Coming into the season, Rocky Hill coach Mark Fritz didn't know if his team could match the success of last year, when the Terriers reached the Class S championship game where they lost to Ansonia.
The program had to replace four starters on the offensive line and lost two All-Courant defenders in Ricky Montalvo and Grant Nieves.
"You lose two kids like that off one side of the ball and it's tough. But the guys have filled in and on defense it's just been a team effort," Fritz said. "[On the offensive line] guys stepped up, got an opportunity and made the most of it."
The revamped O-line features one returning starter in Anthony Feliciano. Alex Boutin starts this year after seeing time as a sixth lineman last year. And Dante Baker, Kyle Sanzo and Ryan Pirre have all stepped up to provide protection for the dual rushing attack of Joe Catania and Joe Ferreira that has propelled the Terrier offense to average 39 points per game and a 5-0 start, good for first place in the CCC Division III West.
"It's no secret we like to run the ball so the two Joes owe their success to the new and improved line," Fritz said. "Having them do so much for us has been huge."
The Terriers' offense also features dual-threat quarterback Danny Cavallaro, just as much a running threat as Catania and Ferreira. Wide receiver Matt Osgood can also make a play in the passing game when it's needed.
While Rocky Hill isn't a younger team with 16 seniors, many watched from the sideline in the run to the championship game last season and are new to starting.
"We're just inexperienced," Fritz said. "A lot of those guys were with us last year, so it was mostly getting them up to speed and they've exceeded expectations."
Experience A Plus For Old Saybrook/Westbrook
While the co-op of Old Saybrook and Westbrook may not be senior heavy, they do feature a group of juniors who have been key parts of the team.
"That's our strength," coach Mike Marone said. "We have kids who've started and they're back. They're kids that played last year. We only had to replace a few players."
That low turnover and returning experience has helped the Rams to a 5-0 start, including a big win at perennial contender Valley Regional/Old Lyme in the last game before last week's bye.
"They have great coaches over there and they always reload with good football players," Marone said of Valley. "It was a big win for us and the kids really wanted that. That game came from their hearts and they played hard."
The driving force for the Old Saybrook offense this year has been dual-threat quarterback Victor Pascoe and running back Vincent Dyer. But both are also leaders on defense, with Pascoe in the secondary and Dyer leading the linebackers.
But it's the pieces around Pascoe and Dyer on both sides of the ball that have helped the Rams' first-half success. Andrew Naccarato, a senior, is a tall and speedy fullback who can be a threat in the Rams' triple-option offense. David McCain (LB/OL) and Jay Long (DL/OL) are two juniors starting for the third year on both sides of the ball.
Marone is hoping that experience will help the team as they prepare to head into Cromwell for a big Pequot Sassacus against fellow undefeated co-op Cromwell/Portland on Friday. … Nick Braga had 137 rushing yards on five carries, including an 81-yard TD run in Valley Regional/Old Lyme's 48-0 win over Nonnewaug. … Chris Iannuzzi, filling in for injured starter Delvantae Hutton, had 10 carries for 199 yards and a touchdown in Hand's 34-6 win over Bunnell last Friday. … Manny Sanchez had 322 ruhsing yards and four touchdowns to lead the CREC co-op to a 40-22 win over Woodstock Academy. … Randy McFarline rushed for two TDs, including an 80-yard score, in Lyman Hall's 25-20 loss to Bethel.
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