MERIDEN — In two groups by the north end zone, the Maloney quarterbacks and receivers ran through their reads and routes.
Slants, corner fades, over and again as the late August daylight faded Monday.
Get those reps in. There are shoes to fill. After marching to last year’s Class L final, the Spartans bid farewell to a solid senior class led by All-State players Victor Marquez, who signed off as Maloney’s leading receiver of all-time in virtually every catagory, and Elliot Good, who broke Maloney’s single-season passing record.
All-Conference receiver Maurice Brackett and All-Conference linebacker Jaylon Nixon also graduated. So did All-Conference linemen D.J. Posey and Ryan Martel, who literally cast large shadows when it came to blocking schemes and team leadership.
These players were staples of Maloney’s back-to-back playoff seasons of 2017 and 2018. So does that make 2019 some sort of rebuilding season on the East Side?
As the Gravel Street guys in green see it, no way. It’s another a year to push the envelope.
“We’re super-talented all across the board. We’ve got some real good depth up front on our offensive and defensive lines. We’ve got some dynamic skils players,” enumerated head coach Kevin Frederick. “We’re deep at some positions, we’ve got some youth, but I expect to win every game. That’s my plan going into it.”
The Spartans have learned to dream big under Frederick’s watch. The team is 39-17 since he came aboard in 2014, following up a 5-6 first season with a pair of 7-3 campaigns, the 9-2 return to the postseason in 2017 and last year’s 10-3 march to the finals.
The 1-9 season of 2013, which predated Frederick’s arrival, seems ages ago.
With both Platt and Maloney making Friday nights at Falcon Field must-watch football these days, the Spartans fully expect to continue holding up their end.
Some names will be familiar. Back is 1,100-yard rusher James Tarver, still only a junior. Back is linebacker Kody Talento, last year’s leading tackler. Back is fellow senior Trevor Santiago, an All-State lineman.
Santiago will be rejoined in the trenches by Elijah Stevenson, Toby Canales and Sirtorious White, a two-year starter back after missing last year to injury. So even as Maloney took big hits with the loss of Posey and Martel, they are no less imposing up front.
And, as much as Maloney will miss Marquez and Brackett, the receiving cupboard is hardly bare with the return of seniors Kamron Moreno and Sergio Muniz, who also play in the secondary.
That said, some names will be new, beginning at quarterback. Sophomores Angel Arce, Spencer Studley and Jack Fitzgerald are vying for the starting job.
“All three of those guys are doing really well, I think, handling the stuff that’s going on here,” Frederick said.
The Spartans have youth in other areas, but it’s youth with varsity experience. Returning linebacker Kenny McMillan started as a freshman. So did Stone DeLeone — over at Middletown. He’s transferred to Maloney, and Frederick expects him to be a presence at inside linebacker and tight end.
Frederick also speaks highly of sophomore receiver Ian Graham.
“We might be young, grade-wise, but we’ve got a lot of experienced guys who are out there playing,” the head coach said.
One big question, especially for a young team: Who will provide the leadership?
“That’s something we’re always looking to improve — get some more vocal leaders, get more guys to take those kind of roles,” said Frederick, noting that last year’s seniors, “were exceptional leaders on and off the field.”
One other thing Frederick said as night came on Monday and brought that day’s practice to a close: “School starts on Wednesday. It’s easy to come out here and just practice and then go home and sleep in. Now they’ve got to wake up in the morning, go to school, do a good job in the hallways, do a good job in the classroom, meet my expectations in the building and then let’s see if it translates on the field.
“That’s something that’s going to tell me if we’re going to be a good team or not be a good team.”
The Spartans scrimmage Lyman Hall next Thursday evening at Falcon Field. Their regular-season schedule is again demanding. Maloney crosses over against the top two teams in CCC Division II-East, Windsor and Middletown, and takes on SCC power North Haven on the Connecticut Football Alliance schedule.
Sept. 13 at Farmington, 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 20 vs. Bristol Central, 6:30 p.m.
Sept. 27 vs. North Haven, 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 4 at Middletown, 7 p.m.
Oct. 11 vs. Bristol Eastern, 6:30 p.m.
Oct. 25 at Newington, 6:30 p.m.
Nov. 1 vs. Hartford Public, 6:30 p.m.
Nov. 8 at Wethersfield, 7 p.m.
Nov. 11 vs. Windsor, 6:30 p.m.
Nov. 28 vs. Platt, 10:30 a.m.