NEW BRITAIN - The New Britain football team was confident this season was going to be different than 2016 and the opener against Conard would prove just as much.
Instead, the Hurricanes left the field Friday night following the 30-22 loss with plenty they need to work on in order to be a consistent team, let alone a contender, week in and week out.
Confidence is one thing, execution is another. And there were too many times New Britain failed to execute on both sides of the ball.
It was the defense, or lack thereof, that caught the attention of head coach Tebucky Jones. With the offense putting up 22 points, the game should have resulted in a win for the Hurricanes, he said.
“The biggest thing is being more disciplined on defense,” Jones said. “If you’re more disciplined on defense, you win games. And you have to make tackles. They got too many big runs off missed tackles.”
But the Chieftains set the tone of the game early, eating up the first five minutes with a 13-play, 62-yard drive that ended with a two-yard touchdown pass from Jack Moore to Ryan Orlowski.
Conard then took an 8-0 lead into the half and proceeded to score on both of its first possessions of the third and fourth quarters. The first was a 15-yard pass to Aiden Stabnick, the second an 11-yard pass to Justin Furze.
The Chieftains put up 254 yards of total offense, 150 of which came in the second half, when they scored 22 points. Most came on big plays either through the air or on the ground up the middle.
“I don’t know if the pace was too fast for them,” Jones said of his defense. “[Conard] went right down and scored [on its opening drive]. The next few series, [the defnese] did a pretty good job. They just have to keep that consistency all the time.
“On the line, we were rotating them throughout the night. We just have to be more consistent, make tackles, play contain. The outside guys did a great job of containing their quarterback. The inside guys have to stay in their lanes.”
But New Britain’s defense wasn’t the sole reason for the loss. The team’s offense also struggled to put points on the scoreboard, especially in the first half.
There were times the Hurricanes were able to move the ball efficiently and effectively - three of its five first-half drives reached Conard’s 25-yard line, with two of those three inside the 10. But all three times, New Britain came up empty. All three ended in turnovers on downs.
The unit was 5-for-12 on third downs, 1-for-6 in the first half - not numbers that often lead to a positive outcome at the end of a game.
Overall, the Hurricanes totaled more yards than the Chieftains, 374 to 254, thanks in large part to the 170 rushing yards from Shawn Robinson. But their inability to take advantage of their scoring chances in the first half ended up being the difference, as they matched Conard’s 22 second-half points.
But, as always, it comes down to how consistent New Britain wants to play.
“[We have to] start strong and end strong,” senior quarterback Jahfari Newman said. “Came out in the second half, everyone was playing hard, everyone was blocking well. We have to do that throughout the whole game.”
There were some positives. Out of the Hurricanes’ 374 total yards, 258 came on the ground; and the offensive line played well, creating holes for the running backs and providing Newman with enough time to throw the football. New Britain also didn’t have any turnovers other than on downs.
“We don’t even have Muhamed [Codjoe], so that’ll be another good addition,” Jones said of the running backs’ performances. “Offense I felt was good enough to win.”
In the end, the Hurricanes proved to be their own undoing and it cost them, as it did in 2016. Now, they have to regroup and try to avoid a slide like last season.
“Moving forward, everyone has to be able to do their jobs,” Newman said.
New Britain will find out who will be willing to do so next week at Manchester.
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach