MERIDEN — After spending a year regrouping at the JV level, Wilcox Tech football has returned to varsity status.
Since 2007, the first year Wilcox played varsity football, it has been a struggle for the program. That first year the Indians went 5-5, which still stands as their best single-season record.
In 2016, the year before they went down to JV level, the Tribe went 0-9. After taking a year off from varsity, Wilcox is ready to bounce back in 2018 with better results.
“It was a no-brainer we had to step back,” said head coach Trevor Jones. “We only had a couple seniors last year. There was no way I was throwing these guys to the wolves.
”It was the right thing to do. I don’t care what other people think. It was the right thing to do for these kids. We got strong and were very successful, and we expect to translate that at the varsity level.”
After a 6-3 season last year at JV, Jones has been preparing his team in training camp for the step back up to varsity. So far, he likes what he sees.
“We did great in the offseason,” Jones reported. “These guys understand we’ve changed the culture in terms of weightlifting. We think we are going to be pretty good. We were pretty good at the lower level last year. We’ve brought most of the guys back and we had a camp at Central Connecticut.”
While Jones is optimistic with what he saw last season and in the offseason, he knows a long road lies ahead.
“We still have a lot of work to do,” he said. “We are sloppy. We have a lot of young’uns on the other side, which can be hard to get good looks, but the guys we know that will be playing at the varsity level will be OK.”
Among the key players returning are some with varsity experience dating back to 2016, including senior running back Devario Reid. Derek Gendreau is at quarterback and his fellow senior co-captain, the 245-pound R.J. Carroll, will anchor both lines as a right guard and defensive tackle.
Seniors Joe Giacco and Jaheem Green are also two-way players. Giacco is at left tackle and the “bandit” or outside linebacker. Green is at left guard and defensive end.
Sophomore center Scott Putnam and junior right tackle Matthew Adkins round out the O-line. Senior defensive end Zach Ranno and nose guard Shaunessy Reynolds, a 215-pound sophomore, complete the starting D-line.
At wide receiver, the Indians have an all-junior fleet in Jeremy Perez, Troy Mitchell, Nick Sharetto and Jacob Schwall.
Perez is also the free safety. He’ll be joined in the secondary by sophomore cornerbacks Sebastian Lopez and Christian D’Agostino.
The linebackers are junior Michael Mysatyukow (middle) and sophomores Alberto Sarris (strong side) and Michael Furgalack (weak side).
”We are all working hard,” said Gendreau. “The upperclassmen are really showing the way. They young guys now know what they have to do to win.”
One thing that should help the Indians transition back to varsity football was last year’s realignment that saw Wilcox and the other technical schools leave the Constitution State Conference and reform as the Vo-Tech Conference.
By 2016, the Constitution State Conference landscape had been overrun by magnet schools and, in the case of Bassick and Harding of Bridgeport, a few public schools. Wilcox often found itself overmatched on the gridiron.
In the Vo-Tech, the Tribe will square off almost exclusively against tech schools, although a number of them are co-op programs.
Still, the Vo-Tech creates a more level playing field and Jones is content with the change.
“I think the Vo-Tech is where we should be,” he said. “We needed to change it. We needed to rebuild and reload, and we did. Everybody has a competitive level and our kids are in a conference where we all have a shot every year.”
The Indians will get after it starting on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 8, when they travel up to Canaan to take on the Wolcott Tech/Housatonic/Wamogo co-op at Housatonic High School. Kickoff is 1 p.m.
The Tribe plays its home opener the following Saturday, Sept. 15 against the Thames River Co-op of Norwich Tech, Grasso Tech and St. Bernard. That game is at Wilcox Tech at 1 p.m.
After that, all of Wilcox Tech’s home games are at Falcon Field on Saturday nights at 6 p.m.: Bullard-Havens on Sept. 22, Cheney Tech on Oct. 6, Prince Tech on Oct. 27 and Quinebaug Valley on Nov. 3.
The Indians also renew their Thanksgiving Eve rivalry with Vinal Tech/East Hampton/Goodwin Tech. This year’s game is at Palmer Field in Middletown on Wednesday, Nov. 21 at 6 p.m.
“I just want to see these kids be successful,” Jones said. “It is not easy; it is a grind. What I love about these kids is they understand. They get it.”