BEACON FALLS — As Tim Shea enters his fourth season as head football coach of the Woodland Hawks, he feels somewhat of a comfort zone. In June, Shea welcomed 48 players, including eight returning starters on offense and seven on defense from 2010.
That is good news considering the Hawks are coming off a successful, 7-3 regular season and were good enough to get the fifth seed in the Class S tournament.
Woodland knocked off Naugatuck Valley League champion Naugatuck, 25-6, handing the Greyhounds their only regular-season loss.
Perhaps the only downfall last season was the Hawks’ 48-12 quarterfinal loss to eventual Class S state champion St. Joseph of Trumbull.
“That loss left a bad taste in our mouths,” Shea said. “The kids want to have another chance to get back to the playoffs and realize that they can’t rest on their laurels. When the CIAC playoffs expanded to eight teams [for each of the four classes], we said that we wanted to be one of the eight. That will be our goal every year.”
Gone from the mix this fall will be all-purpose player Jack DeBiase, the 2010 Republican-American Red Zone Player of the Year and All-State First Team selection, who will be playing baseball at UMass-Boston.
Filling in at quarterback for DeBiase likely will be sophomore Tanner Kingsley, the younger brother of ex-Woodland standouts Shane and Cody Kingsley. Tanner played on the varsity basketball and baseball teams as a freshman this year.
“We are not looking to replace Jack DeBiase,” Shea said. “That would be a very tough thing to do. We are not going to ask Tanner to win games. I know [offensive coordinator] Tim Phipps will do a great job of getting him ready. Tanner can throw the ball and is a bit of a slinger. We have some very good skilled players around him.”
Leading the Hawks will be senior tri-captains Zach Plourde, an All-NVL linebacker, Tom Gendreau, a three-year starting center, and Matt Zaccagnini, an All-Copper Division linebacker. Zaccagnini will also be the Hawks’ featured running back.
Also playing key roles will be wide receivers Rahmi Rountree and Anthony Scirpo, who both made important contributions in 2010.
In the trenches, the Hawks will have most of their lines back with Jeremy Clark, Dave Alves, Eric Collodel and Jeff Holder.
Woodland picked up Jonathan Law of Milford for a nonleague game to be played in Beacon Falls on Sept. 30. The Hawks play their first three games at home, including Sept. 15 against Sacred Heart and Sept. 23 against Ansonia.
Woodland starts conditioning Aug. 22 and has its first scrimmage scheduled against Oxford Sept. 1. Scrimmages with Guilford, North Haven, and Bristol Eastern are also planned.