Ellington/Somers football to see just a few changes with new head coach

By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Ellington/Somers - posted Wed., Aug. 21, 2013
Andrew Pearce charges through some obstacles during Ellington/Somers Knights foo
Andrew Pearce charges through some obstacles during Ellington/Somers Knights football practice on Aug. 13. Photos by Steve Smith.

The Ellington/Somers Knights are among football teams in the area starting the 2013 season with a new head coach. For the Knights, it's a familiar face, as Sean Byrne takes the reins after being an assistant coach under Keith Tautkus, who stepped down after last season.

Byrne was previously at Ansonia High School, the town in which he grew up and played as a student. He played football for four years at Western Connecticut State University, and then returned home to teach and coach in Ansonia before moving to Ellington to teach history in 2005.

Byrne said the Knights "look pretty good" and should maintain the level of play that has gotten them to the class M playoffs the last two years. There are about 60 players in the program, and the excitement for the season is there.

"The kids are excited to be here," Byrne said. "I'm just trying to continue what Keith did, and keep up the winning ways."

Byrne said his own coaching style is similar to that of Tautkus. "I'm intense, but I'm a friendly guy," he said, adding that the on-the-field game plan is essentially the same and simple. "We're going to run the ball, run the ball well, and play good defense. I don't like to overcomplicate the game. If you can get first downs, stop the other team, and take care of the football, you're going to win more often than not."

That doesn't preclude a few gadget plays that will be used when the time is right. "We have some, but we'll save those for the games when we're going to need them," Byrne said.

Byrne said the team is young overall, with a large number of underclassmen, but does return All-Conference quarterback Joe Leslie and several other experienced starters. The skill positions appear to be well stocked.

"We're not overly big," the coach said. "We're going to rely on our speed and intelligence. We've got a lot of skill guys."

From his players, Byrne said he expects what any good coach should expect. "We are just looking for hard work every day," he said. "We hold them accountable. If you're not here, you're going to face the consequences. If you don't do what you're supposed to do, you're going to hear about it. They respond well to that. We're trying to create good young men. We want to win games, but we're really trying to produce good citizens, too, so we talk a lot about values and making good decisions."

The Knights face several new opponents this year, as the league realigned. Cromwell, North Branford and Valley Regional will all present challenges, but Byrne said the playoffs are again within reach.

"We've got to work hard for it," he said. "It's a good opportunity for us to show what we've got. We'd like to win the conference, and then see where that takes us."

For now, the focus is on week-one opponent Stafford/East Windsor, which is a local rivalry. "They always play us tough," Byrne said.

For a complete schedule, visit www.casciac.org.

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