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Senior captain Tanner DiVito is back at quarterback for the East Haven football team and will be running the squad’s new shotgun option offense this fall. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Junior Eric Araujo (right) will be kicking extra points for the Yellowjackets following the graduation of Evan Damian. Pictured holding the ball for Araujo is senior captain Tanner DiVito (left). (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Head Coach Scott Benoit returns for his second season as head coach of East Haven football after leading the team to a record of 7-3 last year. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Things are wide open in Tier 3 of the SCC, and second-year Head Coach Scott Benoit thinks that the East Haven football team has a good chance to win the division this season. After finishing with a record of 7-3 in Benoit’s debut campaign, the Yellowjackets are primed to build on that success in 2019.
“I think year two is a telltale sign of how far you’ve progressed. We’ve been together for a while now and had a great offseason through the winter, spring, and summer,” Coach Benoit said. “This is a great group of very good football players. As far as our goals go, we wanted to play in relevant games last year, which we did. This year, we want to win relevant games. That’s where we’re at.”
East Haven begins the 2019 campaign with a road game versus fellow SCC Tier 3 opponent Foran at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 13. It’s one of six road matchups for the Yellowjackets, who are playing just four games at home as part of a tougher schedule this fall.
“I think this year’s schedule is much harder than it was a year ago,” said Benoit. “We play Brookfield, who is perennial playoff team; New Fairfield, who Hand said was their toughest game last year; Stratford, who has a new coach and a very athletic squad; and Rocky Hill, who has had a few playoff teams. In our division, I think Branford is the best team, but I would say everyone is equal. It’s going to be very competitive.”
Although the roster is still being finalized, Coach Benoit said that East Haven is expected to have 14 seniors returning to the field this year. The Yellowjackets’ senior captains are quarterback Tanner DiVito; Jake Marquardt, who plays tight end and linebacker; Mike Caruso, a wide receiver/defensive back; and Calvin Nelson, who plays on the offensive and defensive lines.
“They realize it’s their team now,” Benoit said. “It took a little while for them to realize they’re seniors, but they did a great job of really setting this program in the right direction.”
DiVito will once again be the Easties’ starting quarterback this year. Benoit said that DiVito has looked great while running their new shotgun option offense throughout the preseason. Junior Trey Garea will serve as the team’s backup QB.
“Tanner is the guy, and he’s been excellent. He’s much stronger than he was a year ago, and he’s throwing the ball well, running well, and has a good command of our offense,” said Benoit. “He’s much more comfortable with what we’re doing than he was a year ago. The biggest thing to me that I’ve noticed is his decisiveness.”
East Haven’s primary running backs are juniors Eric Araujo and Alex Duarte. Seniors Mike Castellano, Jacob Araujo, Caruso, and Garea will see time playing the split end back position, which is a hybrid of running back and wide receiver.
Seniors Alec DiVito, Kaymond Quattlebaum, and Nathan Santos will play wide receiver, along with junior Frank Piscitelli. Marquardt is East Haven’s top tight end. Junior Larry Mingione and sophomore Shea Carasone will also get some reps at that position.
“We may not have huge numbers in the program, but we have a lot of depth at certain skill positions, which is strange,” Coach Benoit said. “In the preseason, we played a ton of guys and it paid off for them, because they’re getting game experience. Our receivers and tight ends have done a great job of catching the ball and blocking downfield. They have played really well in the preseason.”
The Yellowjackets are expecting their offensive line to be a major strength this season. Nelson and junior Kristjan Fonacier are returning starters up front, while junior Gunner Horton is taking on a full-time role after starting a few games last year. The Yellowjackets’ newcomers on the O-line are senior center Giacomo Izzo and sophomore Will Pera. Fellow senior Ethan Kowalezik is in the mix for some snaps up front, although he is currently sidelined with an injury.
“I think it’s going to be a good group. We’re much bigger than we were a year ago,” said Benoit. “In the offseason, I brought in a strength coach [Fran Belevich], and he did a great job with our kids. Our bodies are bigger, stronger, and in better condition.”
Just about everyone who’s playing on offense will also line up on the defensive side of the ball for the Easties. The only two athletes who are slated to play exclusively on defense are senior defensive end Joe Consiglio and sophomore inside linebacker Ryan Mikolajczak.
Coach Benoit knows that East Haven needs to have a stout defense this season. He said the unit it still a work a progress in the early goings.
“The key is we’ve got to be fundamentally sound. We have to play good fundamental defense, tackle well, and eliminate big plays. If we can do all that stuff, I think we’re going to be OK,” Benoit said. “I like how we play on defense, and we’ll get there. We’re ahead on offense now, but we’ll get there defensively.”
One of East Haven’s biggest losses from last season is kicker Evan Damian, who graduated. Eric Araujo is taking over as the placekicker this fall with Garea handling the punting duties. Coach Benoit knows that the Yellowjackets can’t replace someone of Damian’s caliber, but he’s still putting a big emphasis on winning the field-position battle in every game.
“Eric has done a good job, and all we’re asking him to do right now is kick extra points. As time goes on, we’ll move him back and see how far he can kick,” said Benoit. “The big thing for Evan were kickoffs. He put the ball inside the 10-yard line, which was big for field position. We now have to do a great job of covering kicks to create field position for ourselves.”
From the Sidelines
East Haven is once again competing SCC Tier 3 with Bassick, Branford, Foran, Guilford, Law, and Lyman Hall this season. Last year, the Yellowjackets finished with a record of 2-3 in their SCC Tier 3 games.
The teams in SCC Tier 1 are Fairfield Prep, Hand, Notre Dame-West Haven, North Haven, Shelton, West Haven, and Xavier. The SCC’s Tier 2 teams are Amity, Cheshire, Cross, Hamden, Harding, Hillhouse, and Sheehan.
In the 2018 campaign, East Haven notched wins versus Bassick (51-0), Notre Dame-Fairfield (49-18), Lyman Hall (17-6), Xavier (17-0), Bethel (35-0), Cross (51-30), and Coginchaug/Hale-Ray/East Hampton (11-8). The Yellowjackets also lost contests against Guilford (28-20), Sheehan (41-17), and Branford (20-3) last season.
2019 East Haven Yellowjackets Football Schedule
All home games at East Haven High School
Friday, Sept. 13: at Foran at 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 20: vs. Brookfield at 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 27: at Rocky Hill at 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 4: at Guilford at 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 18: vs. New Fairfield at 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 25: at Stratford at 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 1: vs. Cheshire at 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 15: at Lyman Hall at 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 21: vs. Law at 7 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 28: at Branford at 10:30 a.m.