NEWINGTON - The Newington Indians are entering the new football season with not only a new coach, but a new philosophy to the game.
The school announced the hiring of Wolcott High head coach Jason Pace to the same position in January, 2017. During his time with the Eagles, Pace led Wolcott to the playoffs in four of the last six seasons, and had an 8-3 record in 2016.
With the addition of Pace, the Indians already believe this season is going to be different.
“We became a team accustomed to losing,” running back Aveontae Frazier said. “Coach Pace has brought a coaching staff that’s amazing and has helped us a lot. It really gave us that team-before-ourselves attitude. We rely on each other. We know we have faith that the other will do their job, and we can do our job.”
Frazier isn’t the only one happy with the decision of hiring Pace.
“We all have a great connection with coach Pace,” quarterback Robert Sanchez said. “The team really likes him, and he’s leading this program in the right direction. He’s making sure that we keep things as clean as possible and making sure we do things the right way. We’re not only becoming better football players, but we’re becoming great men for the future. I think he’s going to do a great job leading us, him and the coaching staff.”
Newington struggled to a 3-7 record last year and hasn’t seen a winning season since 2012. Nonetheless, the Indians are looking to change that this year.
“Losing is something that a lot of us have been used to and it’s something we don’t like,” Sanchez said. “The team’s been working real hard and we’re looking good. We’re very excited. This year we feel like we have a really good chance, we’re just going to come out and make things happen, unlike previous years.”
“Our goal is improvement,” Pace said. “We’re hoping we can have the foundation of our program in place so that the seniors can experience success this season, through hard work and making sure we have those core values in place. I believe that as long as our foundation and culture is in place then that will lead to success on the field.”
Pace is putting all his focus on Week 1 tonight for the time being.
“I know it’s a competitive league and I know we have other teams that have made the playoffs, but right now our focus is that first game,” Pace said.
The Indians had one more spot to fill on their schedule this season, and this year the Indians kick off their season with a game against a team from Chicopee, Mass. for the first time ever. It’s quite unusual to see a Connecticut team play out of state, especially for the season opener. The Indians are excited to see what Chicopee High is all about.
“I’ve never heard of Newington playing an out-of-state team so I feel like it’s something big. It’s a stepping stone,” Sanchez said.
“I think it’s a little mystery because we don’t know what they’re capable of,” Frazier said. “We’ve heard this and that, but all we can do is prepare ourselves the best we can and just go out there together as a team.”
Sanchez, a senior, played quarterback the second half of last season and steps into the role full time this year. Prior to that he played safety, linebacker and wide receiver, but has devoted all of his attention to the quarterback role.
Frazier is returning at running back alongside junior back and linebacker Brandon Kamansky. On the defensive side the Indians will be returning Damon Stewart and free safety Luke Pappalardo, who led the team with 96 tackles and six interceptions.
Another season comes with new opportunity, and with their new team philosophy in place, the Indians can only go up.
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860) 801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org