2023 High school football preview capsules
Following is a team-by-team preview of the 2023 high school football season:
ECC Division I
Coach: Rudy Bagos (10th season)
Key returnees: Sr. RB Aidan Patterson, Sr. QB Ronin McNamara, Sr. WR-FS Mat Leone, Sr. OG Brendan Pennington, Sr. OT-LB Bryce Manwaring, Sr. RB-LB Malachi Harris, Sr. WR-LB Alex Dreyfus, Sr. WR-DB Niall Green, Sr. WR-DB Hayden Torrisi, Sr. RB-DE Noah Edwards, Sr. DT John Pyatt, Jr. TE-LB Tom Matlock, Jr. C-TE-LB Syrus Sistare, Jr. OG Adam Sheriff, Jr. OT-DT Johnny Harms, Jr. WR-DB Greg Paige, So. QB-DE Jacob Garro, So. WR-DB Logan Benoit, So. RB-LB Alex Buzzelli, So. C-DT Jacob Bookmiller, So. WR-DB Jayden Brown.
Top newcomers: Sr. WR-DB Jeremiah Jean, Sr. WR-FS Nick Petrini, Sr. OT-DT Carter Summers, Sr. TE-LB Max Van Dusen, Sr. WR-DB Dan Aram, Sr. WR-DB Chris Balzar, Fr. K Finn Bruno.
Outlook: The Vikings went 4-6 a year ago but return the bulk of their skill-position players, including ECC All-star running back Patterson and McNamara at quarterback. The key, Bagos said, is gaining experience and developing consistency on both lines of scrimmage. “If we’re able to jell at the line of scrimmage,” Bagos said, “we will be very competitive in ECC Division I.”
Coach: Mike Ellis (9th season)
Key returnees: Sr. OL-DL Gianni Drab, Sr. RB-DB Adonis Fine, Sr. WR-OLB Calvin McCoy III, Sr. QB-DB Ben Perry, Sr. OL-DL Dylan Beebe, Sr. RB-DL Thomas Fraser Jr., Sr. OL-DL Ryan Obregon, Sr. WR-DB TJ Miller, Sr. RB-LB Jesse Torruella-Hudson, Sr. WR-LB Will Vieu, So. RB-DB Porter Carter, Sr. RB-LB Devon Edwards, Jr. OL-DL Brandon Wilson.
Top newcomers: Sr. OL-DL Edwin Ferrer, Jr. OL-DL Griffin Pollard, Sr. WR-DB Bernard Drayton, Jr. OL-DL Adrian Bythewood, So. RB-LB Gabe Carey, So. RB-DB Anthony Spader, Fr. RB-LB Devin Cook, Fr. OL-DL Bishop Gaskins, So. RB-DB Mark McBride, So. RB-DB Sean Bussey, So. OL-DL Gavin Blue.
Outlook: This could be the year the Falcons return to the state playoffs. They are coming off a solid 6-4 season and return experienced players on both sides of the football. Drab and Perry are three-year starters while Fine, McCoy III, Beebe, Obregon, Vieu, Carter, Edwards and Wilson will be starting for the second straight year. “This team is in the best physical shape to begin a season as we’ve been in a while,” said Ellis. “They will need to continue to improve to surpass last year’s performance.”
Coach: Bobby Sanchez (1st season)
Key returnees: Sr. WR-S Derek Burress, Sr. WR-S John Mancuso, Sr. RB-LB Kyntrel Witherspoon-Dessources, Sr. TE-LB Kyle Parkes, Sr. HB-LB Jose Rivera, Sr. TE-LB Kaleb McCalla, Sr. C-DT Christian Delacruze, Sr. OT-DE Jefferson Bernadeau, Sr. QB Kiki Irizarry, Jr. WR-CB Tyree Barnes, Jr RB-LB Chris Jones, Sr. WR-DB D.J. Roberts, Jr. OT-DT Javon Ford, Sr. WR-DB Zuri Craig.
Top newcomers: Jr. QB-DB Jack Philiston, Jr. WR-DB Antonia Carmona, Fr. QB-WR-DB Cayden Simonds-Gaskin.
Outlook: Sanchez takes over a program that suffered through a 2-8 season, but he has nothing but high hopes for the Whalers in 2023. New London returns 18 seniors and Sanchez likes the talent of his junior class. “We will be competitive in every game this year and if we play to our potential, we will be fighting for a playoff spot in November,” he said. “We will be very dynamic on offense, and we will be much more stout on defense than we were in 2022. This could be a special year for the Whalers. Our goal is to go from 2-8 to 8-2.”
Coach: Erik Larka (2nd season)
Key returnees: Sr. QB-LB Gage Hinkley, Sr. RB-DB Talon Amado, Jr. OL-DL Nathan Bryant, Sr. WR Conor Gaughan, Sr. OL-DL Mason Holt, Sr. OL-LB Isaiah Kennedy, Jr. OL Jesse Tingley, Sr. DB Nemo Yorke.
Top newcomers: Jr. RB-LB Taegan Calouro, So. OL-Dl Civil Mardocher, So. RB-WR Ryan Cleary.
Outlook: The Wildcats have gone 4-6 in each of the last two seasons, playing a rigorous non-conference schedule as part of the Connecticut Football Alliance. Larka’s second NFA team is more equipped to handle that schedule with a big, strong offensive line and some talented backs and receivers. “The defense will be younger, but more explosive and aggressive,” Larka said.
Note: Division I includes Killingly and Woodstock Academy.
ECC Division II
Coach: Bill Chaffin (2nd season)
Key returnees: Sr. OL-DL PJ Walsh, Sr. OL-DL Kevin Claffey, Sr. RB-LB Brady Gould, Sr. RB-DB Avatar Disher, Sr. RB-DB Brett Guntulis, Jr. RB-LB Julian Rodegher, Jr. OL-DL AJ O’Neill.
Top newcomers: So. TE-DE Mason Leak, So. QB Riddock Burroughs.
Outlook: The Bobcats went 1-9 a year ago, the one win a late-season victory over New London. They return a pair of defensive ECC All-Stars in Claffey and Gould, and Chaffin was impressed with Bacon’s offseason commitment in the weight room. “We have new offensive and defensive schemes this year, which they have grasped well so far during camp,” he said.
Coach: Gregg Wilcox (23rd season)
Key returnees: Sr. WR-DB KinKade Rubino, Sr. WR-DB Kiyle Montigny, Sr. TE-LB Aiden Peltier, Sr. OT-LB Aannin Kalwara, Sr. OL-DL Tyler Skowron, Sr. OL-DL Ayden Rourke, Sr. OL-DE Sam Martin, Sr. TE-LB Deondre Bransford, Sr. WR-DB JJ Torres, Sr. RB-LB Gabe Dosithee, Jr. QB Luke Cassidy, Jr. RB-LB Dean Menzano, Jr. OL-DL Ben Lewis, Jr. RB-LB Joshua Turner, Jr. RB-LB Jackson Fleming, Jr. WR-DE Brenden Hopkins.
Top newcomers: Sr. TE-DL John Macfeat, So. RB-DB Aaden Cutter, So. OL-DL Seth Valladares, So. OL-DL Mike Capalbo, So. QB Kolby Mills, So. RB-DB Nick Watters.
Outlook: The Wolverines won their final four games to finish 6-4 in 2022, and hope to carry that momentum into this season when they begin play on a beautiful new turf facility. They also return most of their starting lineup, headlined by ECC All-Star Rubino, and have a large freshman class to push the veterans every day in practice. “With a little luck in the injury department and a strong contingent of returning players our goal is to play a state playoff game on our new turf field,” Wilcox said.
Coach: Mike Serricchio (3rd season)
Key returnees: Sr. OL-DL Matt Tebbets, Sr. OL-DL Ben Rusczyk, Jr. HB-LB AJ Adamick, Jr. QB-DB Jamel Kearse, Jr. FB-DE Myles Streckfuss, Jr. FB-LB Brian Johnson.
Top newcomers: Sr. OL-DL Nizayah Carr, Jr. HB-DB Amani Dudley, So. OL-LB Braxton Swanbeck.
Outlook: Serricchio brought the Colonels back to the state playoffs a year ago, finishing 8-3 overall. But Ledyard graduated the bulk its it offensive firepower, including James Green — The Day’s All-Area Player of the Year — and versatile two-way performers Jackson Poulton and Jacob Lenz. “We will rely heavily on our offensive and defensive lines as we break in an entirely new backfield,” Serrichio said. “While we don't have any returning starters in the backfield, we do have players with the athletic ability required to play in our offense. The sooner they learn to play together and take care of the football the better off we will be.”
Coach: Tanner Grove (18th season)
Key returnees: Sr. TE-LB-PK Cole Terni, Sr. OL-DL Jack Bubucis, Sr. RB-LB Colin Wahl, Sr. OL-DL Kayden Brown, Sr. DB-QB-WR Jayden Sherwood, Jr. QB Aidan Johnson, Jr. RB-LB Hector Aponte, Jr. WR-DB Arian Castillo, Jr. LB-DB-WR Kymarny Bossa, Jr. OL-DE Travis Ziolko, Jr. WR-DB Dante Crisman.
Top newcomers: Sr. OL-DL Armani Patterson, Sr. OL-DL William Bryan, Jr. WR-DB Austin Gingerella, Jr. OL-DL Justin Hall, Jr. TE-LB Talon Liebig, Jr. WR-DB Ryley Beyer, So. WR-DB Izaiah Yard, So. OL-DL Tyler Chen, So. DB-WR Zeke Stanley, So. DE-TE Andrew McElwee, So. RB-DB Sebby Flores, Fr. DL-OL D’Mitri Charles, Fr. WR-DB Elijah Anctil, Fr. OL-DL Tyler McGlaughlin, Fr. RB-Lb Khaj Roche, Fr. LB-RB-PK-P Andrew Bernier.
Outlook: The Wolves are coming off a 1-9 season that includes losses to four state playoff teams. But there is buzz within the program, thanks in part to a large group of upperclassmen and 22 freshman who provide Montville with its deepest roster in nearly a decade. Johnson returns at quarterback and he’ll have an experienced line in front of him. Look for freshman Charles to make in immediate impact on both lines. “We look forward to returning Montville football to a place that we can all be proud of,” Grove said.
Coach: A.J. Massengale (21st season)
Key returnees: Sr. OL-DL Zach Anderson, Jr. QB Jayden Carter, Sr. OL-LB Burt Corley, Jr. DB-WR Finn Eck, So. OL Ethan Greene, Jr. OL Alex Hatch, Sr. OL-DL Julian Keena, Jr. WR-DB Cooper Light, Sr. LB-RB Ethan Mahoney, Sr. WR-DB Nathan Mahoney, Jr. LB-RB Maddox Massengale, Jr. LB-WR Patrick McGugan, Sr. OL-DL Justin Norton, Sr. WR-DB Cole Phelan, Sr. OL-DL Ethan Torres, Sr. WR-DL Charlie Worsdale.
Top newcomers: So. OL-DL Jack Louge, So. OL-DL Tommy Lyon, Jr. OL-DL Aidan McCarthy, Jr. WR-DB Jacob Schrage, Jr. WR-DB Chase Spurley, Sr. WR-DB Cayden Trementozzi, So. LB-RB Armando Touruella, Sr. WR-DB Andrew Whitman, So. RB-DB Logan Christina.
Outlook: Massengale loves the mix of returnees and newcomers. He said the Bears “approached the offseason with a purpose,” and he believes it will pay big dividends this fall as Stonington hopes to be competitive within the new eight-team division. “They are a tight knit group from the senior class to the freshmen,” Massengale said. "We are looking forward to the season and the adventure to begin.“
Coach: Zeth Nolda (3rd season)
Key returnees: LB-HB Devon Powers, OL-DL Tristan Beltran, OL-LB Eden Alexander, WR-DB Noah Westkott, WR-DB Quinn Speller. WR-DB Rhys Tickner, QB-DB Jax Higgins, HB-DB Brady Sutman.
Top newcomers: LB-OL Porter Watson, WR-DB Parker Spencer, OL-DL Denatto Barnhill, WR-DB Mason Nocery, OL-DL Braeden Sollima. WR-DB Cole Baumgartner, QB-WR-DB Dylan Matis.
Outlook: The Lancers went 6-4 a year ago with three of those losses coming to state playoff teams (Killingly, Ledyard and Windham). They suffered some key graduation losses, including quarterback Nate Hynes, but there’s enough experience back to give Waterford the chance for another successful season. “We’re looking to be competitive and make a run at the postseason,” Nolda said.
Note: Division II includes Weaver and Windham.
Coach: Hill Gbunblee (3rd season)
Key returnees: Sr. QB Grady Lacourciere, Jr. WR-DB Tommy Troy, Sr. RB Shane Gagne-Lemay, Jr. WR-TE Matt Cooper, So. OL Reed Schmelzer, So. OL Eli Torres, So. RB-WR-DB Jackson Pannier.
Outlook: The Warriors reached the Class SS championshp game in Gbunblee’s second season, finishing 11-2 overall. They return Lacourciere, who threw for 27 touchdowns in 2022, but must replace dynamic all-state selection Di’Angelo Jean-Pierre, who starred in all three phases for Valley/OL. The Warriors have good size up front, but are inexperienced on offense. There will be a learning curve as some of Valley/OL’s new players get up to speed at the varsity level.
Thames River Crusaders
Coach: Craig Sylvester (3rd season)
Key returnees: Sr. WR-CB Xavier Jackson, Sr. QB Justin Outlow, Sr. WR-LB Jonah Eddy, Sr. WR-CB Matt Pero, Sr. TE-LB Josiah Hinojos, Sr. OL-DL-PK Gavin Jameson.
Top newcomers: Jr. CB-WR Shem Adams, Jr. LB-WR Zane Baton, Sr. OL-DL Calieb Clark, Jr. WR-LB Tyler Mangual.
Outlook: The Crusaders are coming off a historic season that included the program’s first perfect regular season (10-0) and first state playoff bid, where they lost to eventual champion North Haven in the Class MM quarterfinals. Justin Outlow steps in at QB to replace his brother Ryan, and he has three veteran receivers to target in Jackson, Eddy and Pero. “Even though we lost some key players to graduation last year,” Sylvester said, “we still have many young core players who have been working hard and are ready to show what they can do.”
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