BERLIN - The Berlin Redcoats football team has one thing on their mind this season - winning a state championship.
After posting a 8-2 record in the regular season a year ago, Berlin made it to the Class M state semifinals. Berlin’s season was ended by eventual state champion Killingly and Gatorade Player of the Year Spencer Lockwood, who rushed four touchdowns and 262 yards in his team’s 49-7 win.
“Every year I ask my players, ‘What do you want out of this season,’” Berlin head coach Joe Aresimowicz said. “One after another they all stood up and said ‘championship.’ I told them we will work as hard as we need to as a coaching staff to get them there, but it’s on them. They have to own it in practice, they have to own it throughout.”
The Redcoats are among the few teams returning their starting quarterback, three leading rushers and lead receiver. However, Berlin will have to replace a trio of defenders who each tallied over 100 tackles.
“We have 19 out of 22 starters coming back if you combine both sides of the ball,” junior running back Zach Hrubiec said. “I’d say we have most of our core back, but we lost our top three tacklers. We’re moving some of our core guys into those positions. We’re a very deep team so we have the ability to move people where they need to be.”
The Redcoats are returning the key components they believe will get them where they need to be. Leading the way will be senior quarterback Kevin Dunn.
Last season, he set the school’s single-season passing record with 1,824 yards. He added 19 touchdown passes as well.
“There’s a lot of upside to this season,” Dunn said. “It’s the second year with the offense, second year with the whole system. We’re going to be able to do things a lot faster with a lot less wrinkles.”
Dunn will have a great amount of support, including his three running backs. Alex Halkias will be leading the trio, as he racked up 1,122 all-purpose yards, 786 rushing, and 12 touchdowns last season. Hrubiec rushed for 216 yards last season and three touchdowns, while Larry St. Pierre gained for 157 yards on the ground and three touchdowns.
St. Pierre is expected to be an even bigger presence than the year prior. After a season of injuries and disciplinary issues, the rusher has taken a different approach to this upcoming season.
“Larry’s work ethic has just excelled,” Aresimowicz said. “He knows what he has in front of him this season. He’s just happy to be here and he’s just carrying himself in a different way.”
“I have totally learned from my mistakes last season,” St. Pierre said. “I’m staying away from all that stuff. I’m not going to go crazy hard in the gym anymore even though I’m a competitor. I’m just going to stay away and focus on the goal at hand.”
Getting to the Class M state finals will not be an easy task for Berlin. Last season, the young team would commit numerous mistakes each game, something that can’t be repeated this year.
“We’ve been working since January,” wide receiver Andrew Brochu said. “This year, we’re focusing on the why. Why we do what we do. We only lost a couple players so we just have to work on coming together more. We have a good scheme, we have a good team, we just have to put the pieces together and put it on the field.”
The Redcoats have made it to the playoffs the last two years, but falling short of the ultimate prize hasn’t sit well with the players.
“We can’t get over the hump,” Hrubiec said. “What we want to do this year is reach the state championship and win it. That’s what we want to do, that’s what all the seniors want to do. What’s it going to take? Work. Last year practice wasn’t up to par. This year training camp has been really good, really hard and we’ve taken a more serious approach. We’re not just showing up, we’re showing up to get better.”