NEWINGTON - In terms of its 2018 roster, the Newington football team remains relatively intact for the new season, which kicks off this upcoming weekend against Windsor. Still, that doesn’t mean change isn’t a major part of the upcoming campaign.
Friday’s season opener against the Warriors is the first of five matchups this season for the Indians where they will meet an opponent they did not see last season. The usual staples of Bristol Eastern, Bristol Central and rival Wethersfield are there, but five relatively unknowns await this fall, offering Newington a unique opportunity to compete against new faces that many members of the Indians have never met on a football field.
“It will be very interesting,” senior wide receiver Izayah Ciarcia said. “We haven’t been playing teams like Amity and RHAM, so it’ll be nice to have a change.”
Most opponents like Enfield and E.O. Smith are ones the Indians rarely see, but there will be at least one unique case in Week 3, when Newington travels to Amity to take on a group that most of the Indians team hasn’t seen since they shared the field as kids.
“It’s funny, because some of the teams we play now are ones we used to play when we were younger,” senior Keenan Esau said. “We play Amity this year and we used to play them when we were playing for the youth league. It’s funny to play teams you used to face and see how they’ve developed. We’re excited for this schedule. I think we’ll be competitive in every game.”
For head coach Jason Pace, new opponents means more preparation, and more time studying an unknown. But Pace and his staff are looking forward to the challenge of navigating a schedule that looks drastically different than its predecessor, which is seen as a rarity in most areas of Connecticut high school football.
“Our schedule is different this year and we have some different looks, but we’re looking forward to that,” Pace said. “It’s nice with technology now that we’ll have a lot of film on them. We’ll just have to commit more time to watching film and make sure we’re prepared. I kind of like the change every couple years so you don’t play the same team over and over. We have a big competitive league, so it’s nice to see some new teams.”
The schedule isn’t the only change that the Indians face this season. After spending a year in Class LL, the program is back in Class L this year, marking the third time in as many years that Newington has been playing at a different level of competition. For the Indians, that won’t affect their own competitive level. Opponents in the regular season and potentially the postseason have changed, but not their overall mindset.
“To be honest, I don’t think about any of that right now,” Pace said. “That will only impact us if we get to a place where we’re in playoff contention. We obviously want to obtain that, but in terms of right now, that doesn’t affect our schedule.”
Newington’s goal for the season is to reach the playoffs after making small and steady gains in overall record since Pace arrived, and should the team achieve that goal, the change in class will present itself. There’s still plenty of change to face before that happens, and the Indians are looking forward to it.
“We’re not worried, we’re excited,” Ciarcia said. “There’s new competition and new opportunities to get better.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or firstname.lastname@example.org