Eagles look to translate experience into wins

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Tolland - posted Thu., Aug. 25, 2011
Tolland football defensive players take part in a coverage drill during practice on Aug. 23. Photos by Steve Smith.
Tolland football defensive players take part in a coverage drill during practice on Aug. 23. Photos by Steve Smith.

Last season, the Tolland High School Eagles varsity football team was forcibly in a rebuilding year, relying heavily on a large number of sophomores after an exodus of graduating seniors left only a small number of upperclassmen on the squad.

“It was a struggle,” coach Andy Bourquin said. “When you rely mostly on sophomores, it doesn't pan out in wins and losses.”

This year, the now-juniors will use that experience, and have improved overall.

“We're a little bigger, faster and stronger than we were last year,” Bourquin said. “We’re more physical in the backfield on defense and I think mentally and physically we'll be tougher.”

After last year’s winless season, in which the young team was also learning a new offense under a new head coach, the Eagles say they learned a great deal, and perhaps more importantly, they bonded.

“We're definitely going to win some games,” said co-captain and quarterback Chris Byam. “We have a tough schedule – just as tough as last year – but we're still a better team.”

“Last year, we didn't really have that group of seniors that wanted to lead it,” said senior co-captain Jamison Boucher. “Now we have that bunch of kids. We're a tighter group. We're more comfortable with our offense now. We're more ready for it this year.”

Both players said second-year coach Bourquin is more tuned-into the players' abilities and where they fit best in the plays.

Several players took part in off-season workouts at the school's fitness center.

“There are a bunch of core kids on the team that go every day, four times a week,” Byam said. “After workouts, a bunch of backs and receivers come out, and we throw the football a little bit – just working on general routes and staying in shape.”

Bourquin said those workouts will hopefully help the team better avoid injuries this season. With a run-first, flex-bone option offense (a la Navy or Georgia Tech), Bourquin said the improvements Byam has made after last year's experience will help exploit opposing defenses.

“He has a year under the belt in the new system,” Bourquin said. “We'll try to open up the pass with play action. We'll do a lot of that for big plays. When the other team puts too many in the box, we'll pass. We'll play the numbers.”

What he has seen so far in practice, Bourquin said, is encouraging.

“They're anxious to play,” he said, adding that he's careful to make sure the team knows that more experience doesn't automatically translate to improvement. “They're anxious to improve, but we still have a lot of work to do. We assume that because we're older that we're going to do better – that's partially true, but we have to put the work in,” he added.

Bourquin said the schedule this season is somewhat encouraging, with some of the larger schools, such as Maloney and Manchester left off in favor of more Tolland-esque M and MM schools.

“We're going to be playing a more equitable schedule,” he said. “We have a better chance of competing at a higher level if we're playing schools of our size.”

Tolland opens the season on Sept. 17, hosting Weaver at home. For a complete schedule, visit www.casciac.org.

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