Manchester varsity football inexperienced, but talented

By Corey AmEnde - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Fri., Sep. 20, 2013
Interim head coach Clayton Hillyer addresses the MHS team. Photos by Corey AmEnde.
Interim head coach Clayton Hillyer addresses the MHS team. Photos by Corey AmEnde.

Somebody forgot to tell the varsity football schedule makers that the Indians lost a wealth of experience from last year, and to take it easy on them at the start of this season. Apparently that message never made it through. Instead, the talented but inexperienced Manchester High School squad faced two teams in the top 10 rankings right out of the gate.

“We started off with our two toughest games in all probability in the first two games,” said coach Clayton Hillyer. The Indians faced sixth-ranked Windsor in week one at home and seventh-ranked Southington on the road in week two. 

“Nobody expected us to beat Windsor,” said Hillyer who is in his third year with the team. But they almost did.

The Indians jumped out to a 12-0 lead, but Windsor responded with three touchdowns to take it back.  Trailing 18-12 in the fourth, Junior Vasquez connected with Jaime Vega on a 40-yard touchdown to tie the game and send it into overtime, where Windsor would prevail, 25-18.

“Nobody expected us to even be close to them, so we got a lot out of that, but we have to build on that, and that’s the hard part,” said Hillyer. Despite the loss, Hillyer was pleased with the effort. “We played with a lot of heart and we played really hard, and they proved to themselves that if they play with everything they have, we can play with any team in the state,” said Hillyer.

The team returns three starters from a squad that went 7-3 last season. The captains for this year are seniors DJ Hernandez, Noel Cardona, Anthony Ingles and James Landon. 

Hillyer said other key players on the team include junior quarterback Junior Vasquez, junior safety and wide receiver Miles Thomas, junior running back and linebacker DJ Evans and junior receiver and safety Jaime Vega.

Hillyer said with inexperience comes mistakes. “The expectation is by the middle to end of the season we should be a pretty good football team.”

In order to being successful, Hillyer said the team needs to avoid injuries and, “focus on getting better every day.”

Despite the inexperience, success is something that this team has tasted before, especially the junior class, which went undefeated as freshmen. “There’s a talented group of kids there, and most of them didn’t play last year; and then a bunch of them came back this year, so they think they’re really good and they are good,” said Hillyer. 

Following their game against Southington, Manchester returns home to face New Britain on Friday, Sept. 27, at 6 p.m. and Newington on Friday, Oct. 4, at 6 p.m.

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