East Hartford football returns 15 starters from last season

By Corey AmEnde - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Mon., Aug. 19, 2013
Football practice started on Wednesday, Aug. 14. Photos by Corey AmEnde.
Football practice started on Wednesday, Aug. 14. Photos by Corey AmEnde.

The East Hartford High School varsity football team enters the 2013 with something to prove. Coming off a 1-9 record last year, they are hungry for a winning season.

“We've just got that anger, we've got that monkey on our back,” said senior captain Thomas Willingham. “We’re trying to get that monkey off to show people that it’s not going to be easy to beat us this year.”

Willingham, who plays outside linebacker and running back, and fellow captains junior middle linebacker and fullback Will MacIntosh and senior quarterback and safety Griffin Michalek have been setting the tone for the team since camp opened on Aug. 14, by leading by example. “If we’re pushing ourselves, then we need you to push yourself, because if it feels good you’re not doing anything right,” said Willingham. “You’re pushing for that burn after practice, after games.  I want everybody to crawl off the field like we gave it our all.”

“We’re the ones that really try to be vocal and build everyone’s confidence and help them push themselves that extra mile, and then after that you’re just building more of a relationship on and off the field,” added MacIntosh.

Second-year head coach Rick Milton leads the team that returns 15 starters and the core of the team from last season. He said the key to their success this year is going to be the strength of the offensive line.

“That’s going to be led by two-year starter Rafael Martinez, starting center, and Garcia Brown,” said Milton. “Those are our two senior veterans on the offensive line.”

Other key players on this year’s team, according to Milton, are Michalek, Willingham, MacIntosh, David Rodriguez, Miraj Barnes, Aaron Bell and Enyce Walker.  

Just a few days into practice, the team was working on technique and fundamentals as far as the conditioning phase. There is a scrimmage scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 31, against Harding at home at noon.

Milton said the strength of the team right now is their work ethic. “Our kids are working hard on both sides of the ball,” said Milton.  “Last year, when I got hired, there was a lot of change in the culture; and we have seen it, that shift has happened. The culture has changed. The kids, they’re in the weight room, they’re in the classroom, they’re in study halls.”

And they’re starting to see their hard work pay off. This summer Michalek and other members of the team went undefeated and won the championship in a passing league in Hartford that is comprised of other high school teams. “The last two years when I’ve been on the varsity level you’re not used to winning, but now, with our success we’ve had the last few months, it’s like we expect to win every game, or at least we think that,” said Michalek. 

The team opens the regular season at home against Bloomfield. “When we step on the field Friday night, Sept. 13, at 7 o’clock, you’re going to see a team that flies to the ball on offense and defense,” said Milton.

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