STONINGTON — Stonington High will be a much better football team this season, but whether that translates into more wins remains to be seen.
Last season the Bears finished 1-9, losing four games by a touchdown or less. In most of those four games turnovers and penalties played a big role. And the team could not finish drives when it needed to.
"I think we will be able to do everything better this year," said coach A.J. Massengale, who begins his 16th season this fall. "A lot of these kids played last year as sophomores. We are still a young team. A lot of them got a lot of experience — that is something they will have.
"We are focusing and working on a lot of game situations in practice."
Offensively, quarterback Drew Champagne is back for his junior year. Champagne was the starter for most of last season, completing 49.2 percent of his passes for 227 yards.
He will be joined in the backfield by Christian Hudson, Josh Curtin and Sam Inthasit. Curtin rushed for 282 yards last season and caught 12 passes for 165 yards.
Hudson, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound sophomore, gives the Bears good size in the backfield. He played receiver last season.
"He's a very dynamic athlete and we can still use him as a receiver," Massengale said.
Lucas Morrison, Marco Tedeschi, Nick Abely and Bobby Dimock will see time at receiver.
Bryan Fusaro is the starting center. Jack Zuro and Mahmoud Salha are the guards. Ryan Mercier and Luke Costanzo will play tackle. Nate Garrett will also play on the line.
"They've done a great job; we've throw a lot at them," Massengale said. "We are markedly better at executing than we were when we started [practice]. We are not going to be a team that has a lot of mismatch kids. We have good speed and good quickness."
On the defensive side, Josh Morrison, Luke Panciera, Adam Rajab and Treyvone Poehler will play on the interior line. Fusaro, Zuro, Mercier, Jackson Bernard and Gavin Kerfus will also get snaps in the line.
Curtin, Abely, Morrison, Matt Castagliuolo and Matt Tipple are the linebackers. Lucian Tedeschi, Marco Tedeschi, Ryan Keilty, Andrew Castagliuolo, Antonio Reale, Justin Holland and Hudson will play in the defensive backfield.
Inthasit will do the kicking and punting.
"We've got good speed and the kids have done a good job of running to the ball so far," Massengale said. "Swarming and getting to the ball is huge. And lot of the guys are inexperienced, but they are getting better every day."
Stonington has 76 players in the program with eight seniors and 25 freshmen.
"It's a great group of kids, great chemistry. They support each other," Massengale said. "A lot of good can come from that stuff."
Massengale prefers not to establish goals for wins and the like.
"As long we are doing the things we are supposed to and playing the way we need to play, I am going to be happy with it," Massengale said.