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Senior Corey Hooks and the North Haven football squad are ready to kick off the 2019 season after winning eight games and making the Class L State Playoffs last year. The Indians will host Fairfield Prep in their season opener under the lights at Vanacore Field on Friday, Sept. 13. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Junior David Pace is one of several running backs who will be relied upon to move the sticks for the Indians’ offense this season. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Anthony Sagnella begins season No. 23 as head coach of the North Haven football team this year. Sagnella’s team will face plenty of challenges will dealing with a difficult schedule in 2019. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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The North Haven football team is hitting the gridiron with a good amount of talent and experience on its roster in 2019, led by a big senior class that features 20 athletes. Last fall, the Indians posted a regular-season record of 8-2 on their way to making the playoffs for the eighth time in 12 years. This season, Head Coach Anthony Sagnella’s squad will look to use every bit of its veteran savvy to make it back to the Class L bracket and then notch its first postseason victory since 2015.
“We have the ability, and we have the expectation to be competitive. Our seniors have a little chip on their shoulder, because they’ve never won a playoff game, and anything short of that will be disappointing to them,” said Sagnella, who’s in his 23rd season as North Haven’s head coach. “It’s not that they expect to go to the playoffs with our competitive schedule, but their goal is to try to get back there, so they can take themselves to a level that they haven’t achieved since they’ve been here.”
North Haven will kick off its campaign by hosting Fairfield Prep for an SCC Tier 1 matchup at Vanacore Field at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 13. The Indians will be led by three senior captains who are all returning starters as they try to navigate their challenging schedule and get back to the Class L State Playoffs. North Haven’s captains are Joe Vitale, who plays blocking back and linebacker; Luke Maruca, who plays on the offensive and defensive lines; and Pat DaSilva, who is also an offensive/defensive lineman.
“They complement each other well as a group, and I think that it’s a nice blend,” Coach Sagnella said. “Joe is more of the vocal taskmaster who gets stuff done, Pat is a very inspirational and emotional leader, and Luke is steady, calming influence. All three of them are respected by their teammates, do well in school, and are good in the community. They represent our program very well.”
With the graduation of Shamus Meehan, North Haven features a new starting quarterback in senior Justin White, who saw some time last year. Coach Sagnella describes White as a versatile player who can help the Indians’ offense in a multitude of ways.
“Justin has some positive leadership qualities, as do all the other seniors on our team. Justin has the ability to play multiple positions, so he can be a quarterback, running back, or a wide receiver in our offense, and we will take advantage of that with our style of play,” said Sagnella. “Our style isn’t to throw the ball 35 times a game. We are going to try and utilize what Justin can do to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to us. It’s nice to have someone who is so multi-faceted.”
Even though last year’s top rushers, Devan Brockamer and Nick Dodge, have graduated, North Haven still has a solid stable of running backs this season. The Indians’ backfield includes seniors Jaden Watson, Albert Hooks, Corey Hooks, Max Augustine, and Jeff Williston, along with junior David Pace. Corey Hooks rushed for 525 yards and five touchdowns last year, while Albert Hooks also scored five TDs on the ground. Watson will also line up as a wide receiver, joined by senior Kyle Rollier and junior Taray Smart.
One of the Indians’ biggest strengths is that they return an experienced group of offensive linemen. Senior Frank Squeglia is the starting center, DaSilva and senior Jack Priebe are starting at guard, and Luke Maurca and senior Joe Ranciato will play the tackle positions. Senior Dominic Borrelli, senior Carlo Frunzio, and junior Anthony Vigliotto are also in the mix on the O-line.
Vitale is the blocking back, while seniors Josh Blumenthal and Noah Perillie will play tight end for Coach Sagnella’s squad. Senior Kyle Maruca is also slated to play tight end, although he is currently sidelined with an injury.
“This might be the most experienced front that we’ve had in a long time. They not only have experience, they also have ability and decent size,” Sagnella said. “We should be able to control the line of scrimmage by running the ball and then throw timely passes. As long as we do that and minimize mistakes, we should be a competitive offense.”
On the other side of the ball, North Haven’s defensive line will include Blumenthal, DaSilva, Kyle Maruca, Luke Maruca, Priebe, and Ranciato, along with Borrelli, Frunzio, Squeglia, and Vigliotto.
The Indians’ primary linebackers are Augustine, Albert Hooks, Corey Hooks, Perillie, Vitale, Williston, and junior Pat Lillis. Albert Hooks made the All-SCC Tier 1 Team as a linebacker last year.
In the secondary, Watson, Pace, and sophomore Matt Dodge will play safety for the Indians. Senior Joe Urtel, White, and sophomore Sebastian Derubeis are North Haven’s main cornerbacks.
“We should be a formidable unit up front with our defense, but we are in a league that has a lot of spread offenses that stretch you out, and that is where our secondary will have to grow up fast,” said Sagnella. “Joe Urtel is our only returning starter back there, so they will have to learn how to play together. We play a lot of zone coverage that requires good communication and spatial awareness, so they will have to adjust quickly to get to the ball and become good open-field tacklers.”
Junior Chase DiCarlo will once again handle the kicking duties for North Haven. Last season, DiCarlo hit 31 extra points and made all three of his field goal attempts. Senior Raven Tebbetts, who had previously played for the North Haven girls’ soccer squad, joins the football team as a kicker this year. Perillie is the long snapper for the Indians, whose primary return men are Albert Hooks, Watson, and Pace.
Coach Sagnella will be assisted by Alex Velardi (defensive coordinator), Mike Ricciardelli (offensive coordinator), Keith Wolkovitz (special teams coordinator/tight ends), Chris Grillo (JV co-head coach), Ralph Inorio (JV co-head coach), Mike Dodge (defensive backs), Tom Grillo (equipment manager/game films), Pete Harkins (assistant to the defensive coordinator), Deron Bayer (coordinator of scouting), Marc Russo (quality control), Kevin Mozealous (offensive linemen/defensive linemen), and Nick DeAngelo (Hudl coordinator).
From the Sidelines
North Haven is once again competing in SCC Tier 1 with Fairfield Prep, Hand, Notre Dame-West Haven, Shelton, West Haven, and Xavier this season. Last year, the Indians went 3-2 in their SCC Tier 1 games.
The teams in SCC Tier 2 are Amity, Cheshire, Cross, Hamden, Harding, Hillhouse, and Sheehan. The SCC’s Tier 3 teams are Bassick, Branford, East Haven, Foran, Guilford, Law, and Lyman Hall.
In the 2018 campaign, North Haven notched wins versus West Haven (20-19), Masuk (41-20), Cheshire (34-21), Hillhouse (49-14), Brookfield (17-7), Xavier (49-14), Foran (50-15), and Amity (28-26) during the regular season on their way to finishing with a record of 8-2. The Indians also lost contests against Shelton (28-24) and Fairfield Prep (42-20) in the regular season. North Haven qualified for the Class L State Playoffs, where the Indians dropped a 34-14 decision to Windsor in the quarterfinal round to finish at 8-3 overall.
2019 North Haven Indians Football Schedule
Friday, Sept. 13: vs. Fairfield Prep at 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 20: vs. Bunnell at 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 27: at Maloney at 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 11: at West Haven at 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 18: vs. Staples at 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 25: at Pomperaug at 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 1: vs. Shelton at 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 8: vs. Sheehan at 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 15: at Xavier at 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 27: at Amity at 6 p.m.
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