BURLINGTON – The Spartans are finally home for good.
After several years of playing home games at Muzzy Field in Bristol, the Lewis Mills High football team can play at home in the shadow of their own school. Third-year coach Jose Santana is hoping that a more experienced squad with 10 returning starters can pick up more victories this fall.
“We’re extremely excited (to be playing at home),” Santana said. “And it’s not just the kids. The community and the school is excited as well. It’s a step in the right direction as far as the program is concerned.”
Since the varsity program began in 2010, the Spartans have never won more than two games in a season. Mills was 2-9 last year. But with six starters back on offense and four on defense, Santana is optimistic that the Spartans can make progress.
With the realignment of the Pequot Football Conference thanks to the departure of Avon, Lewis Mills was placed in the Western Division with Canton, Granby, SMSA/University and fellow Berkshire League rivals Nonnewaug and Gilbert/Northwestern. Mills should be much more competitive in this division than it was in the Pequot Sassacus division a year ago with Class S Large Division state champion Valley Regional/Old Lyme and outstanding Shoreline Conference programs such as North Branford, Coginchaug, Morgan and Cromwell.
“This schedule will allow us to be more competitive,” Santana said.
His players remember last year’s games. Many were routs that were over by halftime. Valley Regional/OL won 43-10, North Branford rolled to a 68-19 win and Coginchaug earned a 46-0 shutout.“The level of commitment in the weight room (in the summer) was better than it has been before,” Santana said. “There was more of an off-season commitment.”
Mills has six key seniors on the squad including 5-foot-8 wide receiver Lucas Lanning, who has played quarterback over the past three seasons. But he is moving to wide receiver this fall with 6-foot-4 Trevor Baker healthy again. Baker, who has a strong arm, injured his knee last year and missed the entire season.
At least, Mills has an experienced backup QB. Lanning completed 122 of 221 passes for 1,623 yards and 14 touchdowns a year ago – all individual single-season schools. Lanning had over 200 yards passing in three games, including a 20-of-38 performance for 314 yards and three TDs in the loss to North Branford.
Leading rusher senior Collin Kennedy (116-660, 3 TDs) returns along with middle linebacker and offensive lineman Conor Kennedy, linemen Adam Positano and Sean Burke. Wide receiver Matt Rinkus is back in the lineup, too.
Baker leads a talented junior class that includes running back/linebacker Mike Ciccarelli, DE/G Grant Berube, WR/CB Jesse Serrano, lineman Darien St. Pierre and WR/CB Jamie Romano. Sophomore running backs Hunter Cower and Chris Romano are expected to play.
Mills opens at SMSA/University (1-0, 1-0 Pequot West) at the Anne Fisher Montesorri School in Hartford on Saturday morning. The Spartans open at home against Gilbert/Northwestern (0-1, 0-1) on Sept. 26 at 1 p.m. Mills closes the season with their Thanksgiving Day rival Nonnewaug at home and are looking to snap a three-year losing streak to the Chiefs.
Coach: Jose Quintana, 3rd year (4-18)
Last year: 2-9, 1-8 Pequot Sassacus Division
Of note: Mills will play all of their home games on campus for the first time. … Mills has two night games scheduled — at Haddam-Killingworth on Friday, Oct. 9, and at home against Stafford/East Windsor/Somers at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 20.
Sat. Sept. 19: at SMSA/University (Anne Fisher Montesorri), 11 a.m.
Sat. Sept. 26: GILBERT/NWR, 1 p.m.
Sat. Oct. 3: GRANBY, 3 p.m.
Fri. Oct. 9: at Haddam-Killingworth, 6:30 p.m.
Fri. Oct. 16: at Enfield, 7 p.m.
Sat. Oct. 31: OLD SAYBROOK/WESTBROOK, 1 p.m.
Sat. Nov. 7: at Canton. 2 p.m.
Sat. Nov. 14: COVENTRY/WINDHAM TECH/BOLTON, 1 p.m.
Fri. Nov. 20: STAFFORD/EAST WINDSOR/SOMERS, 6:30 p.m.
Thur. Nov. 26: NONNEWAUG. 10 a.m.