H-K Football Young and Hungry to Continue Proud Pedigree
The Haddam-Killingworth football team will certainly sport a new look on the sideline with many fresh faces this year, though the Cougars are ready to utilize the situation to swiftly strengthen the raw talent of many athletes into seasoned competitors on the gridiron.
Last fall, the Cougars compiled six wins out of their 10 regular-season games, falling just short of a playoff berth in Class S to Pequot Conference rival North Branford by virtue of point average in the Class S State Rankings.
The Cougars do dip a little bit in the experience column compared to that last year’s squad, but H-K knows that the bumps, bruises, and all other growing pains that will come along the way this fall are only going to prove beneficial in the grand scope of the program and developing these young men.
“We are a young group this season after graduating 20 seniors from last season,” said Wilcox, whose squad is 0-2 in the early phases of the 2023 campaign. “We currently have eight seniors, many of which don’t have a lot of varsity experience. The seniors will need to adjust quickly, and the majority of our group is sophomores and juniors [with over 30 players]. These young players will be playing key roles and will only benefit us in the long run as well with them gaining varsity experience.”
Three of those seniors are serving as team captains for the Cougars: Wyatt Solosky (guard/linebacker/kicker), center/defensive tackle Cooper Pitts, and Luke Dooley (guard/defensive end). No matter their battle upfront on the line of scrimmage, each individual brings it physically, while simultaneously being bright beacons of guidance and leadership away from it.
“Each of these guys are special in their own ways. They lead by example and have a disciplined approach to how they manage the team,” Wilcox said. “They did a great job during the summer and preseason keeping the team disciplined with team apparel, and arriving early and staying late. They do all the small things needed for team building. All three play in the trenches, and we know we need to win that battle week in and week out. These three are both mentally and physically tough players. They all balance each other out well.”
H-K’s junior class will also occupy many of the key skill positions with wide receiver Joe Slane (also a defensive back), Ryan Rafferty (also doubling as wideout and defensive back), Bryce Lacoss behind center as quarterback, and offensive lineman/linebacker Trevor Dixon. Sophomore running back and linebacker Tyler Napierkowski will also be a main contributor out of the backfield.
“Joe is a very versatile athlete on both sides of the ball and is a ball hawk on defense. Bryce is one of the most athletic quarterbacks H-K has had in recent memory. He will be looked upon to lead the offense and the key will be staying healthy,” said Wilcox. “Trevor was an All-Conference lineman as a sophomore. Trevor will be looked upon to anchor the line with our three senior captains. Ryan is a fiery competitor who will be looked upon to fill the receiver holes we have due to graduation. Ryan and Joe both started as sophomores and will be looked upon to lock down our secondary again this season. Tyler is a Xavier High School transfer who is poised to take over the starting running back role.”
As the Cougars will participate in pivotal Pequot Conference clashes that include North Branford on the road on Friday, Oct. 20 at 6:30 p.m. and the annual Thanksgiving week clash with Valley Regional-Old Lyme (also on the road on Tuesday, Nov. 21 with a 6:30 p.m. kickoff), the theme will remain the same for H-K in bringing the heart on the field and fighting for every inch, while doing all they can off the field to strengthen themselves into well-rounded individuals.
“The goals are always to compete every week, no matter who we are playing. From there, it’s guiding these young student athletes into mature and responsible student athletes,” Coach Wilcox said. “Sports don’t last forever, but the life lessons these players learn through this sport last their lifetime. We want to control our fate and not be waiting around for tie breakers to fall like last season. The goal is to win the conference and make states.”
The Cougars are looking to put themselves in a position where they are not spending their Turkey Day scoreboard watching to see their playoff fate. Additionally, Coach Wilcox wants to make H-K a place where players will always want to entertain a homecoming after they cross the threshold into becoming alumni.
“It’s important to continue being successful and building off of last season,” said Wilcox. “Over my three seasons as head coach, we’ve had many players return back to their home program, and this year is no different. We had a lot of freshmen come back home from other schools, and they will be looked upon to leave their mark on their home program.”
Wilcox’s assistant coaching staff this fall consists of Barth Keck (now on the staff for his 8th season), newcomer Aiden Maher, Jon Grasso (a now 3-year veteran on the sidelines), Torren Callender (in year No. 3), and George Callender (8 years).
Making up the Cougars’ roster this fall are seniors of Solosky, Peter Guarino Jr, Lorenzo Rich, Jake DePino, Jacob McGoey, Dooley, and Pitts; juniors in Lucas Lawlor, Riley Schipritt, Leo Wolf, Michael Brooks, Jacob Lamarre, Lacoss, Timothy Cavrell, Slane, Jesse LaViola, Rafferty, Maxwell Selmer, Dixon, Stephen Signore, James Inkel, Hunter Leslie, Colin Castagno, and Christopher Frasco; sophomores Marcel Inkel, Chase Lombardi Bole, Jamien Evans, Axel Kolcio, John Moyher, Scott Hosney, Joshua Frith, Napierkowski, Jackson Bottaro, Caleb McLean, Ian McLean, Nathan Mulhall, and Jaden Fazzone; plus freshmen Daniel Cavrell, Kyle House, Santino Mauro, Brady Hayward, Joaquin Bonham, Filip Kozdra, Caleb Cimma, Tai Madden, Riley Hinkle, Luke DePino, Timothy Hickman, Chase Sandrey, and Evan O’ Neal.
2023 Haddam-Killingworth Football Regular Season Schedule
Sept. 9: Morgan-Old Saybrook-Westbrook 44, H-K 20
Sept. 14: Stafford-East Windsor-Somers 29, H-K 0
Friday, Sept. 22: vs. Coginchaug/Hale-Ray/East Hampton at 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 7: at CREC Co-Op at 11 a.m.
Friday, Oct. 13: vs. Windsor Locks-Suffield-East Granby at 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 20: at North Branford at 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 27: at Cromwell-Portland at Cromwell at 6 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 3: at Coventry-Windham Tech-Bolton-Lyman Memorial at Coventry at 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 10: vs. Capital-Achievement at 6:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Nov. 21: at Valley Regional-Old Lyme at Valley Regional at 6:30 p.m.