AP NEWS

Westhill football preview

September 5, 2017 GMT

His first two years on the job, Westhill football coach Frank Marcucio was seeing his team get pushed around from time to time by players bigger and stronger.

The changes were small at first, getting the team to go work out at Bluestreak to improve their strength, but three years ago the team was able to add a strength and conditioning coach to the staff.

As Ali Knott enters his third season as the strength and conditioning coach for the Vikings, the results are showing off the field with team gains in the Linemen Challenge and the state weightlifting competition.

Three years ago, Westhill finished 43rd out of 44 schools in the Linemen Challenge, improving to 24th two years ago and all the way up to 12th this past year.

And in the state weightlifting competition last spring, Westhill lifted nearly 3,000 more pounds as a team than it did the previous year.

Now, the Vikings are ready for all that work in the weight room to pay dividends between the lines on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons.

“These are the kids that when we started that four years ago were freshmen in the system and they have benefited from it greatly,” Marcucio said. “And they have stuck with the program with Ali Knott, who has done a great job as our strength and conditioning guy. The kids have bought in and stuck with the program and you can track our progression from the Linemen Challenge and the weightlifting competition. Everyone got stronger this year.”

Not only is everyone stronger, but the entire starting offensive line is returning and ready to show they are not just muscled up, but better.

The offensive line will be the heart of the team this fall and from early indications, they are up to the task.

“It is noticeable how much they have improved,” Marcucio said. “We have nine guys back on offense. The entire offensive line is back and we have two potential all-state receivers (Noldylens Metayer and Wyklend Turenne) both back. If we play 75 percent of the defense we played last year and improve our offense by 50 percent we will be in a good situation.”

The defense, which has been the anchor for the Vikings the last few seasons, took some graduation hits but should still be a solid unit under coordinator Joe Devellis.

Right now, the team is focused on revamping the defense and building team chemistry as it focuses on a potential run to the state playoffs in December.

Westhill football has never played for a state championship.

Last season, Westhill lost in the final minute to Greenwich and St. Joseph and this year it feels it can win those games.

“That’s the biggest thing, coach says it all the time. We had three close games last year that we could have won. Trinity, St. Joe’s and Greenwich came down to the wire. I think it’s all about staying calm in those last moments and making sure that we play our best,” Westhill senior captain and safety Noah Kline said. “We have to work together and be a good team. Team chemistry is pretty good now. We always want to build on last year, that’s always the goal. We are focusing on all parts of the game right now, but mostly on discipline. Making sure we are disciplined and ready to go.”

It would be an incredible feat if Westhill could turn around the program and qualify for the state tournament, but having an experienced offensive line is a good place to start.

Now, the Vikings must go out and win the games.

Sericson@stamfordadvocate.com; @EricsonSports