In the inaugural season with Coach Cavaliere at the helm, the Red Devils made some strides in the right direction. The team had its first SWC win on the new turf field, they had a five game win streak, they had the most wins in the last several years and they showed signs that they are moving to the middle tier of the SWC. However, last year is last year and the Red Devils cannot look at that season and be satisfied as their goal is not complete. The coaches have been preaching a mantra of taking the “next step” throughout the summer workouts. Gueber Doctuer win not take another snap from under center this year, Sam Breiner will not make a tackle on defense, and Lance Jamison will not make a block. So the question becomes who is ready to step up and go down the path that was paved by the class of 2014?
Firstly, the Devils have high hopes in the fact that they have a large senior class this year and many of them have seen significant playing time as underclassmen. Offensively, Stratford returns Luis Villanueva and Jack Branco up front. They will also look to players like Bobby Vena and Hamit Nasufi to help anchor down the line. In the backfield, Stratford will be happy to have David Davidson and Brett Patrick both back in the fullback roll. Even though they have contrasting styles, there are high hopes for both to have strong years in the backfield. Other running backs in this triple option attack will include: Mar’Quess Daniels (who is a threat each time he carries it), Marjhae Clarke, Troy Jordan (both who have significantly improved since last season) and newcomers Toure Hall and Makai Curry. On the outside, the Red Devils return both Jack Duffy and Devon Davidson who offer different threats to the defense. Angel Arias is another threat on the outside. The big issue is that Stratford needs to replace the quarterback. As of now Connor Anstis is looking like the lead contender in that role. His smarts and sneaky athleticism will cause defenses problems and his ability to throw the ball consistently will add new dimensions to the offense this season.
Defensively, Stratford will once again lean on a strong defensive line. Returning starters Pat Lepesko, John Cox and Mar’Quess Daniels seem to cause a lot of problems for opposing lines. Looking for their place at the table will be Quintin Rollins, Deandre Graham, and a few others. The big issue on defense this season will be a fairly inexperienced linebacking crew. Several players are trying to find roles in this void. Some include: Stephen Rohaly, Dan Cox, Vinny LaConte, Pat St. Vil and a couple others. Another strength of the defense will be the strong secondary. Players like Nate Shields, Freddie Clark, Ethan Brokelschen, Alex Pena and Dante Fancis are looking to shut down opposing air attacks. This group better be ready early as Stratford opens its season against one of the top QBs in the league.
Stratford will try to find some answers to who will be filling all of these roles over the next two weeks. On Saturday, Stratford will travel to St. Joes to take on the defending State champs in a scrimmage. After that on Sept. 4th, Stratford will look to avenge a loss from last year against a tough New Fairfield squad. Both of these will give Stratford a good indication of whether or not they are ready to take the “next step” and move the program forward this year.