NAUGATUCK — Fall is knocking on Naugatuck’s door and so is the 2016 high school football season. The Greyhounds are chomping at the bit for another year on the gridiron and, after an offseason of hard work and preparation, head coach Craig Bruno is looking to set loose a team with mix of familiar and fresh faces.
“We’re really excited. We can’t wait to get [out] there,” said Bruno, who is entering his fourth season at the helm. “There’s been a lot of offseason work. Every year the anticipation is awesome, and we got a lot of new guys playing.”
Following a 5-5 season that ended with a 41-8 loss to Ansonia on Thanksgiving, Bruno and the ‘Hounds are looking to improve from last year while not allowing the past to dictate their future.
Naugatuck found plenty of success on the ground in 2015, utilizing the rushing prowess and versatility of Antoine Sistrunk and Tyler Deitelbaum to get the job done. With Sistrunk now graduated, Deitelbaum will serve as the Greyhounds’ primary weapon in the run game.
The senior running back is looking to make every touch count in his final season donning the Garnett and Grey.
With his hard-nosed rushing style and ability to make plays on defense, Deitelbaum proved his worth on both sides of the ball last year. This time around, the senior plans to leave it all on the field.
“It’s my last season, [and] it’s something special,” Deitelbaum said. “It’s something you’re not going to be having anymore. You can’t take it for granted.”
The Greyhound pass game will also benefit from crucial returning players. While Naugatuck lost clutch playmaker Etty Illunga at receiver, seniors Jalen Datil and Dan Oladapo will serve as strong and experienced targets for quarterback Mike Plasky.
Plasky, a junior, is entering his second season behind center and will take the field with more experience under his belt.
“[My] confidence is definitely up more, being more aware of the game and being smarter,” Plasky said. “I definitely got stronger and worked on my arm strength a lot so that should help.”
The Naugatuck quarterback is looking to take things a game at a time and feels ready to do whatever he can to help the team succeed.
According to Bruno, Plasky’s year of experience has served as his greatest teacher and has made the junior more comfortable in the starting role.
While there are key returners on both sides of the ball, there will be an abundance of players making their varsity debut, especially on defense. The Greyhounds have struggled defensively over recent years and, with the loss of Sistrunk and Illunga in the secondary, Naugatuck will need to find effective successors.
In the trenches, the Greyhounds graduated Logan Bond, Paul Cavagunlo and Will Chockey, but return veterans in seniors Matt Johnson and Ben Rossi and junior Jiram Lopez.
Naugatuck opens the season Friday at home versus Derby. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. The Greyhounds will have their work cut out for them with games versus Seymour, Torrington, and Woodland in September.
“The key would be for them to get ready fast,” Bruno said. “A lot of the guys are getting a chance to play [for the first time] and are able to adjust quickly. Our schedule is very hard at the beginning of the season so we really don’t have a lot of time.”