BEACON FALLS — After struggling to the tune of just one win last season, the Woodland football team is turning toward the inside as it tries to bounce back this fall.
The Hawks’ three captains are all senior linemen: Justin Morrone, Joe Kmetz and Jackson Henry. Offensive linemen are always crucial to the success of any football team, but especially when a team runs a ground-based offense like Woodland’s wing-T running game.
“We are by far the most important unit on the field,” Kmetz said. “We have to set the tone. We have to be the best line out there.”
Despite the Hawks’ 1-9 record last fall, they averaged 246 rushing yards per game. Although leading rusher Isaac Negron graduated and second-leading rusher Tom Smith decided not to play his senior year, Woodland coach Chris Moffo is excited about his stable of running backs.
Junior Edit Krivca, who Moffo said “is going to be someone we really lean on,” and sophomore Zach Kabusk will likely see the most carries as the season begins.
But no matter who carries the ball, it’ll come down to offensive line play. The group that returns four starters from last season has spent the offseason trying to learn from last season and getting stronger in the weight room.
“I think a lot of the younger guys gained a lot of experience from those losses,” Henry said. “We learned that we had to put more work in at practice. We’ve been working every day since January. We don’t get these days back.”
“The biggest thing is to focus on everything in practice and bring it onto the game field,” Morrone added. “We have to do everything we’re supposed to do the correct way.”
Moffo acknowledged that the team’s work ethic has improved from last season, and it’s a reason for some optimism heading into this fall.
“They learned that they need to work for what they want,” Moffo said. “They’ve pushed through the offseason. Nothing’s going to be given to them. They have to put the work in every day. Even though you work, it doesn’t mean you’re going to be successful every Friday night.”
Along with the three captains, other key big men up front include linemen Tom Faryniarz, Josh Hassan, Derek Cha and Alec Tolboe, and tight ends Carter Amore and Joe Shea.
Moffo, who was an offensive lineman at Wolcott High in the 1990s, said it’s “huge” to have his team’s top leaders on the offensive line.
“We’re expecting a lot out of them,” Moffo said. “We’re expecting them to push themselves and work hard. They have to be the focus point. It’s a huge responsibility.”
Woodland will also break in a new quarterback in sophomore Tyler Bulinski, who will be the fifth different quarterback to start on opening night for the Hawks in the last five years.
“We’re going to expect him to manage the game and take care of the ball for us,” Moffo said.
The Hawks will open the season Friday at Crosby. Their home opener is Sept. 15 vs. Watertown.