NEWINGTON - After a disappointing 3-8 season last year, the Newington football program believed this season had the potential to be different.
The Indians gained a new coaching staff led by head coach Jason Pace and with it a new outlook. But as the first five weeks have shown, there is still plenty Newington has to improve on before the second half of the season begins.
After winning its first two games against Chicopee (MA) and Farmington, the Indians believed they were on the right track with their first 2-0 start since 2007. Three straight losses, however, have forced them to regroup and reassess.
With that in mind, here are the four things we’ve learned about Newington so far:
1. The Indians are not the same team as last year
The Indians entered the bye week on a three-game skid, but are we seeing the same team from last year? By and large, no.
Newington has a better record through the first five weeks this season than it did last year (1-4) and most of that has been the point totals. At the half way point, the Indians have managed to score 96 points, whereas last year they scored 84. The 12 point difference isn’t the only thing that has changed.
The new coaching staff is among the most notable. Pace has shifted Newington’s focus on working as one unit, while limiting the mistakes. With a team-before-themselves attitude, the Indians have looked a better for the most part as a result.
2. The offense is still a work in progress
While the Indians have made strides as an offense, the unit still has to learn to follow through, capitalizing on opportunities and finishing drives.
After scoring a combined 68 points in its first two games, Newington has struggled in the past weeks against Platt, Bristol Eastern and South Windsor with just 34 combined points. The highest total during that stretch was 14 points against Platt and scored just seven against the Lancers, which snapped a 17-game losing streak.
The Indians have playmakers such as Aveontae Frazier, Robert Sanchez, C.J. Caldwell and Luke Pappalardo. It is just a matter of putting everything together and they have to do so as quickly as possible.
For a team whose defense has allowed an average of 28.3 points per game over the last three weeks, the offensive unit will have to put up some points. Newington has shown the ability to move the ball effectively at times, the team just has to translate to the end zone.
3. The defense has been shaky as well
The Indians not only have flaws in their offense, but in their defense as well. Thus far, Newington has allowed its opponents to score a total of 119 points, 85 of which have come in the three losses.
Overall, the unit has given up 23.8 points per game this season and with the offense managing 20.4 per game, the issues will have to be shored up.
In its most recent game against South Windsor, Newington let allowed 40 points. The Indians have to potential and athletic ability to be competitive on the field. It is just a matter of them being able to put forth that potential.
4. Newington will have tough second half
As badly as the first half of the schedule ended for the Indians, the second half won’t get any easier despite three consecutive home games.
Right out of the bye, Newington faces Bristol Central, who also happens to sit 2-3. But, as we saw in the previous weeks, such as with Bristol Eastern, record doesn’t matter.
After Bristol Central, the Indians will match up against two ranked opponents in back-to-back weeks, starting with No. 9 Middletown and then against No. 25 Maloney. The Blue Dragons are 5-0 at the bye, while the Spartans sit 4-1.
Newington will then take on East Hartford (4-1), a team the Indians haven’t faced since 2014. Newington won that meeting 20-14.
The Indians will finally round out their schedule on the road at rival Wetherfield (1-3). Newington has had its mind on this game since the end of last year, when the Eagles kicked the game-winning field goal and recovered an onside kick with just seconds left to go in the game. That matchup ended poorly for the Indians with both a loss and a brawl.
This year, Newington will be looking for redemption.
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860) 801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org