Nick Gonzalez, left, Stratford High teammates look to kick-off the second half of the season on Friday. (File photo by John Nash)

H.S. FOOTBALL: Stratford still learning on the fly out of bye week

STRATFORD—The world of high school sports can be an extension of the classroom.

The lessons learned, however, are more valuable the knowledge gained from a book.

Despite an 0-4 start to the 2019 season, the Stratford Red Devils are learning a lot this season—about football and life.

“I hope that we are learning throughout this whole process,” third-year coach Jack Petion said. “I think the kids have been staying positive. They are good kids and have fun being around each other. I think we have to mature a bit more and understand that we have to stay focused on the task at hand.”

The Red Devils are coming off a bye week and heading into a Friday night non-conference game at Hillhouse, which is also 0-4 this season.

A competitive game is exactly what Stratford needs as it continues to find itself as a program.

“We are still juggling pieces around to give our team the best chance to win,” Petion said. “There are some guys out with injuries so (the week is) a good time to get some guys up to speed.”

The Red Devils also went back to the beginning and stressing perhaps the most important part of football.

“We have been focusing on some fundamental aspects of the game and trying to clean up our run game and tackling,” Petion said. “We need to continue to work on fundamentals and understanding game scenarios and how to come out on top of it.”

Sophomore quarterback Trey Lanham has been getting better with every game, but he’s just one example of yet another annual youth movement the Red Devils are going through as it struggles to keep veterans in the program.

   “We have about five players with previous varsity experience currently playing with two freshmen playing both sides of the ball,” Petion said. “All of the first-time varsity players have shown improvement.”

Tristan Pena, right, is one of the young Stratford sophomores looking to build a program. (File photo by John Nash)

    Junior Kaleb Lafontant and sophomore Sy’air James are the team’s top two rushers, combining for almost 400 yards combined.

 The Red Devils have also had a pretty potent special teams game at times with kicker Nick Gonzalez having a lethal foot.

With just 26 players on the varsity roster, though, the Red Devils need to stay healthy and get stronger.

“I would say that our biggest improvement has been our stamina,” Petion said. “Our main goal is to get our legs back and get healthy. We need all hands on deck.”

The bottom line for Stratford High: Just keep getting better and learning.

“I would like to see improvement in all three phases of the game and being more consistent executing our jobs on every play,” Petion said. “We have to win more of our individual battles on each play to have team success.”

Those battles continue on Friday at Hillhouse.

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