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2022 Woodstock Academy football preview

The Woodstock Academy football team is in a good place.

It’s coming off a 7-3 season in which it captured its first Eastern Connecticut Conference divisional title.

“From the momentum side of things, it makes things easier. Coming off a successful season helps with the numbers and the morale so in that way, it’s easier,” Woodstock Academy head football coach and athletic director Sean Saucier said.

But, with success, comes expectations.

“Those expectations have changed and that’s a good thing but I’m really happy with where we are at right now. We’ve had a successful preseason and seem to be trending in the right direction,” he added.

Senior Carter Saracina agreed with his coach.

“I think we feel it,” the receiver/defensive back said. “After having a great season, everyone is coming for us. We’re not the underdogs anymore. People are coming for us and we have to be ready.”

From all early indications, they will be.

The Centaurs lost 20 seniors but have 16 back on the roster.

It lost the majority of its offensive line in that departed group.

Lo and behold, that concern is not such a big deal.

Senior Jared Eaton - “a big, long dude who has been a real bright spot in camp this summer,” Saucier said – will be at left tackle with fellow senior Evan LaBounty of the right side. Jacob Lizotte, one of the most consistent weightlifters in camp this past summer, will be the left guard and Kenneth Brown will start on the right side. Trevor Costa, a senior transfer from Stonington, will start at center.

“They looked fantastic in the first scrimmage (against West Warwick on Aug. 28), provided a great pocket for (quarterback) Braiden (Saucier) and created some nice holes for our running backs. We threw for three scores and ran for two more and a lot of that was due to the offensive line so that’s awesome,” Sean Saucier said.

Braiden Saucier will take over as a senior at quarterback.

It’s a role that his father and coach is confident he can handle.

“He is so ready for the moment. He looked tremendous in that scrimmage, threw the ball all the way around the field and was very poised in the pocket. He understands what’s going on and has prepared himself physically and mentally for it,” Sean Saucier said.

Senior Trevor Savoie, who rushed for 148 yards last season, will be one of the top running backs and will be paired with the likes of junior David Bunning and senior Austin Amlaw.

“It’s a little by committee and the three have different styles, but between the three of them we will get the job done,” Saucier said.

Saracina was on the receiving end of 39 passes last season and turned that into 695 yards and seven touchdowns.

His coach considers him one of the best in the Eastern Connecticut Conference, but he will have to make a little adjustment with Braiden Saucier behind center instead of Ethan Davis.

“We have chemistry,” Saracina said of the relationship between him and his quarterback. “We’ve been playing together since we were 7-years-old. It’s a little weird because Ethan was a lefty and Braiden is a righty but I love it.”

Senior Brandon Nagle and junior Teddy Richardson will both be deep threats for the Centaurs this year and Sean Saucier also likes the progression of Lucas Theriaque.

On the other side of the ball, the guys in trenches are getting the job done.

“The defensive line is going to be a handful,” Saucier said.

Two of the three down linemen will be one-way starters with seniors Marcus McGregor and Evan Roy surrounding Brown and Costa who will rotate in the middle.

“Those guys will be a problem (for opposing offenses). They, generally, require a double team,” Saucier said.

Seamus McDermott and Cashel Noel start in the middle at linebacker with senior Wyatt Thienel on the outside along with a sophomore, Sam Clark, who is battling for a starting spot.

Amlaw will be the anchor for the defensive back field at strong safety with Saracina and Nagle at the corners. Theriaque and senior Ethan Brierly will spell them and Richardson will start at free safety.

“We have some big guys. Some of the sophomores and freshmen got really big. We’re looking good defensively,” Saracina said.

The Centaurs open against two unknown quantities on the road in the first two weeks of the season.

They play at Enfield in a non-league contest on Friday, Sept. 9 and then have a game at Weaver High School in Hartford on Friday, Sept. 16.

“(Centaurs assistant coach) Chris LaPointe played for Weaver so he has some familiarity with the town, the team and the coaches but we will scout them. We will get a scrimmage film from Enfield but, in a lot of ways, it’s like college where you play an opponent out-of-conference from across the country and you have no idea but I think it’s kind of cool. I’m really excited to go to Enfield,” Saucier said.

Weaver is a league game as it has replaced Plainfield, which is independent in football this year, in Division III of the Eastern Connecticut Conference.

Saucier also likes playing Friday nights in September as a Saturday afternoon game at the Bentley Athletic Complex in summer-like heat can quickly become a “suffer-fest.”

There is still some work to do.

“We have to continue to build our offense. We have the base in but that still has to continue to develop. The offensive line has -  I break it down like in college – O-Line 101 installed and everyone has passed the class and is doing well. O-Line 201 is next and that gets a little more complicated. Our fitness could take one more step and we have to continue to develop the 2’s (the backups) so we have more depth,” Saucier said.

Every coach wants to win all 10 games in a football season.

Saucier said he wants to win as many as possible.

“I think the intangibles; the camaraderie, the effort, the fun, that the kids have is important, too. Are they still excited in Week 8, 9, 10 to be coming to practice as the weather turns and days get shorter? Do we still have momentum? Do we add players as we go along? We have to keep stepping forward as a program, too. Have we built our parent group? Have we engaged in more community service? If the program builds, then I think it’s a successful season,” Saucier said.