WALLINGFORD — For those keeping score at home, the Sheehan football team beat North Branford 47-0 in its game scrimmage on Friday night.
North Branford is a Class S program. Sheehan is a Class S program.
North Branford is the last Class S opponent Sheehan will face this season until the Class S state playoffs.
Should the Titans get there.
We’ve covered this before, but let’s review: In the same year enrollment dropped them from Class M to S in the CIAC playoff divisions, the Titans have been elevated in the Southern Connecticut Conference from Tier 3 to Tier 2.
The result is a schedule in which half of Sheehan’s opponents are either Class LL (Cheshire, Hamden, Wilbur Cross) or Class L (Hillhouse, North Haven). The other half — Branford, Lyman Hall and three teams from the South-West Conference, including playoff qualifier Brookfield — are Class M.
As much as this may be a rallying and not a whining point for the Titans, it is their reality as they bid for a third straight trip to the postseason. To make a small school dance in which the cutoff is usually eight wins — and sometimes even that’s not good enough depending on how the power points fall — Sheehan is going to have to take down more than a few big boys along the way.
“Everyone knows we have a more challenging schedule,” said coach John Ferrazzi. “We can’t use it as an excuse at this point. We’re going to go out and play every game looking to compete, looking to win.
“We don’t spend too much time talking about it right now,” Ferrazzi added. “We addressed it the first day we came in and, I know it’s coach-talk, but you’ve got to stay focused on the process and control how you practice every day and keep your focus on the task at hand.
“There’s no other way to really do it. Right now, we just finished North Branford. We’re getting after Cross starting tomorrow. That’s the way we have to attack it.”
With 14 seasons under his belt, Ferrazzi is the longest tenured coach in the R-J coverage area and the third longest in the SCC. This year, he’s got a team that’s modest in size (the varsity roster numbers 38) yet versatile in skill.
It’s a team with a strong senior class that experienced success in youth football, a 9-2 state quarterfinal season as sophomores and a 10-2 state semifinal season as juniors.
It’s a team with running back Terrence Bogan, a Walter Camp 2018 Player of the Year finalist who ran for 2,481 yards and 34 touchdowns last fall. It’s a team with the dynamic Jordan Davis back to full health.
In other words, if there’s a Sheehan squad that can deal with a more demanding schedule, it’s this one.
“This team has the DNA to compete and get back there again,” Ferrazzi said of his team’s playoff prospects. “Our senior class provides us with great leadership. They’re used to competing and stepping on the field looking to win. They don’t look at any game on our schedule that they can’t.”
It won’t be easy for opponents to prep for Sheehan. The T-Men have the personnel to show multiple looks on both sides of the ball.
The offense will again be built around the run. Bogan, following immediately on the heels of record-breaker Zach Davis, has extended Sheehan’s hold on the state rushing title.
This proven running game will enable senior quarterback Kyle Simmons, who replaces three-year starter Wes Terzi, to settle into the passing game.
Defensively, there’s depth at most positions. More than that, there are players like three-year starter Braedon McCarthy, a linebacker converted to defensive end, who can play different positions.
“What’s nice this year is we feel we have kids that have multiple personnel groupings on offense,” Ferrazzi said. “Being able to put different groupings out there, we feel, is a strength of the offense.
“Defense has been flying around — tough, fast, playing physical,” Ferrazzi also said. “I’ve been impressed with the defensive progress. We’ve still got some guys battling to play, but a lot of the guys that were competing will be rotating in.”
These rotations extend even to running back. Bogan may be Connecticut’s reigning rushing leader, but it’s a long season, and he won’t be the only TItan toting the rock.
Davis, a run-catch theat, will be at running back as well as receiver. Seniors Russell Rutkwoski and Tyler Guercia, as well as sophomore speedster Ryan Villano, have looked good.
“We’ve had depth at running back,” Ferrazzi noted. “Obviously, we have a real good one in Bogan, but we feel we have four more who can play. We feel we have a stable of backs.”
At receiver, Davis will be joined by fellow seniors Riley Bjornberg, Garrett Molampy, Michael Lemay and Andrew Mansfield.
The Titans will also make use of their H-backs, guys with some bulk who can be deployed as tight ends or out of the backfield. The 6-2, 250-pound McCarthy leads a group that also includes Rutkwoski, Guercia and junior Garrett Harrison.
“All those guys we can put at that H position and we can put more than one of them on the field if we want two,” said Ferrazzi
Up front, the Titans bring back just one starter, yet still have a seven-man mix. T.J. DiPasquale, a senior captain along with Bogan, Davis and McCarthy, is the veteran. He has been moved to left tackle, though he can play any spot.
“He has a football IQ; he’s smart,” Ferrazzi said of 225-pound DiPasquale. “He knows our scheme, he knows how to react to adjustments.”
Senior Mickey Deming, a starter at defensive end since his sophomore year, has joined the O-line as a 6-foot, 245-pound guard. Center Billy Gorry (5-11, 240) and guard Cam LaChance (6-0, 260) are now starters as juniors after rotating in last year.
Harrison, senior Ryan Shook and junior Ryan Remillard will also see ample time on the line. Remillard is the big man at 6-3, 320.
These same linemen fill the defensive front. Gorry, LaChance and Remillard man the interior in between Deming and McCarthy. Shook will rotate in at end.
“We feel we’ve got five or six guys who can play along the D-line depending upon what we’re seeing and the front we want to be in,” Ferrazzi said.
Rutkowski, DiPasquale and Harrison are the inside linebackers. To the outside are Davis, Guercia and Mansfield.
Shook and junior Nick Iannone can be deployed when the Titans want to bring their outside backers up to the line of scrimmage.
“We’re working with three true outside linebackers and then two defensive end/outside linebackers,” Ferrazzi elaborated. “Jordan Davis brings that explosiveness. He can play man coverage, he can drop in any zone coverage you want. He’s so twitchy and explosive you can blitz him, and he’s starting to react very well to the run.”
In the secondary, Lemay returns as starting free safety. Junior Jason Villano is at “wolf” safety, a position in which graduated senior Ryan Paul excelled last season with 137 tackles, which put him among state leaders.
Bogan and Bjornberg are the starters at cornerback, with Molampy and sophomore John Cotter competing for the third position.
This will be the first year of high school football for Molampy, who has hitherto made his mark in basketball.
“Garretty Molampy has been a great addition for a kid who’s coming and playing for the first time since youth ball,” Ferrazzi said. “But he’s used to the stage. He’s played with pressure on his back.”
The same, really, can be said of all of Sheehan’s upperclassmen. They’ve walked the playoff football stage not once, but twice. Now, the Titans play a bigger house and they must hit the ground running on opening night.
“We’ve got to compete every week and we’ve got to control the things we can control all week long. We’ve got to practice hard, we’ve got to eliminate our mistakes and we’ve got to stay healthy,” Ferrazzi said. “If we can do those things, I think we’ve got a legitimate shot to play with anyone on our schedule.”
■Sept. 13 vs. Wilbur Cross, 6:30 p.m.■Sept. 20 vs. Notre Dame-Fairfield, 6:30 p.m.■Sept. 27 at Brookfield, 7 p.m.■Oct. 4 vs. Branford, 6:30 p.m.■Oct. 18 at Joel Barlow, 7 p.m.■Nov. 1 at Hillhouse, 7 p.m.■Nov. 8 at North Haven, 7 p.m.■Nov. 15 at Cheshire, 7 p.m.■Nov. 22 vs. Hamden, 6 p.m.■Nov. 28 vs. Lyman Hall, 10:30 a.m.