FAIRFIELD — There were raised eyebrows when Mitch Ross left his job as offensive coordinator at Darien to take over as coach at Fairfield Ludlowe two years ago. Where others saw a dead end, Ross saw open highway. While others said you could not win at Ludlowe, especially with two public schools and Fairfield Prep down the road, Ross disputed the notion.
So far, Ross’ vision is coming true. A team mostly ignored by its own students made Taft Field the place to be on Friday nights. And Ross enters his third season with more than double the players he started with.
The Falcons were the feel-good story last season, their seven wins exceeding by one the combined total the previous four years.
People tried to poke holes in that mark. Ludlowe had one of the league’s easiest schedules and there were three one-point wins. No one gave credit for coming out on the right side of close games, an important stepping stone as Ross worked on changing the culture of the program.
“Obviously last year we made tremendous improvement,” Ross said. “Things broke right for us last year but we can’t expect that every year. It’s great for the kids, it’s great for morale, great for the school and the community so we hope to keep the ball rolling.”
One of the biggest benefits was obvious Tuesday on the practice field.
“It’s a pleasure to see over 100 kids out for football at Ludlowe,” Ross said. “That’s mission No. 1 so that’s accomplished. We’re very young.”
Changes will be aplenty for the Falcons this fall. A strong senior class has moved on, and you will need a roster to familiarize yourself with players early on.
“That will be a challenge. We will have 17 new starters. That’s a lot,” Ross said. “And they will be young on top of it. Which in a way is good because in two years we’ll be returning a lot. But this year we have a lot of new starters.”
Senior Quinn Pavoz takes over at quarterback. “Starting varsity, I’ve never done this before,” Pavoz said. “I am excited to do it.”
James Borque will lead the running game, while Collin Fleming, Carlos Moreno and Dylan Fragomeni have experience at receiver. The line and defense are uncertainties until games begin.
“This year we have a lot of new kids and we are just trying to fill in what we did last year and maybe improve on that hopefully,” Pavoz said. “I think we can.”
Player To Watch
Quinn Pavoz. Much of the Falcons’ offensive growth last year was due to the dynamism of quarterback Colin Wilson, who threw for over 2,800 yards and 26 touchdowns and ran for a team-high 429 yards and six scores. Wilson’s ability allowed Ross to go deeper into his playbook.
Now Pavoz, a senior and lefty, takes over, one of many first-year starters that will attempt to keep the Falcons among the most feared offenses in the conference.
“Three years ago when I first started frankly it looked like he would never be able to play quarterback and he’s just worked so hard and improved his technique, improved his reads and now he’s a weapon out there,” Ross said. “He’s a very capable quarterback and we expect big things from him.”
The schedule, starting with Darien on opening day, is much more challenging. Greenwich and Fairfield Prep come later, as do improved Norwalk, Trumbull and Danbury teams.
Continuing the upward trajectory may not necessarily be measured in wins this year as long as there is not a dramatic fall.
“It doesn’t really matter what the record is but we just want to keep on moving forward in how the program is developed, and we will,” Ross said. “We will keep on moving forward. It’s going to be hard with the three LL playoff teams we play to match that record. We will have our hands full but as long as we can keep the program going in the right direction that’s all we can ask.”
Sept. 13 at Darien 7 p.m.
Sept. 21 at Westhill 1 p.m.
Sept. 28 FAIRFIELD PREP Noon
Oct. 4 at Norwalk 7 p.m.
Oct. 12 BRIDGEPORT CENTRAL 10 a.m.
Oct. 26 at Trinity/Wright Tech 1:30 p.m.
Nov. 1 TRUMBULL 6 p.m.
Nov. 8 GREENWICH 6 p.m.
Nov. 15 at Danbury 7 p.m.
Nov. 28 FAIRFIELD WARDE 10:30 a.m.