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Senior Alex Riccitelli and the H-K football squad are hoping to take the field with first-year Head Coach Erik Becker this fall. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Source | Buy This Photo)
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Safety is the top priority for Haddam-Killingworth football Head Coach Erik Becker. As he gears up for his first year with his new team, Becker is looking forward to the 2020 campaign, although he is well-aware of the risks that could come with playing.
“I think safety has to be No. 1. It’s not only our kids, but it’s anyone they come in contact with,” said Becker. “When the CIAC put out their guidelines and risks, football ranks at the top for risk factor...And you see the reports down south. Clemson had 25 or so players test positive. So if one person gets it, there’s a good chance they all do, and I’m not sure there’s a feasible way to make this happen.”
Even though the CIAC is allowing teams to start summer workouts on Monday, July 6, Becker said that H-K has no plans to resume activities until August.
“We’re shut down for the foreseeable future until we hear otherwise from the school,” Becker said. “The kids are working on their own right now, and my encouragement to them is to train like there’s going to be a season. We’re not doing any training together this summer. I know some schools are, but it is very risky.”
Coach Becker has only been able to interact with his players one time in person. However, Becker made that moment count when he gave each one of the 54 athletes on his roster a book called Chop Wood Carry Water: How to Fall in Love with the Process of Becoming Great by Joshau Medcalf. The book details how you can combine hard work with talent in order to become the best version of yourself.
“We gave everyone this book at a socially distanced handoff,” said Becker, a Madison resident who played football at Hand. “Basically, it talks about how everyone has some level of talent. Some people have more talent than others, but talent only takes you so far. It’s about deciding you can be the best person you can be through desire and discipline. This allows you to build on your skills.”
Of the 54 players on H-K’s roster, 22 of them are seniors. Becker said that he is excited to work with a team that features so much veteran leadership. Thomas Perry, a two-way lineman, was named a senior captain for the Cougars, whose other seniors are Gavin Barile, Brandon Bernier, John Bosco, John Bruder, Antonio Calderoni, Matt Carson, Aiden Coale, Tristan Hesselberg, Cameron Hines, Daniel LaRosa, Ryan Luther, Sam Luther, Gabe Martone, Jimmy McGoey, Brien McNamara, Pat Murphy, Brett Nielsen, Jackson Pitts, Alex Riccitelli, Ryder Wink, and Steven Zichini.
“In general, this is a hard-working, fast, athletic group of kids. They were sophomores on the team that went to the state championship two years ago, and they are hungry for success,” Becker said. “I’ve been really impressed by meeting the kids and by what I have seen on film. Thomas Perry is our captain, and he’s an All-State caliber player. He is 6-2, 275 pounds, and deadlifts over 500 pounds. Another player I’m excited about is Alex Riccitelli, our quarterback. He’s 6-1, 190, and runs like a deer. He’s big, strong, and I really hope I get the chance to work with him this year.”
Becker is planning on running a spread offense, while stacking his defense with a 4-4 formation. He described this year’s team as a downhill, physical squad, but also wants to create space on the field through his spread offense.
“There’s elements of the DNA of H-K football that’s really downhill and physical,” said Becker. “And in terms of defense, [assistant coach] Tyler Wilcox is going to be running the show. We’re going to keep it consistent for the kids with a 4-4 base formation. We can change the box if needed.”
Coach Becker said that he’s been preaching one equation to his players. That equation is E + R = O, which means Events + Response = Outcome. Becker is emphasizing this sentiment to the Cougars in an attempt to ease any frustrations if COVID-19 forces the cancellation of the season.
“There’s only one factor that we can control, and that’s our response,” Becker said. “This is a time that’s unique, unlike anything we’ve ever lived through. The outcome is that you want to be able to be out on the field, but we realistically know that we might not be able to achieve that outcome. However, our response right now might allow us to change that outcome. At the very least, that’s staying fit and keeping up with our own personal health.”
The first game on the Cougars’ schedule is a road matchup against Cromwell-Portland on Friday, Sept. 11. As someone who lives for the sport of football, Coach Becker is keeping his fingers crossed that H-K will be able to hit the gridiron come fall of 2020.
“Nothing makes me more happy than coaching football, so I’m trying to temper my expectations with the fact that this season might not happen,” said Becker. “This team has a lot of potential, and I’m really hoping that this all works out for us this year.”
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