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Aedan McDermott is ready to take the reins as the starting quarterback for the Guilford football squad this fall. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior captain Charles Walcott is primed to have another big year at running back for the Guilford football team after rushing for 10 touchdowns a season ago. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Senior Joe Palmer will be handling the punting duties for the Guilford football squad in the 2019 season. Last year, the Indians put together their first winning record since 2000 by finishing with a mark of 6-4. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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There is a lot of new for the Guilford football team as the Indians look to have another successful year in 2019.
Coming off its first winning season since 2000, Guilford is welcoming a new head coach and a new quarterback this fall. There are plenty of other new pieces that the Indians will have to make fit, but with a blend of returning talent in place to help ease the transition, first-year Head Coach Anthony Salvati is hoping that Guilford can remain on an upward trajectory.
“It excites me that we have talent around us,” said Salvati, whose team opens up with a game in Branford at 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 13. “We did lose some key guys—starters last year—but I’m confident in the guys we have coming up. And if anything, it excites me that this program is heading in the right direction.”
Salvati comes to Guilford after spending 15 seasons as an assistant coach at North Branford. He inherits an Indians’ team that went 6-4 last season and is eying a run at the playoffs. Last year’s quarterback Ethan Vashel has transferred out of Guilford, so Salvati is turning to junior QB Aedan McDermott. Salvati will be employing a “hybrid spread” offense in which he will be asking McDermott to play from the pocket.
“[McDermott] has all the attributes—6 feet-1 inch and 180 [pounds]. He is very smart, great arm,” Salvati said. “I’m very excited to see him for two years, hopefully. I expect big things out of him.”
While Guilford will be running a spread offense, Salvati is also implementing plenty of halfback and tight end sets since the Indians have a good amount of depth and experience at those positions. Salvati knows senior tailback Charles Walcott quite well. Walcott, who worked with Salvati at North Branford before transferring to Guilford last year, scored 10 touchdowns and gained 8.4 yards per carry as a junior. Now a captain, Walcott enters this season as a focal point of Salvati’s scheme.
Walcott will be complemented by fellow senior tailback Charles Schioppo, who ran for nine touchdowns in his junior year. While Walcott is a quick and shifty running back, Schioppo is more of a hard-nosed, downhill rusher.
“I have a thunder-and-lightning package that I don’t think other teams have,” Coach Salvati said. “That’s really nice.”
As is the case with most teams, McDermott, Walcott, and Schioppo will only go as far as their offensive line takes them. The Indians have a solid starting group up front, led by senior Jake Bradley, senior captain Evan Russell, senior Saut Kandric, junior Niko Tartagni, and sophomore Ian Rose. Guilford’s starters bring back plenty of experience, although the depth behind them will be a question mark heading into the regular season.
“I’d say our Achilles’ heel right now is our depth on the offensive and defensive line,” said Salvati. “The guys we do have, they’re quality, and I’m willing to run behind them any day of the week.”
The Indians’ receiving core features some inexperienced players who are ready to make an impact at the varsity level. Juniors Sam Huffman, Drew St. Denis, and Tristan Anderson, along with sophomore Eric Dolmus, are slated to be the key receivers for McDermott.
Salvati likes what each of these athletes can potentially bring to the Guilford offense. He’s looking for one of these wideouts to stand out and separate themselves from the pack.
“Right now, it is position by committee, and we are just waiting. Right now, it is really tough to name a starter,” Salvati said. “We will see what happens, but if I go into Week 1 or 2 with four or five quality guys, that’s not a bad thing.”
Guilford will feature a similar look to last season on the defensive side of the ball. The Indians’ defensive line will be anchored by senior Aidan Chiaia, junior Jimmy Krupp, Nick Orton, and Bradley.
“We have some guys who can move at the defensive end position and guys in the middle who clog up some holes,” Coach Salvati said. “I think that is going to help our linebackers play more freely.”
The Indians have four players in the mix at the linebacker position. Senior Ryan Eldridge, Tartagni, Russell, and Krupp will get their fair share of reps for Guilford this year.
The strength of the Indians’ defense is their secondary, led by senior captain Michael Clarke. Walcott, Dolmus, and senior JP Comella will all see time at free safety. Salvati added that Comella and Dolmus also have the potential to be lockdown cornerbacks.
Guillford’s kicking game will be handled by placekicker Tristan Anderson and punter Joe Palmer. Salvati said that both athletes have been impressive in training camp.
“Pleasantly, [the kicking game is] one of the easiest things we have,” said Salvati. “That’s been a blessing so far.”
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