Morgan Off to Dominant Start in 7-on-7 Football
Junior quarterback Drew Nye and the Morgan football team posted a pair of lopsided wins over Old-Saybrook Westbrook and Coginchaug/Hale-Ray/East Hampton last week. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News)
Junior captain Garret Garbinski and the Huskies scored a big 41-7 win against Old Saybrook-Westbrook on Oct. 19. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News)
Junior Ethan Ranaudo and the Huskies are improving their zone defense by way of playing this pass-centric 7-on-7 format of football. (Photo by Kelley Fryer/Harbor News)
The Morgan football team kicked off a season-slate of four 7-on-7 games with a pair of contests last week. After the CIAC elected to cancel 11-on-11, full-contact football for the 2020 fall season, Morgan, Old Saybrook-Westbrook (OS-W), and Coginchaug/Hale-Ray/East Hampton (C/H-R/EH) agreed to put together this competition between Pequot League schools. The Huskies will play each team twice, and they’ve already notched wins in the two games this week for a 2-0 mark on the endeavor.
Head Coach Peter Nye and his squad put out some feelers early in the fall to determine if any schools were interested in playing 7-on-7 football this season so that football players could have some competition this year.
“We kind of put a call to the Pequot schools to see if they were interested in 7-on-7,” said Coach Nye. “The only teams that showed up were Old Saybrook-Westbrook, Coaginchaug/Hale-Ray/East Hampton, and North Branford. North Branford is playing in the independent 11-on-11 league and some of the other schools weren’t comfortable with them playing in that league and this one.”
The format for the contests include the standard 7-on-7 passing drill along with a lineman shuttle drill to simulate a pass rush on the quarterback. The shuttle drill involves cones set up five yards apart, and a lineman positions himself at the center cone, runs five yards to an end cone, 10 yards to the opposite end, and then back center. If the lineman completes that circuit before the quarterback can get rid of the ball, it counts as a sack. Coach Nye has been impressed with how dedicated his linemen have been to improving in that drill, and he’s happy they have a chance to compete when they may not otherwise have had the opportunity.
“There’s a feeling of competitiveness with the linemen event. The teams are out there competing,” says Nye. “Obviously, it’s not the same, but I’m happy for the linemen who stuck around to help the team. They’ve worked hard at practice and they’re getting really good at this specialized drill.”
On Oct. 19, the Huskies hosted OS-W at Peters Complex and earned a 41-0 win over the Rams. Before the concept of 7-on-7 football was bandied about as an alternative means of competition this fall, Morgan was a pretty potent pass-first team, and it’s showed. Junior quarterback Drew Nye has been practicing hard to get better at his position, and with weapons like junior captain Garret Garbinski, senior captain Ryan Inglis, junior Ethan Ranaudo, junior Alex Fratemico, and junior Nick Schmidt, the Huskies are quite a formidable 7-on-7 opponent.
“Drew takes his role seriously, and all these guys are really talented receivers. They are having the time of their lives. Every down is a pass. Everyone expects the ball. They’re all hungry. It’s not my job to be impressed by these guys. I’m out there to find ways that they can be better, but there are moments out there that it’s fun to watch,” Nye said. “When we’re getting rid of a ball and receivers are running a hook, the ball’s right there. Those little things are happening. It’s a blast to watch. It looks really, really good. They are very difficult to stop on offense.”
On Oct. 23, Morgan hosted C/H-R/EH at Peters Complex and grabbed a 62-33 win. The offense was on point again for the Huskies, and even though their defense isn’t always firing on all cylinders, Coach Nye is encouraged by the progress Morgan has made. That may bode well for any potential 11-on-11 games that could come in 2021. Even senior captain Chris Morris has shifted off the line to play drop coverage as a linebacker, which will help his versatility going forward.
“Defensively, we have some things to work on, but some of these kids are new to linebacker. We’re learning what to do in the short yardage situations and when we go man-to-man. We always have something to work on,” said Nye. “Being able to focus on the secondary plays, they are all starting to understand how zone defense works. We have a lot of interceptions. We don’t have to focus on tackling at practice, and we’re focusing on pass defense. Garbinski and Ingles, they’ve gotten most of the interceptions. Garret had a pick-six, and Dom Carpenter gets to the zone and breaks on the ball well.”
The Huskies are really excited to be out and competing in any capacity, and Coach Nye can see that from the sidelines.
“They’re very competitive about it. We’re treating this like a game. Why go into it without giving your best?” Nye pondered. “We are going in trying to do the best that we can. We as coaches are trying to put them in a position to succeed. It gives them some enthusiasm and excitement. It changes the practice when you know there’s some competition coming. It also puts these guys in a position to play beyond high school in a way they might not have if they sat around all season.”
The biggest concern has always been safety and academic success for his student-athletes. The Morgan School is completely open for in-person learning, and with the proper mitigation, it seems like everyone is reasonably lowering their risk of COVID infection. That’s allowed the Huskies to focus on fielding the best team they can with the best strategy to win.
“These kids are really flourishing in this environment. They’re having fun. We’re coming out and shifting, and we’re freezing on the line. We’re trying to do all the things we would do anyway, but I’d rather be accused of trying to hard, than not playing our best,” Nye said. “The linemen who stuck around take that shuttle so seriously. When they get a sack and the whistle blows and the sideline goes crazy. Those kids who had nothing else have found joy in this. The look on their faces and their enthusiasm. It’s a small victory. You have to take joy in those little things. I’m proud of them.”