NEWINGTON - When the opening kickoff of the game leaves the tee tonight the Newington football team will officially put last season behind it.
The Jason Pace era at Newington will officially begin tonight against an unlikely opponent - Chicopee High School from Massachusetts, which contracted the Indians after Newington needed to fill its Week 1 slot.
The Pacers are coming off of a 4-7 season, and look to be an even match up for the Indians. There are plenty of unknowns heading into the matchup, but the Indians are embracing the challenge.
“We exchanged film and that’s really all we know about them,” Pace said. “It’s a unique opportunity for us but it’s also an opportunity for us to represent our state, and we’re looking forward to that.”
Despite the talk of playing an out-of-state team, much of the focus will be on the quarterback position. After playing the role toward the back half of last season, Robert Sanchez is ready to claim the Indians as his team this season.
“Rob has made some serious gains,” Pace said. “I know last year he was kind of forced into the role midway through the season, so he didn’t have a ton of experience as quarterback but what Rob has really become most importantly is our leader.
“He has begun to mature and accept that role and that has also translated into his performance as a quarterback, in that role. We’re making sure he has those qualities that quarterbacks need to be successful, were trying to instill those behaviors in him, and he’s come a long way.”
Playing an out-of-state team doesn’t give the Indians a lot to work with in the sense of who the Pacer are, but Newington believes it has put in the right amount of preparation for tonight’s meeting.
“We haven’t really heard a lot,” Sanchez said. “We have to treat every opponent the same, that it’s going to be a tough game, you have to go out and play your best, regardless if they’re not good, good, the best in the country, whatever they are, you have to play them the same.”
But the Indians’ main goal is to make sure they use this game as a springboard for the rest of the season. Last year, Newington finished just 3-7.
“We had a lot of talent that year but it just didn’t pull through for us,” Brandon Kamansky said. “Since coach Pace got here, we’ve all made some very good improvements. Coach Pace has been running practice differently and I feel like we’ve been benefiting from it.”
Aveontae Frazier said Newington is preparing the best they can to come out on top.
“We’re working hard, this is as hard as we’ve had coming into any other season as long as I've been here,” Frazier said. “We watch film, we prepare with film pretty much every day, offensively and defensively looking at their schemes, and looking at what they’re attempting to do, and then we also lift before practices. I believe that was a key factor because we didn’t [lift] in previous years. Knowing that we are going to maintain our strength component this season is just key to preparation.”
And a win could go a long way to help the rebuilding program.
“This senior class is really at the point where they want to set the expectation and they want to set the new standard of Newington football so that were respected around the area and throughout the state,” Pace said.
Shelby Iava can be reached at (860) 801-5096 or firstname.lastname@example.org