Bacon Academy football enters a new era under new head coach Bill Chaffin, who has a core group of players returning to help turn the program around. Pictured are (l-r) Jack Holmes, Aiden Holt, Colin Olbrias, Brady Gould, and Aidan Fritz.
The Bacon Academy High School football team has encountered some rough waters the last two years.
First was the COVID-19 cancellation in the fall of 2020 and then last season the bottom fell out of the boat as the Bobcats lost seven straight games before forfeiting the final three games following allegations of Title IX violations.
Enter new head coach Bill Chaffin, who brings a new attitude and fresh perspective to a program that is primed for a redemption story.
“I’m a big action guy, less words and more action,” said Chaffin, who took over the program in the spring after Mark Farnsworth resigned following one year at the school.
Bacon Academy’s athletic director Kevin Burke said in a statement that Chaffin, “understands the importance of providing student athletes with a positive high school experience with a family type atmosphere within the football program.”
“Coach Chaffin brings a wealth of football knowledge and experience as a player and coach to our football program,” added Burke. “I’m excited for Bill to lead our football team with outstanding character, respect and leadership for years to come.”
Chaffin comes to Colchester equipped with a vast knowledge of the game from his multiple stops around the high school and college football circles.
After earning all-state as a senior in high school playing for the Coventry/Windham Tech co-op team, Chaffin played four seasons for Southern Connecticut State University where he was an all-conference offensive lineman for the Owls.
Following his graduation from SCSU in 2013, his coaching career began with stops at Peru State College in Nebraska and Lindenwood University-Belleville in Illinois before returning to his roots and serving under his former high school coach and mentor, Tony Bonito, during Coventry’s undefeated regular season in 2017.
Chaffin would then follow Bonito to Prince Tech in Hartford for a season before spending the last two years as an assistant at Xavier High School.
The coaching carousel has provided Chaffin a better understanding of how he wants to approach his first head coaching gig.
During his handful of coaching ventures, he has taught multiple offensive systems — from the triple option to the air raid to the spread option.
Chaffin said he plans to blend together the offensive approaches and tailor it towards his personnel, adding, “I’m going to run whatever gives us the best chance to win.”
But before the team sees results on the field, Chaffin wants to help set a standard of excellence off of it.
“When I first got the job in March I didn’t know what to expect, but once I got to know the players I realized that we have a group of great kids with the right attitude,” said Chaffin, a resident of Marlborough.
What surprised him was how eager the players were to get to work, even before they touched a football.
Over the summer, the team spent Saturday mornings cleaning up the grounds around Bacon Academy High School — mowing, weed whacking, cutting down tree vines. They also accomplished one of Chaffin’s main goals on connecting with the town’s youth football program – the Colchester Cougars – where the high school players spent time mentoring the next generation of Bobcats.
“They did it with enthusiasm,” Chaffin said. “They were genuinely excited to do it, because they are excited to change people’s perceptions of them.”
Chaffin added that his first order of business was to teach the players the importance of the weight room and he was pleased with how the team responded to the summer lifting program.
He also wanted to show them what a high-level high school team should look like, so he brought the players to a summer football camp ran by Springfield College at Xavier High School. The camp included the host Falcons, a Class LL contender, and Class M powerhouse Berlin.
“What happened was tremendous,” recalled Chaffin, who said his Class S Bobcats had a group of 40 players that embraced the challenge. “We competed against two quality football programs. The confidence that they got from the camp has carried throughout the entire summer.”
Following the camp, Chaffin began to realize that he has a core group of guys that are capable of leading and competing on a weekly basis.
Senior quarterback Jack Holmes will be tasked with running a complex offense. Holmes, who is also an all-conference lacrosse player at the high school, said the new regime is just what the team needed.
“I’m really excited. I feel the offensive really compliments everybody this year,” added Holmes.
Because of the size of the roster, many players will have to play on offense and defense. This included Aiden Holt and Aidan Fritz, who will each play linebacker and a skill position on the offensive end.
“Coach Chaffin brought in an entirely new offense and it’s unbelievable,” said Holt. “It’s a brand new culture and we are extremely motivated.”
Fritz added, “We’re becoming more of a family and working together just trying to get better. Everyone is putting in a lot more effort.”
Brady Gould, a junior, will also join the linebacker room.
“The culture is way different, I can already see it,” said Gould, who will also play tight end. “It’s very much a family aspect and I’m just ready for the season.”
All the players agree that the practices are more engaging and upbeat, which has increased their confidence heading into competition.
Whether or not the confidence translates to wins and losses on the field is yet to be known. However, Chaffin believes that this group has a chance to lay the groundwork.
“At the point and time I took over the program it was essentially at rock bottom,” said Chaffin, who also works for an insurance agency out of Wallingford. “Every team that has had continued success has had a group of players that started it. There was always that group of guys that kick-started that rise. What is to stop this group from being that group?”
Part of his plan to change the culture in the locker room was bringing in an entirely new group of assistant coaches. Joining Chaffin on the sidelines will be position coaches Jamie Lawton (defensive line/running backs), Pat Walsh (offensive line/linebackers, Ryan Gorra (tight ends/safeties), Lamar Mikel (wide receivers/cornerbacks), and Chris Gould (offensive line/linebackers).
“I’m a big believer that the head coach sets the standards of the program and assistant coaches buy into that philosophy and get the players to buy in,” stated Chaffin. “ If you continue to do all the right stuff and change the perception of the program, that is going to result in a product on the field that is respectable and competes.”
The Bobcats, which last won a game in the 2019 regular season finale, will open the 2022 season at home against East Catholic on Sat. Sept. 10 against East Catholic, starting at noon.
By the time the game kicks off, it will have been 1016 days since Bacon Academy last won a football game.
Chaffin is just hoping to see a confident group on the field that expects to succeed.
For the players, this season is a chance at change the perception.
“You can already see a difference from the team. I just want to shock the league,” said senior Colin Olbrias, who will play wide receiver and defensive back. “After coming off a really rough year last year we’ve improved a lot and I don’t think anybody has been working harder than us in the offseason.”
New Bacon Academy football coach Bill Chaffin instructs his players during a practice on August 18. Chaffin takes over for a program that last won a game on Nov. 28, 2019.
Sports Editor for the Rare Reminder, Glastonbury Citizen, and Rivereast News Bulletin