Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bayer adjust the single wing offense to the team that he fields


A summer of passing camps, weight lifting and conditioning has led into the first week of practice for four area football teams, each looking to find missing links while establishing their own identities.

Part of establishing an identity as a football team comes from the creation of a structure. Torrington coach Dan Dunaj and his staff have spent since December 2008 putting up such a structure. The players are in their third week together this summer. The cohesion began with a 7-on-7 passing camp. Conditioning kicked off on Aug. 18. On Tuesday, the Red Raiders put on the pads and started hitting. The players have also been involved in weight lifting programs during the offseason.

Dunaj is using the what-ifs of a 5-6 season in 2008 as motivation for his older players. If a couple of things had gone Torrington’s way, the Red Raiders may have ended up with an 8-3 record. In games against Woodland, Wolcott and Kennedy, Torrington was tied or had the lead in the fourth quarter. Each time, the Red Raiders came up short.

“I’ve sold that to the kids,” Dunaj said. “I don’t think they know how close they were to a turnaround.”

Though Torrington was running offensive plays from a more wide open scheme during drills, the coaches are still looking for hard-hitting players.

“We just got to feel out who our most physicals are on a consistent basis,” Dunaj said.

The Red Raiders lost six seniors, four of whom were all-NVL.

“We’re just untested, some of our kids,” Dunaj said.

Across the street at Wolcott Tech, establishing an identity takes on a whole other meaning. The Wildcats are in their third year as a program, second on the varsity level. Tech coach Jamie Coty has already noticed a difference in the commitment his team has at this point in the summer when compared to last year.

“These kids were showing up every time for (optional lifting sessions during the summer),” Coty said.

The lifting sessions could only be on certain days because the team draws players from over 10 different towns, including as far away as Hartland and Granby. The distance the players have to travel to practice made Coty opt to have spring practice instead of picking up conditioning days in August.

“To get all the kids here for practice when school is out is impossible,” Coty said.

That kind of dynamic has not hurt the camaraderie of the team.

“When they’re here, we’re family,” assistant coach Paul Beavers said. “We’re all the same.”

The strong turnout of freshmen and new players has the coaching staff hopeful.

“I’m hoping for 40-plus (players),” assistant coach Sean Durante said.

For a program in just its third seasons, player leadership was evident while watching just some of the conditioning drills that took place (Wolcott Tech, Gilbert/Northwestern and Housatonic/Wamogo had spring practice, which meant conditioning did not begin for the schools until Monday).

During a running drill, seniors Tom Notchick and Nick Schibi led the way. In another drill, senior Wade Belletti was pushing his younger teammates to do more. Senior Dan Bergeron is another strong leader, while junior running back Isaiah Harrington provided leadership by example with his hard work during the offseason.

Wolcott Tech will look to take advantage of its large offensive line in the running the game.

For Gilbert/Northwestern, the attack will also come on the ground, but a new quarterback, Bob Lippincott, and solid players at skill positions could provide for a balanced, explosive offense. Not unlike Torrington and Wolcott Tech, however, the Yellowjackets are looking to fill in missing slots.

“Day 2 and we’re looking alright,” Gilbert/Northwestern coach Scott Salius said. “Our main thing is we have to develop an offensive line.”

GN returns just an offensive tackle and tight end from last year’s front line. The five days of conditioning mandated by the CIAC mean that the Yellowjackets will be working on plenty of agility drills.

“We have a lot of two-way guys,” Salius said.

Like Torrington and Wolcott Tech, the players for Gilbert/Northwestern have been active in the weight room. The potential is there for a solid season, if certain pieces come together.

“We got a lot of weapons, if we can block for them,” Salius said.

A team that lost plenty of firepower was Housatonic/Wamogo. The Mountaineers graduated fourteen players, including a large offensive line (average weight around 250 pounds for six players) and star back Will Kennedy. As in his two previous seasons, Housy coach Deron Bayer will adjust the single wing offense to the team that he fields.

“We have all kinds of new players who we’re teaching the game to,” Bayer said.

As is the case in every year, Bayer starts at the beginning with the single wing.

“We start with our base play and get the fundamentals down,” Bayer said.

The goal for the Mountaineers will be to establish a core set of plays on offense that the team can hang its hat on. On defense, Housatonic/Wamogo will look to find a core defensive set that it can use.

“We have a plan, but we monitor and adjust as we go,” Bayer said.

It is a certainty that all four area teams will make adjustments in their schemes leading up to first games during the week of Sept. 13.

The Register Citizen
190 Water St.,
Torrington, CT 06790


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