Old coach returns to lead young Hawks

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Woodland football captains Coby Vacarelli, left, and Sean McAllen will lead a young Hawks squad this season. -ANDREW SHURRETTO
Woodland football captains Coby Vacarelli, left, and Sean McAllen will lead the Hawks this season. -ANDREW SHURRETTO

BEACON FALLS — The Hawks are looking to recapture the good old days on the gridiron with the man who brought them there in the first place.

Head coach Chris Anderson, who led the Hawks to NVL and Class SS state championships in 2004 and 2005, is back at the helm for the Hawks after an eight-year hiatus.

His hands going, the practice schedule tucked in the back of his pants, giving visual examples as well as vocal critiques while simultaneously encouraging his players, Anderson looks the same on the practice field, megaphone and all.

The program doesn’t look like the one he left, however. The entire 2015 roster, including freshman, is only 50 players deep; which is a far cry from the 100-plus player program he built from the ground up before pursuing coaching at the next level for the University of New Haven.

The offense won’t look the same either. The Hawks of old were known for putting up huge numbers in a spread offense.

“We certainly aren’t a spread O, we are a Wing-T offense right now,” Anderson said.

That shift may have to do with the familiarity his players have with the system, as it was what was run in years prior.

Woodland finished 4-7 last year, but ended the season on a high note taking down rival Seymour, 41-14, in the annual Thanksgiving game. They were led by first-year head coach Tim Phipps, who took the head coach job at the Hopkins School in New Haven for this season.

Woodland was better than the record indicated. The Hawks lost a few very close games, including one they gave away to Ansonia when they held a 12-point lead late.

The Hawks will have a fairly young team this season with just 20 upperclassmen.

“Youth and inexperience will be tough for us,” Anderson said. “All five starting (offensive) linemen and our tight end have never started varsity. Plus we have a freshman quarterback, so seven guys that are first-year players on offense.”

That freshman quarterback is No. 12 Zach Bedryczuk.

“He is a very savvy player with a good arm,” Anderson said. “He’s a winner that our senior captains believe in and, most importantly, he knows how to operate the offense.”

To make Bedryczuk’s life a little easier, he has Sean McAllen and Coby Vacarelli behind him at running back and Jon Scirpo out wide at receiver.

McAllen and Vacarelli are both three-year players and have been named captains this season.

“We are trying to highlight our running backs,” Anderson said. “Their experience and leadership are very important to this team.”

Another running back that will contribute is sophomore Ben Nuss.

“He is a very dedicated and tough kid,” Anderson said. “We asked him to do an awful lot; he’s responded well to the pressure.”

The Hawks will need all players, experienced and new, to play well starting in the opener against Oxford, which finished 2-9 last year.

“They are a good team. Oxford is well coached with a lot of returning players. They look big and physical on film, we are going to have our hands full,” Anderson said

The season kicks off Friday night at 7 p.m. when Woodland hosts Oxford to begin Anderson-led Woodland Football 2.0.