FARMINGTON – Several big name players may have graduated but the Farmington High football team still has plenty of big players – literally — returning for the 2014 campaign.
While most of the players who touched the ball on offense a year ago have graduated, the teammates that blazed the path in front of them have returned. Four of the five starters on the offensive line return for sixth-year coach Chris Machol while a majority of the defensive line is back for the Indians.
“We graduated everything on the outside but kept everything inside,” Machol said. “We probably won’t be a quick scoring team like we were a year ago. This year, we’ll have to sustain drives. But our lines will be our big strength.”
Led by All-State defensive back Kenny Jones, who caught 33 passes for 511 yards and six TDs, the Indians went 9-2 last fall and earned the CIAC Class L playoff berth that had eluded them the previous two seasons with records of 8-2 and 9-1. With Jones, dynamic running back Ivan Guadalupe and QB Jeremy Buck, the Indians scored 306 points – the fourth-best performance in team history.
For the second straight season, Guadalupe ran for over 1,000 yards and he scored nine TDs. Buck set new single season school records for completions (119) and yards thrown (1,633). His 14 TD passes was the second-best single season performance in school history.
They ran behind a line led by three-year starter guard Dan Hardiman, an All-CCC West Division II All-Star selection, senior guard Vinny Stevens, another third-year starter, junior center Matt Goralski and tackles Akash Kumar, Will Donald and Miquel Zayas. Kumas started all 11 games as a sophomore. “It’s the biggest line we’ve had since I have been here,” Machol said. “They are very strong.” Many will be playing on defense, too, along with linebacker Connor Martin and safety Jack Sucato.
Junior Mike Popolizio looks to start at quarterback for Farmington with senior running backs Martin and Sucato in the backfield. Look for seniors T.J. Nanos and J.T. McLaughlin to line up at wide receiver along with sophomore Kevin Dunst. Senior Carson Bombara is set to play tight end with junior Sean Dunleavy earning the placekicker position.
Farmington has finished second in the CCC West Division II race twice in the past three years, finishing behind Windsor (2011) and Middletown (2013). “To win that division, you have to beat Windsor and Middletown in the same year and not have any hiccups against the other teams in the division,” Machol said.
Machol hopes the Indians can be contenders again for the Division II title and for a playoff berth. “We want to be in that mix again,” he said. “We want to be in the hunt and be in the discussion. There is an expectation here that we will compete to win in every game we play.”
Farmington will host Simsbury on the season opener on Friday, Sept. 12, at 7 p.m. with the first game on the new artificial turf surface that the town installed over the summer. “There will be some excitement,” Machol said. “We’ll be ready to go.”
Coach: Chris Machol, 6th year (35-17)
Last year: 9-3, 4-1 CCC Division II West. Lost Class L quarterfinals to New Canaan, 46-0
Key losses: All-State DB Kenny Jones (33-511, 6 TDs receiving), QB Jeremy Buck (119-238-13, 1,633 yards, 14 TDs), RB Ivan Guadalupe (153-1,059, 9 TDs), WR Anthony Carpenter (32-443, 4 TDs), K Sean Garvey (25 PAT, 4 FG), RB Colin Grattan, WR Elijah Johnson, LB Jayson Martin.
Top players: OL Dan Hardiman, C Matt Goralski, G Vinny Stevens, T Akash Kumar, T Will Donald, T Miquel Zayas, QB Mike Popolizio, RB/LB Connor Martin, RB/S Jack Sucato, WR T.J. Nanos, WR J.T. McLaughlin, WR Kevin Dunst, TE Carson Bombara, K Sean Dunleavy
Outlook: Farmington graduated virtually of their skill position players but return veteran offensive and defensive lines to give the Indians a good base to build upon.
Of note: Farmington earned a playoff berth for first time since 1999. The Indians lost to New Canaan, 46-0 in the Class L quarterfinals. … Guadalupe and Jones were named to the All-CCC West Division II All-Star team for the third straight year. Also named to the All-Star team was Carpenter, Buck, Gratton, Johnson and Martin. Lineman Dan Hardiman was the only junior All-Star selection from Farmington last year. …Farmington plays just three day games this season. … The Indians have put together four straight winning seasons. It is the second-longest run in program history. The school record is eight straight winning campaigns from 1934 through 1941.
Fri. Sept. 12: SIMSBURY, 7 p.m.
Sat. Sept. 20: at RHAM, 1 p.m.
Fri. Sept. 26: MALONEY, 7 p.m.
Fri. Oct. 3: WETHERSFIELD, 7 p.m
Sat. Oct. 11: E.O. SMITH, 3 p.m.
Fri. Oct. 17: at Windsor, 7 p.m.
Fri. Oct. 24: at Bristol Central, 7 p.m.
Fri. Oct. 31: MIDDLETOWN, 7 p.m.
Fri. Nov. 7: at Bristol Eastern, 7 p.m.
Fri. Nov. 14: at Manchester, 6:30 p.m.
Thur. Nov. 27: PLAINVILLE, 10 a.m.