STRATFORD—The way Bunnell High football coach Ty Jenkins sees it, the Bulldogs record doesn’t quite tell the whole story.
Oh, sure, the 0-4 mark screams of a team going through adversity and change, including being forced to change its starting quarterback and other players just days before the season-opener due to a paperwork snafu.
And, yes, a winless start proved how tough it is for a rebuilding team to overcome injuries to veteran players.
But, Jenkins knows in his heart, that Bunnell’s 0-4 record doesn’t totally show what kind of team he has this season.
Coming out of the bye week, though, the Bulldogs are re-energized to tackle the rest of the season.
“Going into the bye week, we know that we have come out and competed in our every one of our games,” Jenkins said.
Despite the final scores, Bunnell has legitimately been in three of the four games the Bulldogs have played this season.
And it’s been in those games thanks to the rise and effort of younger players who are still learning what it takes to play football at the varsity level.
Last week, at Masuk, one of the toughest places to play in the SWC, seven sophomores were in the starting line-up for Bunnell, including Mario Solano and Nick DeManches at linebacker, Gino Fanciulli at safety Matt Kochiss at center, Jordan Eggelston at cornerback, Anthony Valerian at wide receiver and David Fredericks, a two-way lineman.
Toss in Luke McLaughlin getting a look at quarterback and that’s a lot of young players looking to step up and move the program forward.
“We are young and, in every game, we have come out and played hard and physical,” Jenkins said. “The state of the team is we have been forged by fire. We must keep getting better. I have seen it, and the kids have seen it. The team knows we are a few plays away from a few wins.”
Bunnell used the bye week to get better offensively, from gelling on the offensive line to working on its quarterback situation as Vancho and McLaughlin are now pushing each other for Friday’s start at Notre Dame-West Haven.
“I expect us to be better offensively,” Jenkins said. “Finally having some time to work with our QBs for an extended period of time is nice.”
Getting everybody healthy from the bruises and dings from the season is an advantage, as well.
“We have been able to come back heal up their bodies,” Jenkins said. “The bye week is a time to let your bodies recover and let the game become mental again.”
Four games in, Jenkins has been impressed with how the defense has come together and gotten better every week after giving up 98 points in its first two games.
Over the last two weeks, Bunnell has surrendered just 63 points—but 20 of those came in the final five minutes of the team’s loss to Fitch.
“The last two weeks our defense has played out right physical,” Jenkins said. “They have gotten much better from week one. They have caused three turnovers in the last two weeks.”
Despite the 0-4 record, though, Jenkins staff and the players are trying to stay positive and understand that growing as football players is more than just the final standings.
“We let them know why we do what we do,” Jenkins said. “First, because we love it; second because of the pride of this program. The seniors know the rise of our program will be built off the backs of them during this season. Also, we know that the first victory will mean that much more because of the trials and tribulations we have been through. Lastly, the kids see the growth of what we are doing.”
That growth continues as the season picks up again this weekend.
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