H-K Football Scores Principals’ Cup Victory To End on Three-Game Win Streak
The Haddam-Killingworth football team has embodied the essence of what a typical high school campaign is all about–banding together and growing through the ups and downs and peaks and valleys. And it paid off quite well for the Cougars, who ended the journey on quite a high note and started the holiday festivities with an uplifting win.
The Cougars scored a victory on Nov. 21 by a 20-7 road final over Valley Regional-Old Lyme in the programs’ annual Thanksgiving Week clash. This win allowed the team to finish the 2023 campaign with a 4-6 record, and on a three-game winning streak following its 1-6 stretch. The win also marked the Cougars’ first victory in the Principals’ Cup Game since 2018.
“I guess you could say the third time’s the charm,” said the third-year H-K Head Coach Tyler Wilcox after losing the past two Principals’ Cup games. “Two years ago, we imploded with six minutes left and blew a 17-0 lead and lost the game. Last year, we had too many turnovers and mental mistakes with the playoffs on the line. This year, the kids had a great week and a half of preparation and got over the hump. The kids did everything and more leading up to the Valley game. Our defense was outstanding, and we pounded the ball effectively on offense. I can’t say enough about the way these players hung in there all season, and were able to reel off three straight wins to end the season.”
The Cougars’ run-heavy offense proved the difference, as H-K got one rushing touchdown from senior Wyatt Solosky, and two from sophomore Josh Frith to help propel the Cougars to the always-satisfying rivalry week victory.
Valley Regional-Old Lyme got on the board when Grady Lacourciere threw a 27-yard touchdown pass to Jackson Pannier in the third quarter, but with a sizeable lead already in place, H-K ate up the clock in the final stanza and iced the game on Frith’s second touchdown, a one-yard plunge with just under four minutes remaining.
Defensive leaders for the Cougars in the decision were junior Trevor Dixon (posting three sacks) and sophomore Jamien Evans, who recorded one interception.
H-K led 6-0 after the opening quarter when Solosky nabbed a short one-yard touchdown rush, which followed an unsuccessful two-point conversion. Frith then ran it in from just two yards away in the second quarter, and this time, the Cougars proved true when going for two, with Frith again running it past the goal line to put H-K ahead 14-0 at half.
The Warriors, however, weren’t going down without a fight, as they denied H-K the chance at a shutout with a third-quarter touchdown heave to get it back to a one-possession game at 14-7. Yet the comeback bid was denied when Firth had a short touchdown spurt of a yard in the fourth period, putting the Cougars up by a baker’s dozen and finishing off the Turkey Week win.
Junior quarterback Bryce Lacoss led the squad with 13 total touchdowns, while Frith and fellow sophomore ball carrier Tyler Napierkowski combined for 900 yards and 14 touchdowns. Dixon led the defense this year with 80 tackles, 17 of them coming for a loss of yardage, and four sacks.
The Cougars had three members of its senior class serve as team captains this fall: Solosky (guard/linebacker/kicker), center/defensive tackle Cooper Pitts, and Luke Dooley (guard/defensive end). Wilcox noted that the entire senior class helped a young Cougars’ club gain valuable gridiron experience rapidly this fall, while growing themselves throughout their tenures.
“Our senior group was small, but it was a tight-knit special group that stuck together through some very difficult times in their high school career,” Wilcox said. “They were freshmen during the lost COVID season, and many decided not to come back out for their sophomore season. The final six stuck together and pushed one another. Our captains Cooper Pitts, Luke Dooley, and Wyatt Solosky led the way. Cooper went down early with a lingering injury, but stayed with us and continued to help the team out even after surgery, coming to practice on crutches when he wasn’t rehabbing to help out the team. Luke and Wyatt took on more responsibility with Cooper off the field, and pushed the younger supporting cast along the way, resulting in a strong finish.”
The Cougars certainly took their lumps in the early portions of the season within the Pequot Conference, but Wilcox commented he was very enthused that the boys were able to reel it all in towards playing the complete contest in the final third of the campaign.
“I’m so proud of our kids. We’ve been saying all season how we’re so close yet so far, but tonight’s effort showed how we were able to close the gap by the end of the season,” said Wilcox. “After graduating 19 seniors, this group had a lot of new players filling into vital positions, especially young ones. We lost our record-breaking quarterback, running back, and top receivers. At times, we were starting six or seven sophomores on offense or defense,” said Wilcox. “The new, younger group settled in nicely as the season went on, and we were able to get into certain offensive schemes we had the year prior. The team finished with three wins in a row down the stretch, and built valuable depth and experience for the coming seasons. Heading into the offseason with a big win versus our Thanksgiving rivals sets us up nicely for our offseason work.”
Wilcox’s assistant coaching staff this fall consisted of Barth Keck (on the staff for his eighth season), newcomer Aiden Maher, Jon Grasso (a now three-year veteran on the sidelines), Torren Callender (in year No. 3), and George Callender (eight 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, Joe Slane, Jesse LaViola, Ryan Rafferty, Maxwell Selmer, Dixon, Stephen Signore, James Inkel, Hunter Leslie, Colin Castagno, and Christopher Frasco; sophomores Marcel Inkel, Chase Lombardi Bole, Evans, Axel Kolcio, John Moyher, Scott Hosney, 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 Results
Sept. 9: Morgan-Old Saybrook-Westbrook 44, H-K 20
Sept. 14: Stafford-East Windsor-Somers 20, H-K 0
Sept. 22: Coginchaug/Hale-Ray/East Hampton 34, H-K 14
Oct. 7: CREC Co-Op 24, H-K 19
Oct. 13: H-K 41, Windsor Locks-Suffield-East Granby 0
Oct. 20: North Branford 48, H-K 36
Oct. 27: Cromwell-Portland 48, H-K 12
Nov. 3: H-K 34, Coventry-Windham Tech-Bolton-Lyman Memorial 0
Nov. 10: H-K 30, Capital-Achievement 20
Nov. 21: H-K 20, Valley Regional-Old Lyme 7