FOOTBALL 2019: Amid the pains, Lyman Hall knows there will be growth

FOOTBALL 2019: Amid the pains, Lyman Hall knows there will be growth

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WALLINGFORD — A tale of two scrimmages. Such was the Lyman Hall football preseason.

Best of times, worst of times?

Kind of.

Twice the Trojans trekked to Meriden’s Falcon Field, first for a controlled quad hosted by Platt, then for a full-on game scrimmage with Maloney.

As distraught as head coach Bill Weyrauch was after the former on Saturday, Aug. 31, he was enthused after the latter this past Thursday — even though LH took some lumps from the Spartans.

”I liked what I saw tonight; I’m excited to go to work tomorrow morning and get back at it,” Weyrauch said as he and the Trojans headed back to Wallingford around 8:45. “I wouldn’t have said it after Saturday’s scrimmage. Right now, I’m excited to get back to work.”

Weyrauch knew from the start of camp what sort of job the 2019 season, his third as Lyman Hall head coach, would entail. While some starters were returning, a new wave of younger players was coming up. This was a team that would improve as the year wore on.

On Thursday, against Maloney, the Trojans hung early on, answering an opening score with one of their own before the more seasoned Spartans took control, capitalizing on any LH mistake.

Yet even as the gap on the scoreboard widened, the Trojans, led by two-way gamers Luke O’Reardon and Shakespeare Rodriguez, kept grinding. That was the ultimate takeaway for Weyrauch. 

“Last Saturday, I was concerned about our football team; I didn’t think we had the right mentality,” he said. “Tonight, I feel like we had the right mentality out here.

“Again, we have to execute and score, but I look at those first three, four possessions, and I was kind of happy with what we were doing against a good football team. Maloney will be as good team as we’ll see this season.”

Lyman Hall, a SCC Tier 3 and CIAC Class M team, opens Friday in Milford against Jonathan Law. The home opener follows in Week 2 against Bethel of the SWC.

The Trojans have gone 5-5 in each of their first two seasons under Weyrauch, who has reinvigorated a program that fell on hard times after Chip McKeehan retired following the 2011 campaign.

Do the Trojans have the goods to finally get back over .500? Considering their schedule, veteran leadership and youthful promise, absolutely — so long as focus and commitment do not waver.

In the words of Weyrauch: “Last Saturday, I didn’t know where to turn. I watch this week and I say, ‘This team is going to get better as the season goes on. I really feel that. I really feel with every down they play these guys are going to be a better football team.”

O’Reardon, only a junior, and the senior captains Rodriguez, Sean Patrick Pragano, Jaiden Garcia and Josh Seichter will lead the way.

Pragano, in his second year as starting QB, is now in a spread system that Weyrauch, though a power guy since his days as a defensive end at Fordham, put into place because he knows it better suits the senior signal caller and his personnel. O’Reardon, Rodriguez and Seichter are all quality receivers.

O’Reardon (6-2, 235) and Rodriguez (6-0, 208) are rugged, yards-after-the-catch guys.

O’Reardon, as Maloney learned Thursday, does not go down easily. He’ll also be used in the backfield in short-yardage situations and, as linebacker, is at the heart of the defense.

“O’Reardon does everything right and that’s why he’s become the player he is right now as a junior,” Weyrauch said. “We rely on him for an awful lot. We’re going to use him in a lot of different ways this year.”

Another junior, running back Christian Salaman, also looked good Thursday. Quick and shifty at 5-7, 160, Salaman can slither through small spaces, but is also developing a physical element to his game, much to his coach’s delight.

“We need a back that’s going to lower his shoulder,” Weyrauch said. “I’m old school. I want that guy to lower down and go get me three yards.

“Christian Salaman has established himself as our running back,” Weyrauch added. “I think we throw the ball, but we need a running game. Salaman established himself tonight, which I’m happy about.”

The O-line is something old, something new and fairly big across. It is built around the 211-pound Garcia at center. He didn’t start last year, but saw plenty of game time.

“He’s really the leader of our offensive line,” Weyrauch noted. “He sets the tone.”

To Garcia’s right are returning senior guard Mark Franco (5-8, 221) and arriving junior tackle Brendan Mitchell (6-2, 240). To the left are sophomore guard Joe Pieper and senior tackle James Daddio.

Weyrauch raves about the 5-11, 240-pound Pieper. “I’m excited about what this kid is going to do down the road. I like the way he plays football.”

As for Daddio, he is a returning defensive tackle in Lyman Hall’s four-man front. This year, his services are also needed on offense.

“He’s our big man,” said Weyrauch. “He’s 6-1, 285 and he’s a good player.”

Daddio will be back up front on defense, with Garcia at the nose and Franco at end. Senior Ben Negron, who hasn’t played since freshman year, is the other starting D-end.

Junior Bobby Cella, a first-year varsity starter, gets the call at linebacker alongside O’Reardon.

“I was really pleased with what he did on the field tonight,” Weyrauch said of Cella. “He’s a guy on the field learning and a great kid to coach.”

Rodriguez, Seichter, Salaman are the defensive backs along with junior Tommy Pallotta and senior Jabari Robinson. Another senior, Spencer Evans, is the returning starter at free safety and the linchpin of the secondary.

”Spencer: We need him to have a big year,” Weyrauch remarked. “He’s the guy I rely on the most on the defensive side of the ball.”

Weyrauch liked the way his defense ran to the ball Thursday. His offense moved the ball at times, undid itself at others.

Bottom  line: The Class M Trojans got a much-needed tuneup facing a team that’s gone to the Class L playoffs for two years running.

“We didn’t have any scrimmage games last year,” Weyrauch noted. “This team needed scrimmages. We’re a better football team for it.”

■Sept. 13 at Jonathan Law, 7 p.m.■Sept. 20 vs. Bethel, 6:30 p.m.■Sept. 27 vs. East Catholic, 6:30 p.m.■Oct. 4 at Foran, 7 p.m.■Oct. 18 at Guilford, 7 p.m.■Oct. 26 at Notre Dame-Fairfield, noon■Nov. 1 vs. Amity, 6:30 p.m.■Nov. 15 vs. East Haven, 6:30 p.m.■Nov. 22 vs. Bassick, 6:30 p.m.■Nov. 28 at Sheehan, 10:30 a.m.