Pictured: Junior quarterback Vinnie Naccarato will pilot the Old Saybrook/Westbrook triple-option attack. (Photo by Marc Silvestrini)
By Marc Silvestrini
OLD SAYBROOK — Twenty-nine is not an ideal number of names to have on your football roster, but it can work, especially if you have the right 29.
That number is the big issue facing the Old Saybrook/Westbrook football team as it heads into its 2021 season. It will force many of the Rams to play both ways — on offense and defense — and could also lead to depth problems should the injury bug raise its ugly head at any point in the season.
But Mike Marone, who is entering his seventh season as the Rams’ head coach, is still optimistic that the Rams will field a competitive, if not terribly deep, team this fall.
Twenty-nine committed, hard-working football players are enough to win with, he insists.
A Quick History Lesson
To prove his point, Marone journeys back 20 years, to 2001, when he was an assistant coach at North Branford. That squad listed only 19 players on its roster yet advanced all the way to the Class S title game before losing to a powerhouse Bloomfield squad that was concluding a record-setting stretch of five straight state championship victories.
“You can win with 29 kids. It’s been done before and there’s no reason why it couldn’t happen right here,” he said.
What We Learned
Aside from its thin roster, Saybrook will also be a young team, with only five seniors in the fold. In fact, not one varsity starter from 2019, the last time high school football was played in Connecticut, is returning, Marone said.
“We’ve got a bunch of kids that have only played JV football, but I’m sure most of the other schools in Class S are in the same boat,” he said.
Nonetheless, the coaching staff is upbeat heading into the season. Their optimism is based on a happy coincidence: Old Saybrook’s best players are perfectly suited to run the team’s triple-option offense.
“We’ve got a pretty good quarterback, a pretty good fullback and some kids up front that can block,” Marone said. “We have some players. We’ll also have a hole or two here and there that we’ll try to hide with smoke and mirrors …
“I guess it’ll be up to our opponents to try and find them.”
Names to Remember
Marone is confident that his quarterback, junior Vinnie Naccarato, and fullback, Jake Pavlovich, also a junior, will be among the top players in the Pequot Conference. Both will also play important roles in the Rams 4-2-5 defense, Naccarato as a safety and Pavlovich as an inside linebacker.
Seniors Gregor McCormack and Andrew Carter and junior Brendan Novajosky will share time in the offensive backfield with Naccarato and Pavlovich. All three will also play both ways, with McCormack occupying the second linebacker position, opposite Pavlovich, and Carter and Novajosky sharing duties in the five-man defensive backfield.
Senior Rick Potvin will be the team’s center while Charlie McMahon and Reilly Peterson are expected to be the ends. All three will also fill roles on defense.
Carter, McCormack and Potvin are the team’s captains.
**Sept. 3: Old Saybrook/Westbrook visits Plainfield for a 4:30 p.m. scrimmage.
Regular Season Schedule
All Home Games at Old Saybrook High School
Sept. 10: At Haddam-Killingworth, 6:30
Sept. 18: NORTH BRANFORD, 11
Sept. 25: COGINCHAUG/HALE-RAY/EAST HAMPTON, 11
Oct. 2: At CREC Co-Op, 10:30
Oct. 9: Bye
Oct. 16: GILBERT/NORTHWESTERN, 11
Oct. 22: At Cromwell/Portland, 6
Nov. 6: ELLINGTON, 11
Nov. 13: VALLEY REGIONAL/OLD LYME, 11
Nov. 19: At Coventry/Windham Tech/Bolton/Lyman Memorial, 6:30
Nov. 24: At Morgan, 6:30