STRATFORD—It’s going to be a new-look Bunnell High School football program taking the field this fall.
All those involved, however, are hoping the results will remain the same.
After last season’s 9-2 campaign, which included a berth in the state tournament, the Bulldogs return to the gridiron with a new head coach and at least five new starters on both sides of the ball.
How the younger players step up and how the veterans adjust to a new coaching staff will go along way in answering the question of how far Bunnell can go in 2019.
“As a team and a staff, the only key game is the next one,” rookie head coach Tywan Jenkins said. “We never want to look ahead. We want to just keep building brick by brick.”
Jenkins replaces Sean Mignone, who coached Bunnell for the previous four-plus seasons and posted a 33-14 mark in his career.
The Bulldogs made the postseason in 2016 and 2018 under Mignone.
Jenkins was hired in the spring. The former offensive lineman from Southern Connecticut State University had been the defensive coordinator at Stamford High School for the prior two seasons.
While the team he inherits lost a lot of players in key positions, it also returns some talented players in key spots.
Especially at quarterback.
Brian Carrafiello (1,332 yards in 8 games with 12 TDs, 4 INTs) returns to call the shots behind a line that includes the return of C.J. Newton (6-1, 300 pounds) and Jaden Chuma (6-0, 190).
Newton and Chuma will captain the team along with running back/wide receiver Tyreek Smith.
Smith was Bunnell’s second-leading rusher last season behind graduated Christ N’Dabian, gathering up 540 yards and six touchdowns.
Jovan Eggelston also returns as a key cog in the backfield and as a defensive end.
Senior Nick Ochoa will also see time at running back but will be a key cog on defense as a linebacker.
Eggleston and Ochoa were Bunnell’s second and third-leading tacklers, respectively, behind James Savko.
Savko broke his arm during a 7-on-7 tournament in July and had surgery in early August. He is hoping to be back a few weeks into the season.
“I think our defense has the potential to be our strong suit,” Jenkins said.
Jenkins will be looking at a couple of varsity newcomers to step up in the offensive line as Jesse Brennan and Cam Junes, both juniors, have impressed.
Three players from Bunnell’s basketball team have also come out for the squad, including senior Tyler Staggs-Burgess, sophomore Anthony Valerian and senior Nick Rodrigues.
Isaiah Price, a junior RB/DB, could also make a name for himself this season.
As his newcomers gain experience, though, Bunnell could be a more dangerous squad later in the year.
“We are a young team will have to overcome the experience factor,” Jenkins admitted.
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