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Senior captain Aedan McDermott is looking forward to leading the Guilford football team in his second season as the squad’s starting quarterback. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
Key receiver Ian Derda was named one of the senior captains for the Guilford football squad alongside Aedan McDermott and Niko Tartagni. (File photo by Kelley Fryer/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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Coming off of his first season as head coach, Anthony Salvati and his Guilford football squad are poised for big things in the fall of 2020. Salvati had served as an assistant coach at his alma mater, North Branford, for 15 years prior to accepting the head coaching position at Guilford, and he certainly enjoyed the experience.
Guilford finished with a record of 4-6 last year, showing signs that it has the potential to become a contender. Guilford won its first three games of the season and, out of its six losses, three of them were by six points or fewer.
“I really think we had a good season overall and, if some things went a little differently in those losses, we could be talking about a seven- or eight-win team; not four,” Salvati said. “We had some bumps in the road. A lot of kids stepped up, and some of these seniors that were starting for us last year didn’t have any varsity experience. Only three did.”
Coach Salvati and his team have received clearance from the CIAC to conduct meetings through the Zoom platform. Guilford’s athletes and coaches have been discussing the fundamentals of their training, as well as some X’s and O’s to ensure they will be ready for the fall season. Guilford is slated to kick off the year with a home game against Law on Friday, Sept. 11, provided that campaign winds up taking place in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is the first time anything like this has ever been allowed, but we’re living in a unique time right now with COVID-19,” Salvati said. “What we know right now is that [Monday] July 6, we can start outdoor workouts, then we’re getting the OK to start conditioning [Thursday] Aug. 13, then practice [Monday] Aug. 17. This is still all tentative, but I’m hoping it all works out as planned.”
The CIAC released an 18-page document on its website regarding the resocialization of interscholastic athletics. In that document, the CIAC states that cloth or disposable face coverings should be worn throughout each phase when not engaging in vigorous activity. This includes situations like sitting on the bench, participating in chalk talk, or interacting with an athletic trainer.
“I’m hoping we stay on course,” Salvati said. “There’s a whole guideline for each phase. There can only be 10 kids to a group, and all coaches need to have masks on, and equipment needs to constantly be wiped down. I welcome it, though. I miss the guys, and we want to get ready for the season, whatever it takes.”
Guilford was a run-heavy team last year, rushing the ball about 65 percent of the time on its offensive possessions. However, Coach Salvati sees that changing this year with the return of senior captain quarterback Aedan McDermott. Last season, McDermott threw for 1,231 yards and had eight touchdowns with just two interceptions. He also accounted for 164 yards on the ground in his first year as team’s QB.
“I think he’s going to be All-League, if not All-State,” Salvati said of McDermott. “He’s 6-[foot]-1, 190 [pounds], and he showed a ton of promise last year. And he has the receivers this year. I want to try and spread the field out with three or four wide receivers on the field at a time, and maybe we’ll be passing the ball at a 60-40 ratio compared to last season.”
Also returning for Guilford are senior captains Ian Derda and Niko Tartagni. Last year, Tartagni went into the season as a halfback, but when the starting left tackle got hurt, Tartagni had to step up and replace him on the offensive line.
“Niko is a coach’s dream. A lot of kids wouldn’t have handled that transition from running back to the offensive line well, but he took it in stride and excelled there,” Coach Salvati said. “He’s also our middle linebacker and had the second-most tackles on the team last year.”
Tartagni finished his junior year with 70 tackles, one interception, and one fumble recovery. While Salvati feels confident that Guilford will have a strong defense, he’s also excited about his receiving corps. Guilford’s top wide receivers are Derda and fellow seniors Sam Huffman, Tristan Anderson, and Drew St. Denis.
“Sam is a two-way player for us, so he’s going to be all over the field on both offense and defense,” Salvati said. “Tristan has good hands and good speed, while Drew probably has the best hands on the team. He’s a quality receiver.”
Coach Salvati’s expectation for the 2020 season is for Guilford to be a competitive club within the SCC ranks. Ultimately, Salvati wants to see his team qualify for the Class L State Playoffs, although he knows how difficult of a challenge that will be.
“There’s no marker automatically qualifying you like some of these other sports,” said Salvati. “The top eight teams [in each class] make the playoffs, and there’s about 30 or so teams in [Class L]. It all depends on how everyone is doing around you. Even if we finish 7-3, that’s still a questionable record to make it in, because our league is so competitive.”
2020 Guilford Football Schedule
All home games at Guilford High School
Wednesday, Aug. 26: at Hamden w/ Glastonbury and Stratford at 4 p.m. (scrimmage)
Friday, Sept. 11: vs. Law at 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 18: at New London at 6 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 25: at Pomperaug at 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 9: vs. East Lyme at 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 16: at Hillhouse at Bowen Field at 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 30: vs. Brookfield at 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 6: at Bassick at Kennedy Stadium at 6 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 13: vs. Branford at 7 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 19: vs. East Haven at 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 25: at Hand at Surf Club at 7 p.m.
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