VERNON – As the 2021 season approaches, the Rockville High football team were ready to build on their recent success.
The Rams finished the 2019 regular season 10-0, won the Pequot Conference Championship, advanced to the M-Class playoffs for the second year in a row, and advanced to the semi-finals.
But Rockville was hit with a harsh dose of reality when he first entered the field this season on September 18.
That night, the Rams were cleared at home by the SMSA cooperative.
“I’m not going to lie, we came in pretty arrogant and thought we were going to come in and win,” junior Hason Green said on Friday. “Then when they beat us, we realized that we had to take him more seriously, and that we are a better team than we did that day.”
In the five games since, the Rams have proven it.
Rockville (5-1) won all five games, edging opponents 201-30 in the process. The latest of those wins came against other contenders for the Granby / Canton M-class playoffs, and a 42-6 rout from the Coginchaug Co-op on Friday night.
But coach Erick Knickerbocker believes his side’s recent success wouldn’t be possible without his misstep.
“We come back to this game all the time,” he said. “I think without this game we are not here today. Sometimes you have to go through this and realize what you need to do. “
Even before Rockville played its first try, 2021 got off to a shaky start. Many players have spent the latter part of training camp in quarantine due to COVID-19 issues.
“So we didn’t have any pre-season games,” Knickerbocker said. “Our first regular season game was called off and then we walked on the field and weren’t ready to play at all.”
For Knickerbocker, being missing last season due to the pandemic and having limited training time due to quarantines were key factors in his team’s performance against SMSA.
“They were really physical and we weren’t ready to play football,” he said. “I think that if you don’t play for a year and then you don’t have a lot of training to do it, you’re not ready for the physics of football.
“We had to increase the physique as much as possible in training because it’s part of football. Last year, playing just 7v7, we just weren’t ready for that. “
But Knickerbocker credited his players with not putting their heads down after the loss.
“These kids took a lot of extra time trying to make up for lost time,” he said. “I think we’re starting to see it now. We’re starting to get to where we think we can go. “
In every game since SMSA, Knickerbocker said the team has become more comfortable playing with each other and a new player is stepping forward every week.
“Last week it was Amir Knighton. (Friday), it was Matt (Ryan), it was Hason, ”Knickerbocker said. “It was different people who stepped up the attack that made a big difference.”
While the players have done their part, Green stressed that Knickerbocker and his staff have been just as essential to the success.
“We have the talent, but without our coaches I don’t know where we would be,” said Green.
As the winning streak developed, so did the confidence of the players. Resounding victories over teams like Granby / Canton and Coginchaug only added to this confidence.
At the same time, the days of rest on their laurels are over for Aries.
“We are never satisfied,” said senior Matt Ryan. “We never want to be satisfied. “
And if the players ever need motivation for a future match, they know where to find it.
“Come back to that SMSA game,” Ryan said. “We don’t want that attitude to come back in a game. “
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