BURLINGTON – Once again, the Lewis Mills High football team will be playing in the Sassacus Division of the Pequot Conference as the league realigned for the fifth time in the last five years.
The Spartans, who were 4-6 a year ago, will be challenged by tough Pequot Conference opponents from Valley Regional/Old Lyme, Morgan, North Branford and Cromwell/Portland. Valley has been to the CIAC playoffs in three of the last four seasons, Cromwell/Portland went to the Class S tournament last year.
In the past five seasons, North Branford has won 39 games and made two CIAC playoff appearances. Morgan has won 38 games in the last five years, including going 10-2 in 2013.
Fortunately, Mills is prepared for the challenge with a strong senior class of 15 players returning for the 2017 campaign.
Senior running backs Hunter Cowger and Chris Romano return to the starting lineup this fall. They’ll be running behind an older and more experienced offensive line including senior captain Zack Kelly, seniors Patrick DeLorenzo, Tommy Langer, Jesse Simard, Austin Hendel, Bryce Williams and Jacob Tetreault.
Mills need the balance with junior Grayson LeBarge taking over at quarterback. He will replace Trevor Baker, who threw for more yards (4,313) and more TD passes (26) than anyone in school history. A year ago, Baker completed 92 passes for 1,304 yards and a single-season school record 18 TD passes.
Romano was a big target, setting new single season school records with 52 receptions for 669 yards and seven touchdown passes. He’ll probably see more time in the backfield but he will be a dual threat for LeBarge.
Look for seniors David Kent, Timothy Higley, Austin Holland, Derek Gnitzcavich and Manny Duncan to contribute at wide receiver. Gabe Abraham should see time at running back and defensive back. Head coach Jose Santana returns for his fourth season at the helm of the Spartans.
Mills plays two games against Uncas Division opponents in the first two weeks of the season. The Spartans host Coventry/Windham Tech/Bolton/Lyman Memorial co-op squad on opening day in Burlington and host SMSA/University/Classical on Sept. 16.
Mills will conclude the season against their traditional Thanksgiving Day rival Nonnewaug at home in Burlington at 10 a.m.
Lewis Mills won’t play their closest (physically) rival – Canton. Games against non-divisional opponents were based on two-year records. The Warriors were 0-20 the past two seasons while Mills has posted a record of 11-9 so Mills was paired with teams closer to their actual record over the last two campaigns.
Saturday, Sept. 9: Coventry/Windham Tech/Bolton/Lyman Memorial, 1 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 16: SMSA/University/Classical, 1 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 22: at Cromwell/Portland, 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 30: at Old Saybrook/Westbrook, noon
Saturday, Oct. 7: North Branford, 1 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 21: at Coginchaug/Hale Ray, 1 p.m.
Sat. Oct. 28: at Morgan, 1:30 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 3: at Haddam-Killingworth, 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 11: Valley Regional/Old Lyme, 1 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 23: Nonnewaug, 10 a.m.