Branford Football Building New Team Chemistry Amid Challenges
Every fall brings about a whole new cast of characters and chemistry within a high school football team that doesn’t rest on the laurels of the year prior, and such is the case for the Branford football squad. But what’s more with the Hornets is that they additionally are ready to cultivate hard-working young men who can convey a great sense of pride from their community.
Last season, Branford finished all even at 5-5 on the regular season, knocking off rival East Haven on Thanksgiving Day to qualify for the Class M State Playoffs as the final and 8th seed. They took a 35-25 road loss to top-seeded and eventual runner-up Berlin in the quarterfinal round.
The Hornets have only taken their initial steps into the fray that is the 10-game grind of a pigskin campaign, which started off with a bang thanks to a 49-0 blasting of Bassick at home on Sept. 8. Though following a long offseason and sweltering summer of preparation, they feel optimistic about the predictions of producing a prosperous club.
“Every season brings a new trial no matter how many guys both return and leave from the previous year’s team because it will always be a different team and a team with different chemistry,” said Hornets Head Coach John Limone. “We are still working to find our identity as a team, but we feel good about the prospect of a successful year.”
A tandem of three-year varsity veterans and seniors will captain the boys this fall, with running back/linebacker Cole Snider and two-way lineman Ryan Jones. No matter if either young man is in the trenches, behind the line of scrimmage, or in the midfield of the defensive front, they bring dedication to the sport, along with characteristics of a captain that are highly coveted by any coach.
“Cole is tremendously gritty. He is a tough kid who, if you watch him practice and play, you can tell he not only cares about himself but, more importantly, the program. He has a calm demeanor and can make a lot of plays with the ball in his hands,” Limone said. “Ryan is also tough and is a coachable kid. He is a great leader with a great demeanor, and he is also consistent with how he interacts with everyone. Both guys are really good players and great leaders.”
Additional returning senior starters include leading ball carrier Nathan Florio, fresh off a 1,000-yard campaign on the ground in 2022, who will also double as a free safety, plus Jeter DeCusati as tight end/linebacker, left tackle Jelani Lomotey, left guard Declan Kearney, and additional offensive line piece Brandon Bui.
“Nathan is a tough runner who can hit the home run ball. He is dangerous with the ball in his hands, and he is that guy for us on defense as well. Jeter was a jack of all trades for us last season, and he is really smart and committed,” said Limone. “Jelani is big and long. He has taken a step in the right direction. Declan is a tough kid and plays tough in there. He is smart and coachable. Brandon played great in ball camp and is probably our most consistent offensive lineman with his technique.”
Right behind them is a junior class not to be outdone, with running back and safety Akiel Lomotey, wideout Jaeden Konesky, and signal caller Scott Penner at quarterback. Limone added that the underclassmen ranks also show glimpses of a very bright future at Branford.
“Akiel is big, fast, and incredibly intelligent. He is a high-achieving kid in everything and is a good student,” said Limone. “Jaeden transferred back this year from Notre Dame and is an explosive athlete. Scott is getting his feet wet, but he is a hard worker and is working to improve every single day and is coming along nicely. We also have a host of sophomores with potential who are still learning the varsity speed of the game. We also have a good-sized freshman class getting acclimated to high school football, but there have been some pleasant surprises in it.”
Of course, with success from the previous year and a postseason appearance comes an uptick in terms of difficulty in schedule, with Branford moving up to Tier 2 of the SCC. Even with some more stingy opponents on paper, the Hornets are ready to swarm the field and embrace any obstacle on their schedule.
“We are now in Tier 2 with the SCC, so the schedule is now more of a grind,” said Limone. “We have a couple more ‘name-brand’ teams on the schedule compared to last year, but it is a new challenge we look forward to. As far as outcomes, every team in the state has the same three goals, I feel, in having a winning record, making the playoffs, and winning a state title. For us, it is also more about staying the course and them working to be the best players they can be. We want them to continue to grind and represent the program well, and we have a good group here.”
Being the head coach of the Hornets since 2013, Limone’s assistant coaching staff entails Mike Tracy, Jason Joseph, Padraic Keefe, Kyle Lynch, and Mike Beckquist.
The 2023 Branford football roster is comprised of seniors Luis Perrotti, Florio, Isaiah Forney, Haris Valentic, William Clapp, James Glover, Joseph Robinson, Nahje Taylor, DeCusati, Snider, Maxfield Parsell, Bui, Jones, Dylan Lussier, Christopher Desiderio, Kearney, Jelani Lomotey, Jeremiah Coleman; juniors with Konesky, Penner, Joshua Brauer, Cole Hawley, Akiel Lomotey, Ryan Morales, Justyn Velasquez, Dylan Warner, Marcello Mazzariello; sophomores in Justin Cast, Shiloh Williams, Jacob Kopczuk, Alex LeBlanc, Grayson Mills, Christopher Aschettino, Jason Talalas, Trent Tracy, Malachi Sessions, Shaun Swanson, Connor Fiengo, Luke Torre, Ryan Booth, Khari Barnette, Domenic Maturo, John Mautte, Jayden Crespo, Caden Dombrowski, Michael Milici, Francesco Zweeres, Brandon Mantion; plus freshmen Christopher McKittrick, Braden Andrus, Nathan Borzillo, Michael Bouton, Logan Cristaldi, Cayson Dunn, Aiden Dupre, Luke Gagliardi, Logan Ghidini, Tide Hawley , Finnegan Herget, Jeremiah Larracuente, Nicholas Marciano, Cooper Misener, Noah Morales, Nicholas Panuccio, Braeden Ryan, Jacob Walkley, and Cayden Wheeler.
2023 Branford Football Regular Season Schedule
Sept. 8: Branford 49, Bassick 0
Thursday, Sept. 14: at Amity at 6 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 22: vs. Hartford Public at 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 29: at Hamden at 6 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 6: vs. Xavier at 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 20: vs. Sheehan at 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 27: at Hand at Surf Club at 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 3: at Cross at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 16: vs. Law at 7 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 23: at East Haven at 10 a.m.