SPJ Excellence in Journalism Award for Sports Column: Culture Change: New Britain football sees recent season as strong building block for program going forward

Published on Friday, 24 May 2019 15:46
Written by DAVID GLOVACH

@DavidGlovach

GREENWICH - Most of the New Britain football team had already walked out of the right end zone and past the iron gates, prepping for the long ride home. But a few players lingered on the field for a few more moments.

They looked out at the scoreboard, drew their gaze away and scanned their eyes around Greenwich’s stadium. For many, it was the last time they would be donning a uniform and helmet they had seen and worn so many times.

It was Tuesday night and the Hurricanes’ season had just come to an end with a 49-13 loss to the Cardinals in the Class LL quarterfinals. But while many of the players lamented over the defeat, one where New Britain had its opportunities to make it a more competitive outcome, some also looked at the game with a bigger picture in mind.

That game, and more importantly this season, was a building block for what the Hurricanes hope helps return the program back to want it wants to be and where it was.

“We put out a great example that New Britain is back at it,” senior quarterback Tahje Yopp said. “We did what we wanted to do and now we expect the younger guys to build off of this and go farther than we did because we just showed them what we could do and now they believe in it. They’ve experienced this with us, practiced with us. Now, they can be like, ‘Oh, Imma start working like him and get here.’”

Looking back, it had been quite a journey for many of these Hurricanes. The first time they had a winning season. The first time they had been to the playoffs.

When the season began, much of the talk was centered around earning respect. After three straight 5-5 seasons, New Britain knew the only way it could change the narrative from being a team that had just athletes to being one that opponents didn’t want to line up against, leaving battered and bruised, was to win.

And win the Hurricanes did - decisively - thanks to a dominant run game and stingy defense.

New Britain was only held to fewer than 30 points once during the regular season, scored 40 points or more six times and averaged 42.7 points per game heading into its matchup against Greenwich. The Hurricanes finished with three rushers with 600 yards and six touchdowns or more: Shawn Robinson, Yopp and Kaiyon Gunn.

Behind a dominant defensive front, New Britain surrendered an average of 13.0 points to opponents, shut out two opponents and held five others to 14 points or less.

It culminated in a 9-1 regular season, the most wins the program had since 2014, with the team’s only loss coming on a last-minute touchdown by Southington in Week 5. Outside of that, the first 10 weeks couldn’t have played out much better for the Hurricanes.

“From practices, to summer workouts, to running when we didn’t want to, it was the most fun we had since we were young,” senior lineman Devon Bishop said. “It was all about having fun.”

Even head coach Tebucky Jones and his staff knew this group had the ability to be different than some of their previous teams. That’s part of the reason the loss on Tuesday was a tough one. Good teams always have and should always have high expectations.

“We made it to the playoffs, but not happy though,” Jones said. “We gotta go farther than this. It’s a great rebuilding tool. Now it’s time to get ready for next year.”

But as the final New Britain players left the field, they wanted to make a final point. One they’re sure will stick. Too much work went into it not to. The foundation had been laid.

“It’s a changed culture,” Bishop said. “The younger guys just have to keep working.”

David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or dglovach@newbritainherald.com



Posted in New Britain Herald, New Britain on Friday, 24 May 2019 15:46. Updated: Friday, 24 May 2019 15:49.