By By Dean Bibens • 9/13/2021 2:43 PM EST • Last updated 9/13/2021 3:27 PM
It’s been almost two years since the Daniel Hand football team was fit for a full-contact game. On September 10, freshman Head Coach Erik Becker and the Tigers take the field against Fairfield Prep for what turned out to be an exciting game.
Hand lost 29-16 to the Jesuits in the 2021 opening game at Fairfield University on September 10, beating the Tigers in the regular season for the first time since 2017. Despite the loss, Coach Becker was pleased with what he saw of his team in the Prep game.
“Some things didn’t go the way we wanted. When you play against a great opponent, the cost of the smallest mistake increases,” said Becker, a hand football alumnus who served as HK’s head coach last year. “With Prep, it’s always a fight. We’re always 8-6 against them. They’ve always been very deep and very well coached. I think we’ve had a great pre-season and we’ve scrambled a lot of strong teams. Any shortcomings of our team are just for me and me.”
Hand dominated most of the first half against Prep after an early Jesuit field goal in the opening quarter. The Tigers scored back-to-back touchdowns in the second quarter on a 6-yard run by senior captain Ethan O’Brien, followed by a 17-yard connection from quarterback Patch Flanagan to fellow senior captain Seth Sweitzer, who also ran in a few 2-point conversions to help Hand gain a 16-3 advantage.
In the closing minutes of the second quarter, Prep answered Hand’s two touchdowns with two TDs of his own to tie the score at 16-16 at halftime.
“We’ve made some fundamental mistakes, and that’s on me. I’m confident we can use this experience as a way to grow and get better,” said Coach Becker. “Everyone has their wake-up. moment while playing varsity football. I wish we had better control of the clock at the end of the first half. Some flags prevented us from controlling the clock and it stopped several times.”
Fairfield Prep controlled the second half by scoring one touchdown in the third quarter and one in the fourth. The Jesuits kept Hand’s attack off the scoreboard and took a 29-16 victory in Becker’s debut as the Tigers head coach.
“We have no control over the event. We have control over our response,” says Becker. “We need to know what gap we get to and how we go down in pass coverage. Their touchdown run in the third quarter, we lost responsibility for one game. Against a less team than Prep, we might have gotten away with it. But this is a game where all 11 guys have to do their job or it could cost you a touchdown.”
Becker believes the Prep game is just the start of what will be a great season for his team. Most importantly, Becker is happy to be back on the pitch after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of the 2020 campaign.
“Every year in the preseason, the analogy I use is that it’s like building an airplane. You don’t know if it’s going to fly until you try it for the first time,’ Becker said. “It’s been two years since we played real football. There were a lot of unknowns. Our expectation is that we will play every game with strength and be great young men both on and off the pitch. Our schedule is brutal, but we don’t want to that it will be easy.”
In addition to the three captains – O’Brien, Flanagan and Sweitzer – Hand’s upper class also includes Cam Testa, Connor Powell, Darian McMahon, Wyatt Marcous, Shane Smith, Mario Mazzarella, John Portley, Charlie Keogh, Brendan Walsh, Luke Lerner , Matthew Rossi and Matt Martone.
Coach Becker loves his senior squad and believes his three captains are the ideal people to lead the team.
“Our three captains are all great young men. Seth is the seventh member of his family to be a Hand Captain, and Patch is the third member of his family to be a Captain,” Becker said. “Seth is a wide receiver and cornerback for us, and Patch is our starting quarterback. Ethan is a great running back for us, and he is one of the fastest kids in the state of Connecticut. The leaders of every team and organization create the culture. There could be no better ambassadors for our program.”
Hand’s youth class includes John Hayden, Jack Drought, Wes Selmani, Cole Daignault, Sam Sisk, Ryan Milliard, Will Klein, John Kelly, Alex Cushing, Brandon Tananykin, Matt Mastoloni and Nick Lombardi.
The Tigers roster also includes sophomore Jack Shay, John Reh, John Milton, Aidan Dolan, Will Patla, Gavin Wagner, Brady Corsello, Payton Powell, Owen Hardy, Carlos Santos, Tom Meehan, Will Dodd, Bryce Malary, John Pantano, Owen Preskar and Jack Tompkins.
Coach Becker said there is a lot of versatility on Hand’s roster and many athletes on both sides of the ball contribute to the Tigers.
“We have a lot of kids who go both ways,” Becker said. “We’re not the strongest team, so a lot of guys are playing both offensively and defensively for us, which makes it a bit more difficult for them, but everyone is answering the call.”
Offensive Coordinator Mike Ferraiolo and Defensive Coordinator Mike Davis will join Coach Becker on the sidelines this fall. Former former head coach Steve Filippone is also an assistant to the team, along with Gary Gravina, John Sagnella, Rich Powers and Tyler Michaud.
“We have great coordinators in the two Mikes,” said Becker. “Both are great guys and very good at what they do.”
Coach Becker knows the Tigers have what it takes to be a top team in the state this season. As he begins his first campaign as Hand head coach, Becker believes the process to success is just as important as the final scores.
“I need to get better at focusing on the process and letting go of results,” Becker said. “You don’t always get the results you want, so my job is to focus intensely on the process and not lose so hard in the end.”
Schedule hand football 2021
Home games at Surf Club
September 10: Fairfield Prep 29, Hand 16
Friday, September 17: vs. Sheehan at 7pm
Friday September 24: vs. New Canaan at 7 p.m
Friday, October 1: in Masuk at 7 p.m.
Friday October 15: in Shelton at 7 p.m.
Friday October 22: in East Lyme at 6.30 pm
Friday, October 29: vs. Bunnell at 7 p.m
Friday, November 5: vs. North Haven at 7 p.m.
Friday, November 19: at Notre Dame-West Haven at Veterans Field at 7 p.m.
Wednesday, November 24: vs. Guilford at 7 p.m.
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