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Woodstock Academy readies for 2023 football season

The message was simple for the Woodstock Academy football team early this week.

The time for fun in the sun is done.

“It’s interesting,” Woodstock Academy football head coach and athletic director Sean Saucier said. “You realize that when OTA’s (Offseason Training Activities which took place for three days the week before) start, until at least Thanksgiving, you’re here for six days a week with this group of boys and girls. Summer is over.”

Of course, there is plenty of time in the sun during the first few weeks of practice with the exception that athletes are wearing a helmet and taking part in drills to improve not only their physical conditioning but also their mental focus.

Those are two qualities not always in evidence in the first few days of practice.

And for the newbies on the team, it’s a complete learning process.

“I’ve learned that over the years – don’t get too amped up over things that are out of your control,” Saucier said with a smile. “For a lot of kids, this is their first time on this team and they have to learn the routine. They have to learn how things flow – a little patience goes a long way with them – but they worked hard (in the first day of practice) and they are excited to be out here as are we.”

The OTA’s helped a bit in that regard as uniforms and equipment were passed out and the team could participate in organizational activities as well as go over the expectations.

“I’m feeling good,” Saucier said. “The OTA’s are really helpful with the organization and it helps the first day of practice go a little smoother.”  

The Centaurs start with good numbers.

Almost 60 student-athletes were on hand for the first day of practice.

It was a special day for senior Lucas Theriaque.

The wide receiver-defensive back joined Jacob Lizotte and Sam Clark as a team captain. That designation came in front of the team at the end of the first practice.

“It feels great to be a senior and be able to lead my team for my last year and I’m really excited to see what we can do this year,” Theriaque said.

Theriaque, like Saucier, liked the early vibe of the team.

He attributed that to the summer lifts the team has been participating in which helped the team get prepared for the first day of practice as well as established a bit of camaraderie among them.

There are plenty of folks missing from last year.

The Centaurs said goodbye to 17 seniors at the end of last season.

“It was tough losing them but it’s next guy up. We have a lot of guys who can fill their shoes and I think we will be pretty good this year,” Theriaque said.

Woodstock Academy is coming off a 4-6 season in which it participated in Division I of the Eastern Connecticut Conference for a first time.

It’s back in Division I this season.

But while that remains the same, the loss of so many seniors has changed the makeup a bit.

“I think it’s going to be different, very different actually. We will have slightly different offensive and defensive philosophies going into the year so we all have to learn a little. It’s not just dusting off what we did last year. They have to have a new identity. It’s two years in a row where we have lost senior classes of 15-plus,” Saucier said.

The differences in the offense and defense not only due to add a fresh look but necessitated, as it is at all levels of football, by the personnel which Saucier and his coaching staff will be working with in the 2023 season.

The Centaurs may not have as much size this season.

Quickness will be the key.

“Absolutely. We had a tremendous summer doing our strength and conditioning program and that’s our key is speed and angles. We will fly to the ball on defense and utilize angles on offense,” Saucier said.

He and his staff have three weeks to perfect that.

“I don’t get overwhelmed by that (time span), it feels like a lifetime to be honest. Three weeks of football practice, in hindsight, it will always go by quick but it’s a lot of time. It’s a grind. Three hard weeks of practice before a contest – we have a couple of scrimmages in there which will be exciting – but three weeks of practice is a pretty long stretch. It’s what football teams do,” Saucier said.

Woodstock Academy is scheduled to play a scrimmage at West Warwick, R.I. on Saturday, Aug. 26 at 11 a.m. The Centaurs travel to Windham on Friday, Sept. 1 for a tri-scrimmage with the Whippets and RHAM at 6:30 p.m.

The season opens on Sept. 8 with a rare Friday afternoon game at 4 p.m. against the Quinebaug Valley co-op.

“I like it,” Saucier said of the afternoon contest. “It was just something that came up playing QV, a local team. Sometimes, that first Saturday at noon at Bentley can be, literally, 100 degrees on the turf. So I said,’Why not get it in on a Friday afternoon?’ They agreed and that is what we are doing.”