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Senior captain running back Will Bergeron (left) will share the ball-carrying duties with Ed Fernandes (right) for the Old Saybrook-Westbrook football team this year. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Senior lineman Matt Murphy (left) and senior captain linebacker/center/kicker Cooper Pavlovich (right) are expected to be key cogs for the Rams on both sides of the ball in the 2019 season. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News | Buy This Photo)
Last year the Old Saybrook-Westbrook (OS-W) football team turned a respectable season clinching a winning record after graduating one of the best players in Rams’ history. OS-W finished the 2018 season with an overall record of 6-4 including a 5-2 mark in the Pequot Conference Sassacus Division. This season Head Coach Mike Marone’s team will try to build on that foundation and continue to develop a winning program while relying on players without much varsity starting experience.
So far in scrimmage play, the Rams have been trying to get every facet of their game firing on all cylinders. At this juncture, the defense is a bit ahead of the offense according to Marone.
“I thought the kids played great defensively, but we had a hard time offensively. The defense played really well, the offense struggled,” Marone said. “They struggled because like every other football team in America, we need to improve on the offensive line.”
Coach Marone hopes that as the season goes on his athletes will become more accustomed to playing starters’ minutes at the varsity level. While his starters are overwhelmingly upperclassmen, they are getting their first taste of the gridiron as a first option this season.
“We’re relatively inexperienced. The guys that are playing didn’t get that much playing time last year,” says Marone. “We’re more of an inexperienced team than a young team. I think I only have one sophomore starting.”
OS-W will be running its traditional triple-option offense and will need senior captain quarterback Jack McDowell to read the defense and make quick decisions with the ball on the fly. As the offensive line improves, that should give McDowell more time to see the play develop and give running backs like senior captain Will Bergeron and Ed Fernandes room to roam.
“McDowell will be returning at quarterback and that will be helpful. We also have two senior running backs this year in Will Bergeron and Eddie Fernandez,” Marone says. “Will was our starting safety last year, but he didn’t play much offensively. We’re a triple-option offense, and we’re a fullback-oriented offense. They’ll be familiar with it.”
While the offensive line is currently still finding its legs, Coach Marone expects one of the biggest contributors in that unit to be senior Matt Murphy for his cerebral play.
“The bright spot of our offensive line is Matt Murphy, who is the smartest kid on the team,” said Marone. “He made a big sacrifice for the team moving from tight end to tackle. He knows what everyone is supposed to do on both sides of the ball every play.”
The Rams will win their fair share of games through their defense. Marone believes that’s the team’s biggest strength, and that defense is anchored by senior captain linebacker/center/kicker Cooper Pavlovich. Marone believes that Pavlovich is OS-W’s best player as the season gets underway.
“The stud of our team is senior captain Cooper Pavlovich. He can do it all. He’s like a Swiss army knife,” said Marone. “Cooper plays center, inside linebacker, and he was an All-League punter. This will be his third year starting at center for us.”
Pavlovich is the standout player on the defensive end according to Marone, but the rest of the defense can really put the clamps on an opposing offense when the Rams are working well together.
“I just think other than Cooper, we don’t have anyone that can be considered superior on defense than him,” said Marone. “The defense plays really well as a unit though, and they just love our system, and they believe in it. Each guy is very good at his responsibility,”
OS-W’s trio of captains in Pavlovich, McDowell, and Bergeron will look to continue the Rams’ tradition as a classy program. Marone and his coaching staff allow the team to elect its captains, and that has worked well thus far. Last year, OS-W earned the Eastern Board of Officials’ Sportsmanship Award for their on-field demeanor.
“The team picks the captains, and these kids are really great. We let the kids pick who they want at the captains’ positions because they are usually on the dot with their choices anyway. It’s always who we as coaches would’ve picked anyway,” said Marone. “At our first scrimmage, the officials came up to us, and the head official handed us a plaque saying that we were unanimously selected for the Sportsmanship Award for the Eastern Board of Officials.”
Coach Marone hopes for the best for his squad in 2019, but he knows that there are a lot of variables in a football season. Teams are going to lose games that they should win and vice versa, but he’s certain that the Rams are excited for the season to begin.
“We all want to make it to the playoffs, but there are nine other teams in our conference that want to do the same thing. My estimation is that everyone thinks they are looking good right now. After the first game, about half the teams won’t be looking as good as they thought,” said Marone, whose coaching staff includes Defensive Coordinator Brendan Coan, Mike Spotts, Charlie Bertero, and volunteer Mike Pantages. “I would just say that we’ve gone through three weeks of preparation and, so far, all the kids are excited to open up this week.”
In the 2018 campaign, the Rams earned wins against Lewis Mills (33-20), Cromwell-Portland (35-20), Coginchaug/Hale-Ray/East Hampton (14-0), North Branford (34-8), Woodstock Academy (35-10), and Morgan (32-24). OS-W also took losses against Gilbert-Northwestern (20-7), Granby-Canton (26-0), Valley Regional-Old Lyme (40-10), and Haddam-Killingworth (42-12) last year.
Old Saybrook-Westbrook Football Schedule
All home games at Old Saybrook High School
Saturday, Sept. 14: vs. Coginchaug/ Hale-Ray/East Hampton at 11 a.m.
Saturday, Sept. 21: vs. Rockville at 11 a.m.
Saturday, Sept. 28: vs. Haddam-Killingworth at 10:30 a.m.
Saturday, Oct. 5: at Windsor Locks-Suffield-East Granby at Old Saybrook High School at 1 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 12: at Gilbert-Northwestern at Gilbert High School at 1 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 18: at North Branford at 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 2: vs. Cromwell-Portland at 2 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 15: at Valley Regional-Old Lyme at Valley Regional High School at 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 22: at Granby-Canton at Granby High School at 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 28: vs. Morgan at 10 a.m.