The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)
SCSU kicks off season at Central
As Southern Connecticut State football coach Tom Godek prepares for the Owls’ season-opener at Central Connecticut State on Friday (6 p.m.), he recalled what it was like after missing the 2020 season due to COVID-19.
“We are all excited about football returning this season, and that is an understatement,” Godek said. “But when you get back into it after missing a full season you forget how hard it is to put it all together. There are all the intangibles to take care of, like posting practice schedules and bus arranging. And there are new challenges too.
“We had a big push for vaccinations and our coaches and most of the team is in line with that. While last year we held our breath
and didn’t know right away if we were going to have a season, this year there was an exhale knowing we were playing. We came in on Sunday and settled in.”
Southern is coming off a 2-9 season in 2019. The Owls were voted No. 7, tied with American International College, in the Northeast-10 Conference Coaches Preseason Poll. Godek said the ranking doesn’t really serve as motivation for the team.
“Our conference has a lot of good football teams, it’s a nice regional league that has grown over the years and the poll is what it is,” Godek said. “For us, we take it one game at a time. We have a great group of guys with experienced players, a middle group of players who had some experience and played a little in 2019 and some talented new players who we believe can contribute right away.
“We lost some guys who graduated, moved on and went on to pursue business careers. We have two classes of players, our sophomores who didn’t have a season as freshmen last year and this year’s freshmen, who are going through the college preseason experience for the first time. But most of the players from 2019 are here and we have a great mix of players who are all looking forward to the season.”
The key player returning for the Owls is quarterback Jackson Ostrowsky, an NE-10 All-Rookie selection as a freshman in 2019. He threw for 2,185 yards and 17 touchdowns in six games played. Ostrowsky was one of five freshman quarterbacks in NCAA Division II football to pass for over 2,000 yards and the only one to do it in fewer than nine games.
Ostrowsky also is the only Owls quarterback in program history to have two 400-yard games in the same season.
Izaiah Sanders of Stamford leads the returning wide receivers with 630 yards and 30 catches in 2019. Another top receiver is Austin Mosley of Woodbridge, a transfer from the University of New Haven who has NE-10 experience. Alex Ward of Waterbury is the featured running backs along with T.J. Gardner, an All-State back from Windsor High. UConn transfer Tim O’Shea of Southington is on the roster at tight end.
Godek said the Owls return a veteran offensive line led by center Bobby Valeri of Shelton and the defensive line has experience as well.
“Jackson had an impressive start at quarterback during his debut in the 2019 season,” Godek said. “He’s in a leadership role now and has become more of a behind-the-scenes leader. That is important for us.”
Godek is excited to renew the rivalry with Central Connecticut. The teams haven’t played since 2011 but have a long history, dating back to 1949. The Owls are 37-16 in the alltime series although the Blue Devils have won the last four games.
The Blue Devils also didn’t play in 2020 due to the pandemic. In 2019 they were 11-2 including 7-0 in the Northeast Conference for their sixth league title. They qualified for the NCAA Division I FCS playoffs. They are ranked No. 2 (tied with Duquesne) in the NEC Preseason Coaches Poll.
Among the top players for Central are wide receiver Tyshaun James of Middletown, offensive lineman J’Von Brown of Norwich and linebacker Tre Jones of Providence. All three players were named to the AllNEC Preseason Team. Another top player is cornerback Dexter Lawson Jr. of Bloomfield.
“We are all excited to go out there, renewing this rivalry and playing Central Connecticut’s high level of Division I football,” Godek said. “(Central) coach Ryan McCarthy does a great job. It’s a great game for the state itself with the history of both programs. It will be an interesting game and brings back a lot of good memories.
“We have the utmost respect for Central Connecticut. Right now our guys are feeling out where they belong on the team. But we have had some good practices, we’re in a good situation and I am excited with the great group of guys on the team. The big thing right now is just being able to get out there and playing the game.”