Brunswick football poised to keep the good times rolling

Brunswick School head coach Jarrett Shine instructs his team during a recent practice at Cosby Field. The Bruins start their season Saturday when they travel up to Avon Old Farms. — John Ferris Robben photo

Brunswick School head coach Jarrett Shine instructs his team during a recent practice at Cosby Field. The Bruins start their season Saturday when they travel up to Avon Old Farms. — John Ferris Robben photo

The Brunswick School football team is hungry for more.

Gone are the days of hoping to get a handful of victories and keeping the score from getting out of hand against the big teams in NEPSAC Housatonic League.

Now head coach Jarrett Shine and the rest of the Bruins are ready to show the league that they aren’t just one-hit wonders.

“We have a huge target on our back, but we are ready for that,” senior quarterback Billy O’Malley said. “We’re excited. Everybody still says that it’s Brunswick and it was a fluke last year. We are going to prove to everybody that it wasn’t a fluke. We want to give our fans something to cheer about again. We got the taste of winning last year and want to get back there. We are busting our butts just to get back to that spot and get the chance again.”

After coming off a season in which the Bruins only won two games, Brunswick started last season with a heartbreaking 40-39 loss to Kent School. However, after that game ended, something changed. Brunswick worked harder than ever and believed in their talent.

Brunswick School quarterback Billy O’Malley fires the ball to a teammate during a recent practice. The Bruins will start the season Saturday at Avon Old Farms. — John Ferris Robben photo

Brunswick School quarterback Billy O’Malley fires the ball to a teammate during a recent practice. The Bruins will start the season Saturday at Avon Old Farms. — John Ferris Robben photo

And the wins came. The Bruins beat Taft School (55-48), Hotchkiss School (36-7), Trinity Pawling (44-14), Salisbury School (50-17), Avon Old Farms (52-37), Hopkins School (42-14) and Berkshire School (42-0). In fact, the only other loss last season was a 35-28 loss at Avon to Phillips Andover Academy in the Jack Etter Bowl.

Brunswick had a turnaround that would have made nearly any team envious. However, Shine and the Bruins weren’t satisfied. They knew that they were right there with Andover and could have won the Jack Etter Bowl.

“Last season ended and we still have a bitter taste in our mouth from that game at Avon,” O’Malley said. “It was a great start and a great foundation. It was unbelievable and surreal. Every week was another magic moment. It was awesome because no one thought we could do it. Everybody in the league thought they could easily get by us. Every time we won a game, kids were actually stunned that they lost to Brunswick. But this year we want to prove to everybody that we can do it again.”

With a bunch of players back from last year’s team and a plethora of talent up and down the gridiron, Shine still thinks that his football team could turn a few more heads and get back to a bowl game to end the season.

“Potential is our biggest thing right now,” Shine said. “We had a good season last year, but we still have a lot to prove. We haven’t arrived. Last year we weren’t on a lot of people’s radars, but this year people are going to know exactly what we are running, both offensively and defensively. They are going to be prepared for us and know what to expect. No one’s going to take us lightly. We have a lot of talent and brought back a lot of young players that had playing experience last year, and they are ready to play, but we can’t be over-confident. We have to take it game by game and execute.”

Leading the way for Brunswick this year will be its senior captains, Matt Gendell, Patrick Adamo, Malik Wilder and Billy O’Malley.

“I expect tremendous leadership from our captains,” Shine said. “They are a good group of young men and have a lot of experience with motivating their teammates.”

Playing at quarterback this year for Brunswick will be returner O’Malley. O’Malley finished last season with just under 2,350 passing yards and added 32 touchdowns.

“Being out here is awesome,” O’Malley said. “It’s great to come out here and get back. We are like a family here. We love playing football here and love each other. The football brotherhood here is unbelievable. Getting out here, getting the offense going, getting the new guys acquainted with what we want to do and trying to finish what we started last year is very important.”

As a team, Brunswick averaged 43 points per game last year and O’Malley threw for 312 yards and four touchdowns in the championship game last year.

“I think Billy is going to have another solid year,” Shine said. “He does very well with our offense and puts up a lot of points because our offensive is so fast-paced and up tempo. A lot of people thought that we threw the ball a lot, but I think we were a very balanced football team and we’re going to do the same thing this year. Billy can run with the ball, hand it off to a talented backfield or throw. He showed everybody last year that he can throw the ball really well. We want to establish the run so we can open up the passing game.”

The Bruins will rotate three to four people in the backfield to help establish its running game. While O’Malley led the running game last year, coming back this year will be senior JD Donahey, who finished last year with 319 yards of offense. Junior running back Jason Kennedy will also be back in the lineup this season, as well as senior Lazare Zoungrana and senior Kyle Davis.

“Last year, JD was hot, so we stayed with him,” Shine said. “At the beginning of the season it was Jason Kennedy. It’s going to depend on who is hot on that particular week and we are going to stay with that person until  we need to make some changes.”

When it comes to targets for O’Malley to throw to, Brunswick was hit with some key losses to graduation. Henry Taylor led the way with 14 touchdown receptions and 881 yards. Tight end Dylan Wadsworth finished with 275 yards and two touchdowns.

However coming back will be senior captain Wilder, who picked up 193 yards on eight receptions and had three touchdowns in the Jack Etter Bowl last year.

“He made a lot of plays for us, not only in the bowl game, but throughout the season last year,” Shine said. He’s going to be our go-to guy and we’re going to try and get the ball in his hands as much as possible. He’s a tough kid, probably the toughest on the team. He can take some hits in the middle of the field and keep on going. He’s strong.”

Joining Wilder at wideout will be sophomore Sean Morris, junior Jourdon Delerme-Brown and senior tight end Jack Knight.

Giving O’Malley and the backfield something to smile about is Brunswick’s offensive line. As Shine said it’s one of the strengths of the team. Leading the way is senior captain Gendall and junior captain Adamo at tackle. Joe Fervil will snap the ball to O’Malley, while sophomore Lachlan Rosato and junior Alex Katchadurian round out the line.

“I have to say that this might be one of the best offensive lines we’ve had in a long time,” Shine said. “They are just a solid group. We only lost one starting lineman from last year’s team. Alex Katchadurian came over from John Jay and has really rounded out our offensive line. Joe is doing a good job making the calls and understands the offense a lot better than last year. This line is going to give Billy a lot of confidence to stay back in the pocket and make the reads.”

In addition to his stellar play at wideout, Wilder will be playing corner and will lead the defense. Joining Wilder at corner will be Kennedy. Delerme-Brown and Knight will be the team’s safeties, while senior Tucker Brown can fill in at any one of those spots.

Alex Russel missed last season with a knee injury and will be return for his junior year to resume his role at linebacker. Junior John Fox played a bunch for Brunswick last year as a sophomore and will looked upon for big things this year as well. Senior Austin Meacham will be the outside linebacker.

“They are awesome,” Shine said. “They are very physical. They love to hit and love to make tackles. I am hoping they will tackle better, but it’s something we are working on this year.”

While Shine hopes his team fires on all cylinders starting on Saturday, he also knows teams will be circling Brunswick School on their schedules. One of the biggest differences for the Bruins is that the opposition will not be taking Shine’s team lightly this year.

“From the first day of preseason camp, I told the kids that all the teams we play will take us very seriously,” Shine said. “I am hoping that the team knows what to expect and what the expectations are of them. We just have to work really hard. We have the talent and I know we will be OK, but we need to execute.”

For Shine and the rest of the Bruins, the goal is simple this year. After competing in the Jack Etter Bowl last season, Brunswick would like to come away with a title this time around.

“Our goal this season is to win a championship,” Shine said. “I think if we approach the season any other way, I think we would be doing ourselves a disservice. We are going to strive for it and whatever happens, happens. But as long as they give me 100 percent and effort, I will be happy.”

However, getting to the goal of a championship won’t be easy. And it starts Saturday afternoon with a key game on the road against Avon Old Farms.

In addition to Avon, Salisbury School, Hotchkiss School, Taft School, Deerfield Academy and Kent School are also on Brunswick’s schedule.

“We are not going to have any teams that we expect to run over and we wouldn’t want it any other way,” Shine said. “It’s a great feeling. The last several years we would have been happy if we won two games, three games or possibly four games. It’s not going to happen any more for us. We dropped some of the teams vthat we had a little easier time with. We are going to have those great fans here that will expect us to do really well. At the end of the day, we have to rise above the expectations and the potential that we have.”

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