August 26, 2013 11:16PM
By Bryant Carpenter
MERIDEN — It must be the emerging tradesman in them all.
This team of future carpenters and mechanics, electricians and plumbers. Where some may see the chaos of construction, the Wilcox Tech football team sees, and builds, a cross-fit training course.
Just past the massive dirt pile, scattered on a graded rock-strewn lot used for parking, the Indians have assembled monster truck tires for flipping, a blocking sled for pushing, barbells for lifting.
When you can’t get into your own school, when the grounds are turned upside down, you must improvise.
And thus the Indians have overcome their first obstacle of the 2013 football season, which for them opened Wednesday with the start of preseason camp.
The Tribe is looking to be as adaptive on the field as its been on its campus. While fine-tuning their hybrid spread-option offense, the Indians are installing a brand-new defense.
Defense, without question, is where Wilcox must improve heading into its seventh season of varsity football. This team hasn’t had trouble scoring over the years. Preventing opponents from doing the same — Wilcox has allowed an average of 38 points a game over the past four years — has been the issue.
“It’s a unique defense that I’m not going to say much about, but it’s a unique thing that nobody in the state runs,” head coach Trevor Jones offered Thursday. “It’s going to take a lot of work, but we’ve got to fix the defense. We know we can score. We haven’t stopped anybody since I’ve been here, so we’ve got to fix that. Stop people and we’re going to be on track.”
The Record-Journal won’t betray secrets. Besides, the Indians weren’t working on defense Thursday. They were going through their offensive paces, and those can be fun to watch.
The Tribe spreads two receivers out wide. Two fullbacks line up on either side and one step ahead of the quarterback, who operates out of the pistol. A tailback brings up the rear.
Wilcox moves these skill players every which way in a series of triple- and speed-option runs and pass patterns. The linemen do a mess of pulling. On top of that, Wilcox goes no-huddle and tries to snap the ball every 11-13 seconds.
It certainly gives a defense a thing or two or three to think about, which is the very point, of course.
“It’s not the spread; it’s a hybrid,” said Jones. “I’m a run-and-shoot guy who took the spread concepts and integrated it into the run-and-shoot. So it’s my own thing, something I meshed together.
“We’re not a power football team, but we’re going to make you defend the option and get our best athletes in space.”
Jones is in his second year as head coach of Wilcox, having taken up the reins from program founder Bruce Haney. The two worked in tandem during the 2011 season, so Jones has technically been working with the team’s incoming seniors and juniors for three years.
Together, players and coach expect things to come to fruition in 2013.
“I think we’re going to be real good this year. Everyone’s got their focus, they’ve got their eyes on the prize. We’re ready to play,” said senior Collin Jandreau, the team’s leading rusher and scorer last season. “We’re used to coach now; we know how he is. Last year, we were just getting used to it, how he coaches.”
Now the Indians are looking to double down. They went 3-7 last year -- 4-7 if you count the exhibition win over the Connecticut Juvenile Training Center team, which the Indians do.
“We count the jail game, because we never beat them,” said Jones.
“We won four games last year. Our goal (this year) is eight or more.”
Eight? From a team whose best record, 5-5, came back in 2007 in its maiden run? In a Constitution State Conference that, while not terribly strong, does feature solid teams in Prince Tech, Bullard Havens and Capital/Classical Magnet, all of whom made the postseason last year?
“And they’re getting better all the time,” Jones acknowledged. “But we’ve got a shot. We’ve got a real good shot.”
Maybe it’s the emerging tradesman in all of them, the steady working at a craft, that supplies that can-do attitude, and that’s where the battle begins.