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Simsbury hopes to continue positive growth in 2017

Simsbury has 14 returning starters for head coach Dave Masters. The season opens Friday at Hall in West Hartford.

SIMSBURY, Sept. 4 – It’s year three of the Dave Masters’ era in Simsbury and things are looking up for the Trojans.

After going 1-9 in his first campaign, Simsbury went 5-5 a year ago, winning five of their final six games. Masters hopes to keep that momentum moving forward this fall.

Simsbury lost several seniors, including leading rusher Sean Penney (1,213 yards, 21 TDs) and QB Riley Shanley, who threw for over 1,218 yards and 7 TD passes. But the Trojans still have 14 returning starters, sprinkled on both sides of the ball.

Three All-Conference players return including two-time CCC Division I West All-Star receiver Ralph Gilliard. The 5-foot-11 senior caught 53 passes for 805 yards and 7 TD passes. As a sophomore, he pulled in 49 passes for 758 yards and another 5 TD receptions.

Simsbury receiver Ralph Gilliard has caught 102 passes in the past two seasons.

Gilliard’s 11 receptions for 92 yards against Manchester in last fall’s season opener was one of the best performances in school history. It could be a school record for most receptions in a single game. It is certainly the most catches in a single game this century.

All-Conference senior offensive and defensive lineman Jackson King returns along with junior linebacker Cole Hermsen, who led the team with 127 tackles.

Offensively, 6-foot-2 senior Jackson Masters takes over at QB. Masters saw significant action at QB a year ago, splitting time with Shanley in some games. Seniors Raf Nieves (RB), Jake Taddio (TE/DE) and Tate Valerio (WR/SS) will bring experience to these skill positions. Junior receiver Jackson Butler (29 receptions, 380 yards in 2016) has looked sharp in preseason workouts.

Simsbury lineman discuss plays during a recent practice.

King, Evan Rabinowitz, Tim Talbot will be seniors who will anchor the offensive and defensive lines.

Simsbury will be playing in the CCC Division I West Division. The CCC made an adjustment this fall, moving Bulkeley/HMTCA/Weaver to Division III and moving South Windsor into Division I so Simsbury will tangle with the Bobcats in week four.

The Trojans open the season with three road games in the first four weeks including a trip to Southington, which looks to be in the top 10 preseason poll. Simsbury opens the season at Hall in West Hartford on Friday at 7 p.m. The first home game is Friday, Sept. 22, when Simsbury hosts East Hartford at 7 p.m.

The Trojans will close out the season with the third Valley Gridiron Classic when they host Avon on Tuesday, Nov. 21, at 7 p.m.

Simsbury’s five captains for 2017 season, from left to right: Jackson King (65), Evan Rabinowitz (54), Jackson Masters (16), Jake Taddio (2) and Ralph Gilliard.

2017 schedule
Friday, Sept. 8: at Hall, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 15: at Southington
Friday, Sept. 22: East Hartford, 7 p.m.
Sat. Sept. 30: at South Windsor, 11 a.m.
Friday, Oct. 6: New Britain, 7 p.m.
Bye week
Friday, Oct. 20: Conard, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 27: Enfield, 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 3: at Manchester, 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 10: at Glastonbury, 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 21: Avon, 7 p.m. (Valley Gridiron Classic)

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 30 years.

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