WILTON — The Wilton football team is coming off a 7-3 season, hoping to ride the momentum of a finish in which it closed with four wins in the last five games.
Bruce Cunningham was voted the league Coach of the Year by his colleagues, but now has to fill 15 starting positions. It may seem daunting, but Cunningham said there is the accomplishable task of proving last year was a foundation for long-standing success.
Certainly that is the motivation.
“We are trying to build off what you have, but every year is a new year,” Cunningham said. “It’s a new bunch of kids and we have to keep working to build that chemistry we had last year that was a big, big part of how we finished.”
That sentiment is shared by the players, including the ones who were significant contributors a year ago.
“We have to build off of last year, but we have to keep in our minds it is not a given that we are going to go 7-3 again, or 8-2,” said Robbie Hermann,” the leading receiver on a team that is known for its ground game. “We have to keep working and take it one game at a time, starting Sept. 8 against McMahon. Go from there and hopefully it will turn out well in the end.”
The preseason has been about moving players around and finding the right combinations. That begins at quarterback, where Brian Calabrese and Kyle Phillips are in contention for the starting job.
“It’s a learning process,” Hermann said. “We’ve got new players going in, maybe not with experience but I think we will be ready to go by opening game.”
Cunningham said he has already seen a carryover effect from a year ago in terms of the work ethic.
“I think it’s the attitude and the leadership of the seniors,” Cunningham said. “We had a great senior class last year. There weren’t many of them but they were all contributors and they did a whole lot for the program. If they did anything it needs to transfer over to these incoming seniors and how they use their senior leadership.”
The Warriors were dealt a blow when their leading rusher from a year ago, Will Litton, transferred to a private school.
Harvey Alexander, who had 504 yards and 7 touchdowns, will be the primary carrier, while Hermann is a dangerous weapon who doesn’t mind that the Warriors are usually a ball-control offense.
“I just have to do what I have done in the past,” he said. “When we run the ball block my (butt) off and try to get there, and when receiving turn up field and get as many yards as I can. We are known around the league for running the ball and punching teams. If we do that well I feel it will turn out really well this year.”
Hermann will make an additional impact as one of the team’s two-way players.
“We are hoping to get some big plays from Robbie,” Cunningham said. “I really like the way he is playing defense right now. I think that’s important as well. We have to rebuild a lot of the defense and I knew that coming in.”
Right now the Warriors’ preparation has been as much mental as physical.
“It is about seniors wanting to go out and finish things the right way,” Cunningham said. “Get some momentum going. That’s why week one is so important. You want to get off to that good start. I still think we’re a work in progress but I do like the way they are working and I do like their attitude.”
Hermann said last season changes one very important dynamic for the Warriors.
“I feel like we’ve come this year more motivated than ever,” Hermann said. “Last year we were able to catch people off guard going 7-3 because in previous years we hadn’t done as well. All the teams around the league have circled our game and we’re trying to make sure that we can punish them out there. Go out there and do our best.”