As the Haddam-Killingworth football squad takes the field, it will be led by multiple young upstarts that are hopeful to push the Cougars’ beyond the .500 threshold.
After finishing last season 5-5 following a 0-3 start, Head Coach Dennis O’ Rourke’s (37th campaign) club returns a youthful team with only five seniors alongside many sophomores and juniors earning a call-up from the junior varsity ranks. Despite its small senior numbers, HK’s main missions will be to compete tenaciously in claiming multiple victories within the Pequot Conference.
“This is certainly a young team, but we want to go out there every week and be competitive to win football games,” said O’Rourke, whose squad last made the Class S State Tournament in 2011. “These kids here want to be successful, and we want to also see them play with intensity.”
The Cougars’ quintet of seniors is additionally their captains with running back/linebacker combo of Zach Roth and David Parmelee, along with offensive lineman/defensive end Jesse Warren, center/linebacker Zach Camolli, and offensive/defensive lineman Niko Hoffman. O’ Rourke points out that these five earned the honor by not only having their presence felt on the field, but also off of it in preseason preparation.
“All of them bring tremendous leadership qualities,” said O’ Rourke. “They were also instrumental in successfully helping the team’s offseason weightlifting and conditioning programs, while they continue to lead by example.”
Within its valuable underclassmen cluster, HK holds juniors of quarterback Matt Genovesio, outside linebacker Conor Champagne, running back/free safety Josh Breiling, Chris Kaufman, and offensive tackle/defensive end Zach Machold, plus sophomore fullback/middle linebacker Lance Reinhardt.
“Matt has done a tremendous job learning the offense,” said O’ Rourke. “He did a fabulous job in the preseason and our scrimmages. Conor will be our defensive leader, while Josh has been in a lot of action and brings great speed as a runner. Chris will be a two-way tackle. Finally, we will run a lot of power running plays, so Lance will also be instrumental.”
The regular season slate will certainly hold no lack of challenge for the Cougars, as they open up on the road on Friday, Sept. 13 versus the defending Class S state runner-up in North Branford. O’Rourke also anticipates worth opponents in Hyde, Morgan, and Thanksgiving eve rival Valley Regional/Old Lyme.
“North Branford is a great rival with a great program, so that game will be important for us,” O’Rourke said. “Hyde is always a powerhouse in the Pequot, while Morgan is bringing back a young, talented team. Overall, we have had some successful scrimmages, and we are going to use them to assess how far we’ve come and what we need to do to get ready for North Branford.”
Beyond the white line, O’Rourke’s staff will be comprised of Jim Tencza, Bill Garrity, Barth Keck, Jim Greco, Bill Silas, Jarrod Ramsey, and Marc Silvestrini.