Sunday, November 28, 2021

Sports

H-K Football Takes Loss to Morgan After Winning Opener

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Senior quarterback Matt Minasian (No. 5) and junior running back Orion Inkel (22) are trying to guide H-K football to a successful year in its first season with program Tyler Wilcox as head coach. Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Source

Senior quarterback Matt Minasian (No. 5) and junior running back Orion Inkel (22) are trying to guide H-K football to a successful year in its first season with program Tyler Wilcox as head coach. (Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Source)

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Junior Orion Inkel ran for 105 yards in the Cougars’ season opener and then gained 183 yards rushing in last week’s game versus Morgan. Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Source

Junior Orion Inkel ran for 105 yards in the Cougars’ season opener and then gained 183 yards rushing in last week’s game versus Morgan. (Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Source)

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Junior Zenon Kolcio tries to bat down the pass from Morgan’s quarterback during the Cougars’ contest against the Huskies on Sept. 18. Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Source

Junior Zenon Kolcio tries to bat down the pass from Morgan’s quarterback during the Cougars’ contest against the Huskies on Sept. 18. (Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Source)

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Junior Zenon Kolcio tries to bat down the pass from Morgan’s quarterback during the Cougars’ contest against the Huskies on Sept. 18. Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Source

Junior Zenon Kolcio tries to bat down the pass from Morgan’s quarterback during the Cougars’ contest against the Huskies on Sept. 18. (Photo by Wesley Bunnell/The Source)

The Haddam-Killingworth football team was one of the dozens of clubs in the state that went without a 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, the Cougars returned to the field with a new head coach in program alum Tyler Wilcox, and they are playing with a point to prove.

H-K stands with a record of 1-1 through the first two weeks of its campaign. The Cougars earned a 27-22 home win over Old Saybrook-Westbrook (OS-W) in their season opener on Sept. 10 and then took a 36-22 loss to Morgan in a home game on Sept. 17.

H-K’s victory versus OS-W was a dramatic one that came down to the final minutes. The Cougars took a 21-0 lead into halftime, but the Rams scored three-straight touchdowns points to take a 22-21 lead entering the fourth quarter. H-K prevailed in the end by going on a game-winning, 55-yard drive that was capped off by a 4-yard rushing touchdown from senior quarterback Matt Minasian with about four minutes left.

Junior quarterback Tate Callender passed for 100 yards and threw a 56-yard touchdown pass to fellow junior Orion Inkel in the victory. Inkel ran for 105 yards on 18 carries, had two receptions for 74 yards and a score, and also returned the opening kickoff of the game for an 81-yard touchdown to help Wilcox win his debut as H-K’s head coach.

“We got off to a super quick start, then started running out of gas. We knew we had to get out to a quick start early and build a lead. We missed a few opportunities before the half to expand it,” said Wilcox. “We had guys going both ways, playing the entire time, then started cramping in the third. We also had freshmen or kids who have never played varsity in, and [OS-W] started coming back. The young guys held their own, though, and I’m proud of all of them.”

On Sept. 17, the Cougars hosted Morgan and lost to the Huskies by a 36-22 score at H-K High School. Inkel was once again a force to be reckoned with on the ground as the junior running back put up 183 yards to go with two touchdowns. Minasian completed seven passes for 67 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown toss to junior wide receiver Zenon Kolcio.

While Coach Wilcox was hoping for a 2-0 start, the Cougars were unable to overcome Morgan’s passing attack and had to chase points early versus the Huskies.

“The expectations for this year are to be competitive every week. We want to put forth our best effort every game, and we’re taking it week by week,” Wilcox said. “We got down early to a very good aerial attack and had to play from behind. It’s not how you want to start a game. We blew a couple coverages early, and those 50-50 balls went the other way. We settled and play well in the second quarter, but gave up a touchdown on the final play of the half, which hurt.”

Wilcox felt that Morgan’s late score in the first half proved the turning point of the game. Instead of being down by just a couple of points, H-K trailed by eight at the break and was forced to play a little more aggressively on offense during the second half.

“That’s a big momentum swinging play. With seven minutes left in the third, it was a one possession game [22-14]. We were able to score in the fourth after giving up back-to-back touchdowns. We recovered an onside kick, but failed to convert deep in Morgan’s territory on 4th-and-5,” said Wilcox. “The team is working hard and giving 100 percent, and that’s what we’re looking for week in and week out. We have a bye to recover and start preparing for [a road game at Cromwell-Portland on Friday, Oct. 1]”

While Wilcox has yet to name captains, he’s been impressed with the play of his senior veterans, including wide receivers Matteo Piacenti, Kevin Cavrell, and Ryan Duncanson. H-K’s senior class also includes Corey Phipps, Tobias Ketchedjian, and Jared Frith.

“This is really the first couple of weeks that we’ve had everyone together,” Wilcox said. “We canceled our last scrimmage, and we were missing a ton of guys to start the season due to circumstances out of our control. It was a short week, but they’re coming together well.”

H-K’s juniors class additionally features Andrew Nugent, Alex Phipps, Connor Schipritt, Kevin Gamache, Lawson Doverspike, Caleb Dias, Joe Whiteside, Jayden Fulton, and Kevin Fisher. The sophomores on the squad are Eric Vincent, Jacob McGoey, Lorenzo Rich, Luke Dooley, and Cooper Pitts. The Cougars’ freshman class includes Joseph Slane, Ryan Rafferty, Michael Brooks, Gunnar Howes, Trevor Dixon, Stephen Signore, Jayden Quinones, Colin Castagno, Christopher Frasco, Hunter Leslie, Riley Schipritt, and Jesse LaViola.

As he dives into his first campaign as H-K’s head coach, Wilcox said he loves the effort that he’s seen from players during the opening two weeks of the season. Wilcox is hoping all of that hard work translates into a successful campaign for the Cougars.

“They don’t back down from a fight and keep competing no matter the score. They clawed their way back against OS-W after giving up a sizable lead, and kept the game close against Morgan after getting behind early,” said Wilcox. “We can improve every day on everything. We cannot stop working on fundamentals.”




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