After a run to the Division I semifinals two years ago, the Champlain Valley football team had high expectations last season.
But the Redhawks fell short, stumbling to a 3-6 record.
This year, CVU is out to prove that last year was a fluke.
“They understand last year was kind of disappointing and they kind of want to make amends,” said CVU coach Mike Williams. “We have a ton of leaders…they certainly want to prove to some people that last year was an aberration.”
After losing seven of the team’s starters to graduation or transfer, the team will have a new look when they take the field for their first game of the season this Saturday. The Redhawks face BFA-St. Albans at 1 p.m. at home.
“We have guys that are really willing to put in the work and push this year,” said CVU senior Jason Rosner. “We are really excited for this season.”
With the turnover, the CVU team is in the hands of a tight-knit group of seniors who are leading the change in expectations.
“Our class has been together since third, fourth grade,” Rosner said. “All our guys, – our captains, our senior class – they are leaders and they are really out here pushing.
“We’ve always been saying, every year, that we want a state championship. No one has made it happen so that is what we are looking for.”
That chemistry that the CVU seniors bring to the field has extended through the entire roster and Coach Williams counts the team’s connection as one of its main strengths in the early season.
“They are a tight group,” Williams said. “It is similar to two years ago and I think that is going to go a long way. I think we are going to stay the course and pull for one another.”
But while the group’s chemistry has led to a strong preseason, the team is small and is looking to fill key positions as the season gets underway. Among those spots quarterback, with multiple players vying for the starting role, including Ryan Anderson and Will Murphy.
“Our quarterback, he just has to do his job,” Rosner said of the open position. “He doesn’t have to be flashy, he doesn’t have to go for any massive runs. He just has to do his job.”
The change in personnel has not affected coach Williams’ game plan for the offense, at least not yet. But it will likely rely on the team’s depth at running back, led by Jack ZuWallack, Jason Rosner and Shane Boehmke, to carry the load early on the in the season.
“We are going to run, pretty much the same as last year,” Williams said. “We are very deep at running back.”
While the offense may take a few games to gel, one of the team’s strengths will be on the defensive side of the ball. And with three returning players – ZuWallack, Clayton Thorpe and Zachary Gamelin – anchoring the defensive line, the Redhawks are looking to the defense to lead the way.
“We’ve got athletes” Williams said. “If we can keep those guys healthy we’re going to be fine.”
The Redhawks will face an early test from the always-tough BFA-St. Albans but they are hoping to send a message in Saturday’s game and carry that momentum through the rest of the season.