NEW BRITAIN - The New Britain football team knew it made too many mistakes a week ago in the season opener against South Windsor and it ended up costing the Hurricanes a win.
It also led to head coach Tebucky Jones issuing a familiar phrase that was all too common in seasons past, but wasn’t necessary last year: “Do your job.”
“When we put in new guys, they were making the same mistakes as the guys in front of them,” Jones said. “The biggest thing is [knowing] every play is not for you to make. You need to do your assignment and not worry about everyone else’s.”
How much, exactly, New Britain learned from that ugly loss to the Bobcats will be on display Saturday night when they travel to Norwalk to face Staples in the team’s Football Alliance crossover game.
Just like the Hurricanes (0-1), the Wreckers (0-1) are coming off being upset in Week 1 when they lost to Stamford following a touchdown and 2-point conversion with 6:27 left in the fourth quarter. Staples didn’t score any points outside of the third and were hurt even more by a missed extra point.
But New Britain knows the Wreckers, who are coming off a 7-3 season a year ago, have plenty of playmakers that if the Hurricanes aren’t prepared will certainly cause them to be in for a long night.
“Big team. Good team,” Jones said. “Good quarterback. Real good receiver, I think he was the quarterback last year. He can run, catch, everything. The defense, they get after it. But the big thing is to shut down their receiver down and keep the quarterback in the pocket.”
Jackson Zager and Jake Thaw are Staples’ quarterback-receiver duo New Britain has to watch out for. Against Stamford, Zager struggled a bit in his first varsity start, but showed plenty of promise. He completed 15 of his 30 passes for 95 yards and was intercepted. He also carried the ball three times for 24 yards. Thaw, meanwhile, was the main recipient of Zager’s completions. He caught seven passes for 55 yards. Sean Clarke was the next closest with 15 yards on three catches.
Robby Hall looks to be the Wreckers main option in the backfield. He carried the ball 20 times for 60 yards and a touchdown last week with Henry Beck (3 carries, 24 yards) are his primary backup.
“From what I’ve seen, Staples likes to run the ball to [left tackle Jacob Rizy’s] side,” Hurricanes offensive and defensive lineman Tyree Pinnock said. “If not, they’ll try to crack down on the [defensive] end. Passing wise, we have to make sure we stop [Thaw]. He’s their main guy. He’s a hustler from what I saw in film and the [Zager] can roll out as well, so we have to watch out for that. We just have to make sure we stick to our assignment and tackle. Last week, we didn’t do a good job of finishing tackles. Can’t do that this week.”
Defensively, Staples has already proven it’s a tough unit to go against. Last Friday, the Wreckers picked off Stamford quarterback Isaiah Johnson three times, sacked him another three instances and tallied six tackles for loss.
The back seven of Staples defense is certainly capable of making plays both against the passing game and the running game. Safeties Beck and Connor McGeehan finished with nine and seven tackles respectively, while linebackers Tadeo Messenger and Griffin Bilacic finished with eight and four. The duo was also responsible for the three interceptions, with Bilacic coming away with two.
Last week against South Windsor, New Britain had little trouble running the football with Jhorman Vielma collecting 174 yards and two touchdowns. But the Hurricanes struggled to find consistency in their passing game with Monte Dickson completing just seven of his 20 passes for 63 yards and Vielma is questionable for Saturday’s matchup with an injury.
“We have to go out and execute,” Jones said. “We have to cut down on the penalties. We had to work on [not] crackback blocking. We have to go out and take what we do in practice and do it in the game. Simple as that. Staples hustles and gets to the ball. They’re real sound.”
The Hurricanes are going to have to be sound as well if they want to avoid a 0-2 start.
“Everyone should be excited for this matchup,” Pinnock said. “But everyone needs to step up too.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or email@example.com