The large senior core of the Newington football team has been looking forward to this season since it began sharing a field together. As young boys first learning the ins and outs of the sport, the group could see its potential, and circled the 2019 season as when it would finally reach its pinnacle.
“A lot of us have been together since midget football, and since then we’ve been saying that our senior season is going to be our year,” senior Keenan Esau said. “Now it’s coming, so it’s really exciting for us.”
The excitement for the Indians has only grown with each preseason practice, as the team watches its past visions materialize into reality.
“This year, we’re really putting it all together, and it’s showing in practice,” senior offensive lineman and defensive end Mike Maslauskas said. “We’re flying around and getting better and we’re ready to play.”
Armed with a group of 16 returning seniors, including three all-conference selections, Newington is prepared to show the competition its finished product, a culmination of a rebuild that began when head coach Jason Pace took over the team.
“We’ve really built the culture we wanted, and this is our showtime year,” Maslauskas said. “It’s time to show the culture we’ve built. We’re ready to show our potential and everything we’ve been working for.”
Pace wasn’t on the field with Newington’s seniors back in their midget football days, but after guiding them through his program makeover since taking over the team prior to the 2017 season, he sees an older, wiser crop of talent that will help his own vision for Newington football finally come together.
“Our biggest strength is our experience, and I hope that experience breeds confidence,” Pace said. “Last year, we were able to talk with confidence, and now we have to back that up.”
The talk has been going on for years, but Newington’s impact seniors have been waiting for the right leader to help bring their plan into fruition. They believe they have it with Pace and his revamped coaching staff, which has matched the dedication of the upperclassmen.
“There’s an amazing difference since year one to now,” Esau said. “Coach Pace came in and demanded greatness since day one. He’s held us to that standard and that’s what we live by. That’s been really significant to us, to have this coaching staff come in. We’ve been slowly gaining to the point we’re at now, and I think we’re ready to compete at a high level.”
Pace arrived at Newington with the same ambition as the players he inherited, but there was still a necessary period of adjustment. Now, Pace and the Indians have begun to build what the seniors drew out when they were kids.
“I just got here and focused on the future,” Pace explained. “ We’ve had these guys for three years and I believe they understand who we are as coaches and the expectations we have, and that’s made things a lot easier.”
Pace and his seniors have shared the same vision of the future since he arrived as head coach, but with that future on the horizon, the Indians have shifted their focus to the present. Instead of looking ahead like they did as youngsters, the team is looking to accomplish its goal by keeping its sights set on what’s next.
“We just want to win Week 1 and go from there,” Esau said. “Our goal is to make the playoffs and compete at the highest level. We believe we have the pieces to do it, and now we just have to execute on the field. But we believe we can do it.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or email@example.com