NEW BRITAIN - The New Britain football team has a lot of optimism heading into the new season.
After back-to-back 5-5 seasons, the Hurricanes believe they have the right mixture of playmakers and depth to put those behind them and get back to the winning football. Week 1 will put those beliefs to the test as New Britain takes on an always-solid Conard team tonight. By no means an easy task.
“A lot of feelings, some nerves, but I feel like our guys are ready,” senior quarterback Jahfari Newman said. “They’re ready to get this going.”
Last season, the Hurricanes jumped out to an early 7-0 lead before the Chieftains ripped off 22-straight points to close out the win. Mistakes, particularly turnovers and penalties, cost New Britain in 2016. It was an up-and-down season the rest of the way for New Britain.
This time around, the Hurricanes will have to play as close to mistake free as possible against a team that tends to take advantage of an opponent’s miscues.
“Guys have to do their job,” head coach Tebucky Jones said. “Last year a couple of guys made mistakes. You have to know your assignments. If you know your assignments, when you’re lined up against your man, you can’t let him beat you.”
That starts with stopping the run and Conard’s new running back Max Main, which will to be a main part of its offense.
The Chieftains were inconsistent at best at throwing the ball last season and will be breaking in a new quarterback after dual-threat signal caller Declan Flaherty graduated. Whoever their new quarterback is, he will have veteran tight end Aidan Stabnick to throw to, who could cause some matchup problems.
Overall, New Britain once again expecting to see multiple formations from spread to trips to I-formation and pro.
“They play sound football and wait for you to make mistakes,” Jones said. “We have to play mistake free and pursue to the football. All 11 guys have to get to the ball.”
Defensively, Conard is much like its offense - versatile. As the Hurricanes’ own defense will have to prepare for different formations and looks, so too will their offense. The Chieftains play anything from a Tampa 2 to man-to-man and provide plenty of pressure if the short side of the field comes in play.
“They’re a solid defense,” Newman said. “We did struggle against them a little bit last year, but this year, we’re going to go in there with a new mindset. Every team is in a new year. I know they lost a couple of guys, but we’re going to go out there and stick to the script.”
That means Newman will have to take advantage of potential mismatches and make quick and accurate decisions. He will be working with a new group of receivers this season after losing this top two targets in Alex Silva and Dajion Hill as well as a new running back group following the departure of leading rusher Keyon Wellington.
As such, this will be the first chance to see how new receivers Jayshawn Alexandre and Tahje Yopp and running backs Kaiyon Gunn and Muhamed Codje play in a meaningful live game.
But as always, this game will mostly likely be determined by New Britain’s ability or inability to stay disciplined.
“If we go out there and play mistake free football, we’ll what happens,” Jones said.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach