NEWINGTON - Even after a statement win against a perennial playoff contender in Week 1, Newington football senior leader Julian Mulero isn’t bathing in the Indians’ stunning upset over Windsor on Friday.
Mulero is more focused on a midseason game back in 2017, when as a raw sophomore, Mulero watched an 0-3 Bristol Eastern team shock Newington in a 9-7 win en route to a 2-8 season. It was the first of two straight wins for the Lancers, who haven’t won a game since, but Mulero and the Indians know from experience that Eastern is hardly a team to take lightly, and especially not a team to take on while fighting the hangover of a historic win just a week before.
“We have to stay focused,” Mulero said. “We’re not looking at any records. They’re just another team on our schedule. We have to take the same approach this week, because regardless of what their record has been lately, they’re a good team. They’re big. When there’s size, there is always potential for a win, so if we don’t take this seriously, we can be the first team that they beat, just like we did two years ago.”
Mulero’s memory of the 2017 loss to the Lancers is so vivid because of what transpired the week leading up to the game, when Newington took on a nonchalant attitude toward a seemingly inferior opponent.
“It was a terrible game on both sides of the ball,” Mulero remembered. “Throughout the week, I still remember overlooking them and we went out there and got beat.”
The Indians refuse to make the same mistake this time, in their first trip back to Eastern since that disappointing loss. Sure, the Lancers followed up their 0-10 season in 2018 with a 35-7 loss to Middletown last week, but beyond the scoreboard was a team with upset potential, especially with the emergence of sophomore running back Alex Marshall, who punched in the Lancers’ lone touchdown in a dynamic individual performance once he started getting carries in the second half.
“He’s a strong dude,” Mulero said of Marshall. “We have to bottle him up. He can carry one of our players, so we have to have 11 hats on him when he gets the ball.”
Mulero also noted the playmaking ability of junior wide receiver Treyvon Daniel, who the Newington defense will have to keep tabs on when Eastern quarterback Bryce Curtin drops back to pass. And the Indians as a whole are paying attention to all potential weapons, on both sides of the ball, for the Lancers, making sure whatever lack of preparation that doomed them in 2017 will be made up for this week.
“We see how they send in all-out blitzes, so we’ve adjusted a few plays for that, and on defense we see how they like to use the jet sweep and send guys in motion,” Newington quarterback Nick Pestrichello said. “It’s definitely a different scheme from what Windsor used, but we’ll adjust to it.”
Pestrichello wasn’t on the roster when the Lancers upset the Indians two years ago, but he’s heard enough from his senior teammates to respect an opponent that carries that same upset mentality that Newington did when they lined up against Windsor on Friday night.
“We can’t overlook them,” Pestrichello said. “That’s an opponent that has nothing to lose, so they’re going to come out hungry and looking to get a win. We have to play how we normally do and do everything we can to come out with a great win.”
The Indians already have one great win under their belt, one of the school’s best in recent memory. But Newington wants to enjoy a great season, and one win on opening night won’t make that happen. The journey to a great season goes through Eastern next and the Indians are preparing for the Lancers as if they’re a team with potential to derail their season goals.
“It was a big win for the program, one of the best I think in our history,” Pestrichello said of the Windsor win. “It was a tremendous confidence boost for our team, but that doesn’t mean anything yet. It was only one game. We can’t settle now after one good win.”
Ryan Chichester can be reached at (860) 801-5094 or email@example.com