As freshmen, Isaac Negron, Scott Lawrence, Quincy Koch, Cody Doyle and Adam Testone were among a dozen members of Woodland’s Class of 2017 who suited up for the Hawks on the gridiron. Now, they are the last seniors left standing.
“I’ve played many other sports but there’s nothing like football. The family atmosphere and the comradery is not like any other sport, and I’ve played many other sports but there is nothing like this one,” Negron says.
“If you look at basketball or baseball you can have one or two players that can take over but with football you need all 11 players in the field working together, and that’s what I love about it,” Lawrence adds.
The seniors have seen the up and downs that come with the game of football. They’ve also seen a different head coach stalk the sidelines every year of their high school careers. There was Tim Shea in 2013, Tim Phipps in 2014, Chris Anderson in 2015 and now Chris Moffo.
Each coach came in looking to put their own mark on the program, but the goal never changed.
“Every coach that has come in has had the same goal for us. They all want to win, they just have different ways of getting there,” Negron says.
Moffo, a longtime assistant who was the defensive coordinator last season, took over a team with a roster full of underclassmen. He wasted little time in naming Negron, Lawrence, Koch and Doyle captains to help him show the young Hawks the Woodland Way.
As Moffo talked about his captains a common theme emerged: hardworking. They would have to have that trait to play for so many different lead men in their high school careers.
The hard work put forth has paid dividends.
Negron, who plays running back, linebacker and returns kicks, has exactly 1,000 yards rushing this season in nine games with a touchdown per game. He’s also the team’s third-leading tackler.
“Isaac has been our workhorse all year. When teams have to key on 33 it opens things up for other guys,” Moffo says.
Negron had the second most carries in a game in school history this season with 37 against Wolcott. For his career, he has 1,314 yards on the ground and toted the rock 256 times, good for eighth and sixth in school history, respectively. He is also tied for third in two-point conversions in school history.
Lawrence has been a pillar for the Hawks’ defense this season. He is averaging nine total tackles per game and is the team leader in tackles and tackles for a loss. On offense, Lawrence plays tight end and leads the team in receptions this season.
“Lawrence flies around on defense and makes a lot of plays for us,” Moffo says.
Doyle has had a tougher road due to injuries over the past two seasons. As a major contributor on both offense and defense, his presence is missed whenever he can’t suit up.
“He has worked hard over the past four years to overcome a lot of adversity and that truly shows what kind of person he is. He isn’t the most vocal leader but the way he carries himself on and off the field makes him an incredible asset to our team,” Moffo says.
Doyle says football changed his life. He credits the game with altering his formerly sedentary lifestyle.
“It changed my body so much. I never played before freshman year and before that I was kind of a couch potato,” says the soft-spoken Doyle with a smile.
Koch has a very full plate. He is the player responsible for positioning his teammates as quarterback and in the secondary on defense.
“Quincy Koch is a tough, tough kid. He won’t complain about the bumps and bruises. He is out there no matter what setting up our defense and secondary and then leads our offense at quarterback whether his finger is dislocated or not,” Moffo says.
Koch is second on the team in tackles on the season and completed 75 percent of his passes in the team’s win over Kennedy.
The Kennedy win was the first for the Hawks, who started the season 0-8. Despite the tough start to the season, the Hawks’ captains never doubted they were heading in the right direction.
“The thing that I am most proud of is that everyone is showing up every day, despite the scores and our win-loss record,” Lawrence told the Republican-American following a loss to Torrington. “Everyone is determined to get better and that shows the character of our team.”
That character came through the next week when the Hawks topped Kennedy, 40-20.
High school football is more than just a sport. For hundreds of thousands of freshmen boys it is a cauldron in which they become young men in just four short years. The game allows for fun, improvisation, and confidence building all within much needed structure.
Through the rigors of intense practices and early morning running sessions the young men that come out of the other side are bigger, stronger and faster. But, more importantly they have learned mental toughness, what it feels like to give their all, and the need for self-discipline.
Traits exhibited by Woodland’s senior leaders.
Editor’s note: This article appears in the Citizen’s News’ special Thanksgiving football section published the week of Nov. 25, 2016.