Mount Anthony football aims to take step forward
BENNINGTON — The last time the Mount Anthony football team hosted a playoff game, current Patriots coach Chad Gordon was still putting on the pads.
The year was 1994 and the MAU was on its way to second undefeated season and state championship in program history.
With loads of talent returning from the 2018 team, the Patriots feel like this season they can host a playoff game again.
"Not making the playoffs last year was a little frustrating, so our goal it to make the playoffs this year," said Gordon, who enters his third season as head coach. "I was playing the last time we hosted a playoff game, so we set a goal early to host a playoff game. That's being one one of the top four seeds and I think it's an achievable goal."
Now 10 days into practice, things are starting to fall into place for how the Patriots' team will look.
"Guys have really been working hard," Gordon said. "We're just trying to fine tune a lot of stuff. We have a four-team scrimmage on Friday and then we're really putting things in for Spaulding [next Friday]."
MAU is coming off a 3-6 season and hasn't had a winning record since 2009, but there is tons of optimism that it can finally break back through the .500 mark.
That confidence has a lot do with the returning players at the skill positions.
Caleb Hay won the starting quarterback job last fall, and heading into the 2019 season, he is firmly entrenched under center for the Patriots.
Gordon has seen how much the junior signal caller has grown as a player.
"Last year, there was a quarterback competition, and this year, we had guys competing with him and pushing him, but you can just see he's head and shoulders above where he was last year," Gordon said. "Just knowing the offense and having confidence in himself to throw the ball is great. He knows his targets."
The Patriots key skill position guys are all juniors. Wide receiver Gavin Johnson is the top returning target for Hay, following Cole Bushee's graduation. The running back duo of Brody Bossong and Jack Ware are both in sync as well after breakout years last fall.
Chemistry is big among that group, being that they are same age and have played together for most of their football careers.
"Some of these guys have been playing together since MAYAA, so they've known each other since the third or fourth grade playing on the same team," Gordon said. "It's second nature for a lot of them."
On the line, the biggest loss for MAU was Ty Evans who played both ways for the Patriots. With that being said, there is tons of returning lineman for the 2019 season.
"The line has probably put in the most work in the offseason as a group and they're showing some good things," Gordon said.
Zach Crawford-Smith, Dylan Perkins, Owen Maroney, Michael Stratton and Adam Matunas, among a handful of others, should see time on the line this year for MAU.
On defense, Chris Nolan, Hayden Gaudette and Dakota Blair all had strong seasons at linebacker last year and are back for 2019.
Johnson returns as a big body in the secondary that will give opposing receivers a tough matchup. Bossong and Kaiden Simpson are guys who can make a difference in the secondary as well.
A few surprises on defense have been Brodie Krawczyk and Logan Sprague. Both guys didn't play football last year, but have made a major impact in the preseason as they battle for starting gigs.
"Defense comes quick for a lot of guys and they'll really help us out and give us some depth," Gordon said.
MAU opens the season on August 30 against Spaulding at Spinelli Field. Rivalry matchups against newly Division I Burr and Burton and Division II Brattleboro loom during the second half of the regular season.
Adam Aucoin can be reached at email@example.com and followed at @AAucoin_Banner on Twitter.
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