FOOTBALL 2021: Talking about the next generation, who figures in the mix at LH?

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WALLINGFORD — Here’s a quiz, multiple choice.

What do Kadin DeWallace, Gavin Janowski and Cristian Ronan-Koenig have in common?

A) They’re all sophomores at Lyman Hall High School.

B) They’re all football players who line up in the offensive backfield.

C) They’re all likely to be starting varsity this fall.

D) All of the above.

OK, maybe it’s not very hard to suss out. The Record-Journal sports department isn’t known for its exams.

Head coach Bill Weyrauch, on the other hand, is known for reforging the Lyman Hall football program, and this season will test the mettle of his Trojans.

Like most Connecticut teams, Lyman Hall is scrambling to rise from the ashes of the cancelled 2020 season. Unlike most, though, the LH phoenix is looking to fly on the wings of some very young players in some very critical positions.

The backfield says it all: DeWallace at quarterback, Janowski and Rohan-Koenig at running back. Senior running back Ryan Bannon is the lone upperclassman in the group.

“I’ve got a lot of young guys who are going to have to step up for us to be competitive this year,” Weyrauch said. “I’m asking them to fill in and take on starting roles when maybe they’re not quite ready to do that, but because of where we’re at right now that’s what I need them to do.”

The numbers are driving some of it. The Lyman Hall roster numbers 54, freshmen included, and Weyrauch wishes the count were higher.

That said, Weyrauch likes the talent and promise of his rookies, and with some experienced players up front, he’s ready to roll with them right now, starting Friday when Foran comes to Fitzgerald Field for the season opener.

And, by the way, while the Trojans are re-booting like everybody else in 2021, they aren’t looking at the season as reconstruction.

“I’m going to go in (believing) that we can compete in every game,” said Weyrauch, who is entering his fifth year and fourth season. “That’s my attitude: That we can compete in every game. But I have probably four or five sophomores who are going to be big contributors to our football team, and that’s a lot.

“I’m not saying other programs don’t have to do the same thing; I think they’re going to have to. But I’m asking my guys to take on varsity roles after a missing an entire season and to be ready to play on a Friday night. That’s a tall order to ask, but for us to be a good football team, I need them to.”

As in 2019, the Trojans are in Tier 3 of the Southern Connecticut Conference and Class M in the CIAC playoff classifications. Most of their opponents are fellow Class Ms, with one Class LL (Harding) and some quality Class S (Ledyard, New Fairfield, Sheehan) on the docket.

Here’s the full slate:

Sept. 10 — Foran, 6:30 p.m.

Sept. 17 — at East Haven, 7 p.m.

Sept. 24 — Plainville, 6:30 p.m.

Oct. 1 — Ledyard, 6:30 p.m.

Oct. 15 — at Branford, 7 p.m.

Oct. 22 — at New Fairfield, 7 p.m.

Oct. 30 — at Notre Dame-Fairfield, noon

Nov. 5 — Harding, 6:30 p.m.

Nov. 12 — at Bassick, 6 p.m.

Nov. 25 — Sheehan, 10:30 a.m.

“Our schedule is challenging as always, but it’s a fair schedule,” Weyrauch assessed. “We can compete week in and week out, I’m hoping. It’s good that we’re starting out at home.”

The Trojans will get after it with an attack that will not be a replay of 2019, when quarterback Sean Patrick Pragano and wide receiver Shakespeare Rodriguez rewrote the Lyman Hall record book for passing and receiving.

They’ll return to their running roots behind an O-line that features four seniors in center Mason Williams, right tackle Aiden Barron and guards Joe Pieper and Anthony Nakis. 

“All the guys on the offensive line have had some varsity experience, if not a lot,” Weyrauch noted.

Senior Denny Casorla and junior George Gutierrez are vying for the left tackle spot. Weyrauch also wants to get Owen Gray, a 6-foot-6, 250-pound sophomore, into the mix.

These are the guys charged with giving the young backfield time and space to operate.

There are aerial options. The wideouts, senior Jacob Seamans and junior Cam Pragano, along with junior tight end/slot Ethan Saez, have some experience, and sophomore Michael Fisher provides some depth.

Mostly, LH will ground and pound behind Janowski and Ronan-Koenig. Janowski saw success this past spring running track. Ronan-Koenig is a power back.

“I’m excited about what these two guys are going to bring to Lyman Hall in the future,” Weyrauch said. “Gavin is another tremendous talent … Cristian is a strong, physical sophomore that we’re happy about.”

Defensively, the Trojans will continue deploying in a 3-3 stack.

Again, the line features the most experience, anchored by Pieper at left end, Nakis at right end and Williams at the nose. Senior Zach Soderberg will also see time in the trenches.

At linebacker, Casorla mans the middle, with senior Omer Celik at one outside spot and Ronan-Koenig and Saez rotating at the other.

The five-man secondary features Seamans at free safety and seniors Tyler Hudson and Angel Avila at the corners.

Janowski is the strong safety and Ryan Bannon the “anchor,” Lyman Hall’s linebacker/safety hybrid position. 

“I like the kids I’m coaching,” Weyrauch said. “They’re all good kids. They come to work every day. It’s an enjoyable atmosphere to be around.”

It’s a young crowd, too. As Weyrauch notes, come 2022 and 2023, the Trojans are going to have some solid players. Right now, though, it’s 2021.

“Right now, they’re a little on the young side,” Weyrauch concurs. “They’re going to have to grow up fast — or grow up on the run, as they say.”

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