Football: Foran Lions look to stretch field

Foran High football coach Jeff Bevino likes the progress his team has made this preseason, but the veteran mentor knows things can change come game day.

“Each week we’ve gotten better, our execution is better,” he said. “Now we have to do it full speed on Friday.”

Foran, coming off a 7-3 season that left them points away from a state playoff berth, will play at Wilbur Cross at 3:30 in the SCC season opener.

“Cross is big, I mean NFL big,” Bevino said of the Governors, who went 2-9 in 2015. “They have a lot of large characters.”

What the Lions will look to answer with is extreme speed.

“Our greatest strength is our speed,” Bevino said. “The greatest thing we can do is stretch the field and make the defense defend the entire field.”

Foran returns two of the state’s best playmakers in quarterback Lance DiNatale and receiver Brett Huber.

DiNatale threw for 2,707 yards and 26 touchdowns as a junior, completing a state best 70.6 percent of his passes. He ran for 415 yards and five scores.

Huber led the state with 88 receptions, good for 1,324 yards and had 14 touchdowns. He rushed for three scores.

“Lance, no doubt he is going to be a player for us,” Bevino said. “Brett is exceptional at playing the game. He is smart, shifty and tough as nails.”

Colin Firmender graduated with 47 catches, 875 yards, and 10 touchdowns but the cupboard isn’t bare.

“Jared Hubler (21 catches, 262 yards, touchdown) is doing a great job as a receiver, along with Zach Cleary, who had four touchdowns in our scrimmage with Plainville, running and receiving,” Bevino said. “Doug McLenithan and Steve Soerensen are also tough to stop.”

Gone from Foran’s rushing attack is R.J. Balado, who ran for 1,288 yards and 12 touchdowns.

“It’s too early to say if we’ll get the same production as we did from R.J.,” Bevino said. “But I like the two-headed monster we have in the backfield with Matt Cruz and Matt Kennedy.”

Angelo Simonelli, Andre Vella, Colby Stuart, Austin Jennings, Teddy DeBoise, Brian Habansky, Ryan Zarnoch and Alex Ricci will play on the offensive line.

“We have a nice cast of characters up front,” Bevino said. “We lost some good linemen to graduation and to injury. What we have is talent, so it will be five hats with the same theme.”

Pierce Klein and Chris Pudil are competing for the placekicking position.

Simonelli, Vella, Steve Lynch, Huber and DiNatale are captains.

On defense, Simonelli, Vella, DuBoise, Max Leavitt and Stuart will lead the way on the d-line, with Chris Pellegrino doing a good job at nose guard in scrimmages.

Depending on the defensive scheme, Lynch, Cleary and Max Tavitan will be at outside linebacker. Playing inside will be Cruz, Soerensen, Simonelli, Justin DeEll, Hubler and Ricci.

Huber and Mark Wooten are safeties.

Zeke Barnhill, Victor Rios, Richie Piscitelli and Nick Milewski are at cornerback.

The preseason opened with scrimmages with Notre Dame of West Haven and Masuk High from Monroe. Next came Notre Dame of Fairfield and Bullard Havens, followed by Plainville.

“Our technique makes steps forward every day and there is no reason that won’t continue,” Bevino said. “We have a lot of young kids and room for growth.

“It is a touch five weeks (to begin the season) and we’ve been challenging them. Eliminating doubts comes with playing live games. We are very capable of being a very good football team.”

Foran is at Sheehan-Wallingford at 6 p.m. on Sept. 16. The Lions return home to play North Haven and Hamden High on Sept. 23 and 30. They then go back to New Haven to play Hillhouse High at Bowen Field on Oct. 7. The kickoff time for the last three games is 7 p.m.