SIMSBURY, Sept. 17 – Since the first decade of the 20th century, they have been playing football at Simsbury High School. A year ago, the Trojans won two of 10 games and gave up a school-record 345 points. Preparing for the 2011 campaign, the coaching staff of the Trojan football team modified their defensive schemes.
“We did a 10-year upgrade,” head coach Jeff Osborne said after Friday night’s 14-7 season opening victory over Newington at the high school. “We were running a 1998 defense. Now, we’re in a 2011 defense and we’re ready to go.”
Simsbury (1-0, 0-0 CCC Div. I West) was able to contain Newington’s fleet quarterback Jonathan Snyder, who was able to run for just 38 yards on 16 carries. He completed 13 of 24 passes for 165 yards.
“We changed a lot,” Osborne said. “We changed our coverages. You have to stop the short and medium game. And if you looked at a Simsbury team in the past, we were playing so deep all of the time.”
Simsbury was a hard-hitting team, too, punishing Newington receivers and backs. And for some perspective, this wasn’t a state playoff-caliber team on the opposing sideline. Newington was 0-10 a year ago but they were hoping to improve with a solid returning group of veterans.
The challenge gets more difficult when Simsbury hosts Conard next Friday night at 7 p.m. at Simsbury High. Conard won the CCC Division II title a year ago and qualified for the Class LL tournament. The Chieftains may have graduated hard-running Jonathan Esposito, who set a slew of school rushing records, but there is plenty of talent remaining.
Conard opened the season with a 49-8 rout of South Windsor Saturday. Running back Ricky Cotton ran for 206 yards and two touchdowns – the largest opening day effort by a Conard since 1993. Conard QB Owen Synder also threw two touchdown passes, a significant achievement for a team that had just five TD receptions a year ago.
Simsbury’s best defense may be its triple option veer offense – just as it was against Newington on opening night. Simsbury had five turnovers (four fumbles, interception) on Friday and still won because they were able to control long stretches of the game with its offense.
Leading 6-0 at halftime, Simsbury used 14 plays to move 70 yards in 7:46 to take a 14-0 lead with 2:39 remaining in the third quarter on a seven-yard run up the middle from Brad Helmkamp. Twelve of the 14 running plays were for 10 yards or less.
Back-to-back passing plays from Snyder to Jesse Ramirez put Newington in position to score and Snyder scored from the two-yard line with 9:44 remaining to cut the lead to seven, 14-7.
But Simsbury went on another 14 play march that went 62 yards and ate up 8:20. It ended with a field goal attempt from Brian Poggio that was wide left from 21 yards away but it left Newington just 45.1 seconds of time and that wasn’t enough.
Simsbury may be facing Conard with its backup quarterback Brendan Conway, who played in the second half of the Newington game after Steven Steijn hurt his knee late in the second quarter.
Steijn ran for 84 yards on 11 carries and threw a 55-yard touchdown pass to Blair Zentek on Simsbury’s sixth offensive play of the game in the first half. Conway, who also played at safety, took over and ran for a game-high 117 yards on 19 carries. Andrew Girard earned 44 hard-earned yards while Christian Martinez ran for 28 yards.
Cormack Mulshine and Zentek each came up with a pair of interceptions for Simsbury while Christian Kaljulaid and Garrett Crowe teamed up for one sack.
Simsbury 14, NHS 7
Newington (0-1) 0 0 0 7 — 7
Simsbury (1-0) 6 0 8 0 –14
S: Blair Zentek 55 pass from Steven Steijn (kick fails), 8:27
S: Brad Helmkamp 7 run (Brendan Conway run), 2:39
N: Jonathan Snyder 2 run (Jesse Ramirez kick), 9:44
RUSHING: Newington – Jon Snyder 16-38, Freddy Burgos 3-11, Christian Beauford 1-0; Simsbury – Andrew Girard 12-44, Brendan Conway 19-117, Christian Martinez 4-28, Brad Helmkamp 3-7, Steven Steijn 11-84, Cormack Mulshine 2-minus 1
PASSING: Steijn 1-1-0, 55; Conway 0-1-2; Snyder 13-24-1, 165
RECEIVING: Simsbury – Zentek 1-55; Newington – Luis Figueroa 5-43, Freddy Burgos 2-37, Bryan Esposito 1-15, Jessie Ramierez 2-25, Bryan Esposito 3-55
MISSED FG: Poggio (S) 21, wide left
Avon 30, Stafford/East Windsor 7
STAFFORD, Sept. 16 – The Falcons scored 30 unanswered points to easily capture their season opener. Junior Colin Moore ran for a career-high 237 yards and two TDs on 28 carries. He also threw a 35-yard TD pass to Will DiStefano and ran in three two-point conversions. Mitch Gauthier also had a 68-yard kickoff return for Avon. Stafford was led by Zach Rollins, who ran for 85 yards on six carries, including a 65-yard TD in the second quarter that gave the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead.