NEW BRITAIN - When the New Britain football team hosted East Hartford last season, it was seen as a heavy-weight bout: two dynamic offenses, playmakers all over the field, a potential playoff spot on the line.
What a difference a season makes.
There isn’t going to be much hype when the Hurricanes travel to face the Hornets on Friday night. There isn’t going to be any talk of the postseason this time around. It’s been a miserable season for both programs. New Britain is 2-5, which includes last week’s overtime loss to Conard. East Hartford is 1-6 after earning its first victory of the season against Glastonbury last Friday.
But for the Hurricanes, there is still plenty at stake, at least for the players.
“For a lot of us seniors, this is our last ride as New Britain Hurricanes and we want to be able to end the season .500,” senior defensive end Tyree Pinnock said. “No team wants to go 5-5, but just to be able to get these last three wins and end our season on a positive note to know that we fought through the season and to be able to hold our heads up high, I think that would be the best thing out of it.”
New Britain will have to win at East Hartford, at No. 7 Southington (6-1) and against Berlin (6-1) to do so, by no means an easy task. The Blue Knights and the Redcoats are both poised for a playoff push, while even the Hornets are a play or two away from a much different record. They lost three of their first four games by two points or less. But in order to have a chance, the Hurricanes know they’re going to have to execute better, especially at the start of games.
Over the past two weeks, New Britain has given up a touchdown on the second play of the first quarter. The Hurricanes fumbled in the end zone against Glastonbury, which recovered the ball for a score. Conard’s running back Arsen Shtefan, took the ball 52 yards down the opposing sideline last week for a touchdown.
“Gotta play sound football,” head coach Tebucky Jones said.
That’s going to be important on Friday with the Hornets running a similar offense to New Britain’s, meaning a lot of options, RPOs and jet sweeps. And as the Hurricanes’ offense starts with quarterback Tarik Hetmyer and running back Omary Panyne, East Hartford’s goes through tailback Malik Bennett and signal caller Darrion Williams.
Against the Tomahawks last Friday night, a 27-14 win, Bennett ran for 175 yards and two touchdowns. Williams threw for 169 yards and a touchdown and added another one on the ground. Overall, the Hornets are averaging 17.6 points per game.
“They’re always an athletic, big team,” Jones said. “They’ll line up their quarterback with two [running] backs on the side. There will be some misdirection, so it’s going to come down to assignment football. You have to be on your assignment. If you don’t stick to your assignment, they’ll gash you.”
Offensively for New Britain, it will come down to how effectively, as always, it is able to run the football.
The Hurricanes had three runners rush for 40 yards or more last week - Payne (108 yards, one touchdown), Hetmyer (98 yards) and Travon Santoro (41yards, one touchdown) - but weren’t able to when it mattered most: in the overtime period. Payne ran the wrong what on an option play on 2nd-and-8 that would have been a walk-in score, while a false start penalty a play later pushed the Hurricanes back to 3rd-and-9.
Against the Hornets, avoid negative plays and costly penalties has to be a priority.
“We have to be disciplined,” Santoro said. “You have to give 110 percent no matter who you are or what your role is. You have to show out.”
That’s going to be New Britain’s goal the final three weeks of the season. They just have to execute that game plan on the field, starting Friday night.
“Defense has to make stops, offense has to score,” Pinnock said. “If we make sure we do that, then there shouldn’t be any breakdowns.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org