team finished the season with the resounding victory over Xavier.
“I thought the captains did a great job, but one of the best traits of this team is that there was leadership throughout,” stated Falzone, who added that varsity defensive coordinator Pete Ladas remarked how many freshmen leaders were on the team.
Falzone also credited the varsity players with mentoring the 26 first-year high schoolers, “I can’t say enough about that. They immediately treated them as equals. They took the time to get to know them and developed friendships with them. It was really remarkable.”
The nine-win season was a positive sign for a football program that looks to be in good shape over the next three years.
“That record is really symbolic of all of those kids. They can motivate themselves and that record is indicative of these players,” said Falzone. “It’s a good start but we don’t want our freshman year to be the peak achievement of what we are trying to doing. Our hope is that we can live in the weight room and get bigger, faster, stronger, and we think we have the athletes that will do that.”
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin