It was ten wins without a loss, then just like that, the season was over. Such was the story for the 2016 West Haven football team, experiencing a gut-wrenching loss to Ridgefield in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs last year.
What was supposed to be a run to the championship turned into a long walk back to the locker room of West Haven High after the second-seeded Westies watched as seventh-seeded Ridgefield scored 21 unanswered points, including 14 in the second half, to upset the Westies in last season’s quarterfinals at Ken Strong Stadium.
Ten months have passed and time sometimes has a way of healing wounds. Whether that is the case for the 2017 Westies remains to be seen.
“Sure, it is motivation,” West Haven coach Rich Boshea said of last season’s early ouster. “We want to get to the playoffs this year. In all honesty, they gave me everything they had last year. We were just worn out towards the end of the season last year. It was unfortunate the way it ended. That’s the story of the league. Two years earlier, Shelton had a great team and they suffered four broken legs. We put so much emotion into Thanksgiving Day. I have no complaints. Last year, they fought and did everything we asked them to do.”
The Westies, who won the Southern Connecticut Conference Division I title last season, have plenty to look forward to, but if they are to make a run at another postseason bid, they will need big performances in key places. Replacing graduated quarterback Tim McCarthy, running back Anthony Godfrey, lineman Byron Dickens, receiver Sheilan Velazquez and kicker Jose Conde, to name a few, will be difficult.
Dickens, an All-Area and All-State selection, anchored a line which accumulated 4,092 total yards, including 3,316 on the ground. Last year’s West Haven offense rushed for 43 touchdowns.
Anthony Godfrey, another All-Area and All-State selection, rushed for 1,712 yards and 22 touchdowns, while pulling in five touchdown receptions. Godfrey finished his senior campaign with 1,945 total yards.
Leading the way for the 2017 Westies will be senior tri-captains Mekhi Geter, Kyle Godfrey, and Mike Charlton. Each will play on both sides of the ball as Geter is an offensive tackle and defensive end, Godfrey will lead the rushing attack as the featured running back, and Charlton is a fullback and linebacker.
“I have liked the way the defense has improved,” Boshea said. “I also like the way Kyle (Godfrey) has run the ball. Chris Chance is also running well.”
Seniors Chris Chance, Jimmy Lanziero and A.J. Williams will all play key roles as well as Chance will line up at running back and linebacker, Lanziero is an offensive guard and nose guard, and Williams is an offensive tackle and defensive end.
“We need to get our offense going,” Boshea said. “We have to be able to run the ball well and play good defense. That sounds like simple terms, but that is exactly what we need to do.”
The Westies will get an added boost as they look to replace the graduated McCarthy behind center. Senior Jake Conlan returns from a stint at prep school to start as the team’s quarterback. Conlan will also replace the steady Conde as the team’s kicker.
Junior Zach Conlan will play running back and linebacker, senior Doug Johnson will be a key player at linebacker, while senior Latrell Best is a running back and safety. Senior Jordan Wetmore will wear plenty of hats as he is a wide receiver, linebacker and punter.
West Haven opens the season Friday evening at North Haven at 7 p.m.