BRISTOL - With some key losses from a solid roster, duplicating the success the St. Paul Falcons had last season won’t come easy, but the returning players believe this team can be even better.
“Last year we had a great group of kids who went out there and played football every day, but this year everybody is making it a priority in their free time to get better by hitting the weight room, running drills, and at practice everybody is working hard to get the little things down,” quarterback Kevin Ashworth said.
That weight room work will be something to keep an eye on especially with a new center lining up in front of Ashworth, Jack Kurnik.
So far, though, he has been impressive in camp, according to coach Jude Kelly.
“Our offensive line has been working super hard,” Ashworth said. “Everyone is trying to have a great season this year. I love my offensive line. They all have our backs no matter what.”
The Falcons are known for their wishbone formation offense. That is a quick-paced offense that runs the ball a lot, and option plays are a big component to it.
The two tailbacks for St. Paul are key for a successful season. Chris Dionne will be returning from an ACL/Meniscus repair. Damien Rabis will be the other featured back this season.
“We have a really good backfield,” Dionne said. “The guys get together really well. We’re still working on our line. A lot of the kids started off the season rough but we’re coming back from a couple injuries across the board.”
The team is looking for the run game to open up other parts of the field for Ashworth.
“We want to be able to execute the offense as the techniques are extremely hard to master with it,” Kelly said. “So we’re constantly working on it. The plan is to be able to run the football. And if people overplay the run we want to take advantage of it in a different way.”
While the offense puts up the points with the wishbone, keeping the opponent off the scoreboard is just as important for this group.
“We really enjoy defense. We play hard and hit hard. I’d say the defense is one of the cornerstones of our team,” Dionne said.
Defensively some key players will be defensive backs Rabis and Ashworth and on the line Dominic Aiello is expected to be the man to control the line.
Jon Ivers will be suiting up for his first time since sixth grade. He has been penciled in as a starter on defense and is expected to play a major role out of the gate.
While the components are there for a playoff run, at times last season St. Paul got in its own way.
“Consistency is something we need to work on,” Dionne said. “Making sure every game we’re at we come full go for and we play as hard as we can against every opponent not just the ones that we’re better than.”
St. Paul will look to get off to a strong start in the first game of the season on the road against Sacred Heart Saturday.
“I feel that we’re kind of being slept on and we’re ready to play some football,” Aiello said.