East Hartford High football team has new coaches, new attitude

By Frances Taylor - ReminderNews
East Hartford - posted Tue., Aug. 21, 2012
East Hartford players have new coaches and a new attitude toward school and football. Photos by Frances Taylor.
East Hartford players have new coaches and a new attitude toward school and football. Photos by Frances Taylor.

Coach Richard Milton is out to remake East Hartford High School football and its image. “It’s true that it’s not been very good for a long time,” said Milton, who is in his first season with the team. But rather than focus on the past, Milton and the other coaches of the East Hartford football team saw a need to change the attitude of the players.

Milton, who teaches at East Hartford Middle School, took over the program at the end of last year and said he is using the rapport he has with the students and the community to remake the program. “We’ve had about 70 players turn out for the team this year, which is way above years past,” he said.

The players have been undergoing conditioning since February, and have been in pre-season training since June 20. Milton is joined by new assistant coach Stephen Higgins, assistants Troy Toland and Dan Butler, and wide receiver coach Akwan Shabazz. Each of the coaches either works in or lives in East Hartford, which they believe has aided their rapport with students they have been seeking to recruit as players.

During the summer, the team held workouts in the local parks to give the program visibility, “and to let parents and the community know East Hartford football was on a different track,” Milton said. “Most of all, we are getting rid of a losing mentality, and getting a new attitude.”

New rules for players include, among other things, no cursing of any kind, and no missing practices. Players who miss practices have to earn their way back to playing with their teammates by doing extra conditioning work such as flipping tires. Students must maintain a weekly C average or higher, and the team has a daily study hall before going out onto the field.

“We set high expectations for them, and they know there are consequences,” assistant coach Stephen Higgins said. “The result has been that they are holding each other accountable to the standards that have been set for them.”

The players who have been on the team in previous years say they have noticed a difference. “We are definitely working harder, a lot more running, we are all in shape,” said Kirkland Harris, a senior defensive lineman.

“There is a lot of focus on academics,” said Carlton Steer, a senior tight end and fullback. “Football is a privilege that you get when you keep your grades up.”

“They really push us; it’s a lot more intense than in years past,” said Robert Swain, a senior fullback. “It’s much tougher.”

William MacIntosh, a sophomore and middle line backer, said the team’s image with other schools will change this year. “When we get to Glastonbury and Southington and places like that, we’ll be representing East Hartford in much different way,” he said.

Milton said he has no doubt the team’s new attitude will have an impact on their performance this year. “We were 3-7 last year. We will not be 3-7 this year. That is a guarantee,” the coach said.

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