Welcome to the Guilford High School Touchdown Club website!
As we begin the season this site will be your primary source of information related to the GHS Football team. Throughout the year you will find details related to family registration, annual fundraisers and team activities, schedules and other pertinent details. Check back often to learn about ways to get involved. Thank you!
Guilford Football Back in Action This Fall
BY DEAN BIBENS • 09/13/2021 04:00 A.M. EST • LAST UPDATED 09/13/2021 02:45 P.M.
Guilford Head Football Coach Anthony Salvati knew that going two years without having a football season was going to take a toll on his team. The only question for the Grizzlies was just how much of a toll that time away from the game would take.
Guilford opened its 2021 season by playing Jonathan Law on Sept. 10 and lost by a 34-7 score in a home game at North Branford High School. Senior quarterback Niko Messina and a few of his teammates had to sit out the Grizzlies’ season opener after suffering recent injuries.
“We had three key injuries going into this game with one being our starting quarterback Niko Messina. He banged up his knee during our final preseason contest, and we think it’s a bone bruise,” Coach Salvati said. “The issue with the bruise is he can’t plant and fire in the pocket how we would like him to, so we’re not going to rush him back.”
“Tyler was in his first varsity game as a sophomore. He made mistakes, but I liked his poise in the pocket,” said Salvati. “He didn’t have that doe-eyed look that a lot of kids get when it’s their first real game. He threw the ball on time, and he missed in all the right spots. I was very pleased with how he performed for us.”Sophomore Tyler Hilgert started for Guilford at quarterback and threw a touchdown pass to senior captain Eric Dolmus on the team’s first drive of the game. The touchdown helped the Grizzlies go up 7-0 just two minutes into the game, but that score proved to be their only TD of the evening.
While Guilford wound up losing the game by a wide margin, Coach Salvati said that the final score wasn’t truly indicative of his team performed against Law. The Grizzlies were only down by one score, trailing 13-7 midway through the quarter, before Law scored the last three touchdowns of the game.
“We’re a bit undersized, but our guys weren’t backing down at all. They were flying around the field. We were legitimately a play away from being in control of that game,” Salvati said. “We have a young group of kids, with six or seven sophomores starting for us, so it’s going to take time for us to develop as a team.”
In addition to Messina, another key player that the Grizzlies were missing versus Law was senior captain wide receiver Jack O’Brien, who suffered an injury during the preseason. O’Brien, Dolmus, and Eddie Barlage are the team’s senior captains this season.
Sophomore wide receiver Jake Jahnige was injured in the contest with Law and couldn’t play on the offensive side of the ball. Guilford also saw a few other players leave the game with injuries.
“These injuries definitely hurt us coming into this game. And then we had three more injuries during the game, which sets us back even more,” said Salvati. “I think a lot of it has to do with the layoff. Your body is not accustomed to the beating it takes when you are playing a full-contact sport and you take almost two years away from the game.”
Junior running back Mike O’Brien, sophomore wide receiver Trevor Ridley, and defensive end Ian Myers were also forced to leave the Law game due to injury. While he was sad to see that, Coach Salvati also felt pleased with how some of Guilford’s younger athletes stepped up in the game. This includes players like junior running back Dillon Burlakoff.
“One of the biggest bright spots of the game was Dillon Burlakoff. He was running hard every single play, and it took three or four guys to bring him down,” Salvati said. “I think that’s a positive for us going into next week. I know some of these younger guys are eager to get some playing time, and they are going to get the chance to prove themselves.”
Burlakoff had 10 carries for 97 yards, while Mike O’Brien ran the ball 19 times for 85 yards in Guilford’s season opener. Hilgert went 8-of-15 passing for 82 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Dolmus caught six passes for 62 yards and one TD.
One aspect of the Law game that Coach Salvati felt pleased with came on the defensive side of the ball. Guilford changed formations from a 3-4 to a 4-3 at the beginning of this season, and Salvati feels that is going to pay dividends for the Grizzlies.
“I’m still confident in that formation, even though we allowed 34 points. Our defense had to play a lot, and they were in a bad spot most of the game, because the offense couldn’t get anything going,” said Salvati. “I’m excited to see how this formation continues to grow on us.”
“I knew this game was going to be a dogfight. Law has great size, and they ran the spread really well against us,” Salvati said. “We have to learn from our mistakes and be better the next time we hit the field.”As he begins his third year as Guilford’s head coach, Salvati wants to see his team grind it out on the gridiron. The Grizzlies will look to bounce back from their loss to Law when they play a non-conference road game against New London on Friday, Sept. 17.
2021 Guilford Football Schedule
Sept. 10: Jonathan Law 34, Guilford 7
Friday, Sept. 17: at New London at 6 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 24: at Pomperaug at 6:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 8: vs. East Lyme at 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 15: at Hillhouse at Bowen Field at 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 29: vs. Brookfield at Guilford High School at 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 5: at Bassick at Kennedy Stadium at 6 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 12: vs. Branford at Guilford High School at 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 19: vs. East Haven at Guilford High School at 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Nov. 24: at Hand at Surf Club at 7 p.m.
Who will run Guilford’s spread offense? That remains to be determined. Coach Anthony Salvati has three candidates available: senior Nico Messina, junior Liam Alberti and sophomore Tyler Hilgert.
Even when the Grizzlies make that decision, Salvati said the possibility exists to use specific packages to have multiple quarterbacks on the field at the same time.
Whoever ends up under center will have two primary targets running pass patterns: Jack O’Brien and Eric Dolmus. Salvati expects both seniors to be playing in college next season. Dolmus recently announced an offer from Central Connecticut State.
Mike O’Brien should make life easier on whoever starts behind center. The junior back saw significant varsity action as a freshman in 2019 despite having an all-state performer in Charles Walcott seeing most of the action. Dillon Burakoff will also get carries. Both backs will work behind an offensive line that Salvati says might be undersized, but has the necessary skill and experience to offset it.
Guilford will switch from an odd front on defense to an even one due to a surplus of quality linemen and linebackers. They will benefit from an athletic secondary, led by Dolmus and O’Brien, that should be able to disguise coverages.
The program is looking to earn its second winning season in three years under Salvati -- who would become the first Guilford coach to have two winning seasons in at least 20 seasons. The Grizzlies got off to a promising start in 2019, winning their first three games. But they lost five of six to finish the year 4-6.
Guilford, a member of SCC's Tier III, faces New London, Pomperaug, Brookfield and East Lyme in its Connecticut Football Alliance schedule.
Guilford's home Kavanaugh Field is being refurbished and should be ready for the team's second home game on Oct. 8. The Grizzlies will face Law in its opener at a site to be determined.
The 2021-22 GHS Football season is officially here! Team practices have begun. Attendance is mandatory. The practice schedule is linked below. Schedule is subject to change. Coach Salvati will communicate responsibilities and schedule changes directly with players via Hudl.
Like many children in Guilford, Brianna Seixas began her athletic career on the soccer field as a youngster, although she didn’t fall in love with the sport. Brianna decided to give cheerleading a try in elementary school, and that decision wound up changing the course of her athletic career.
After speaking with one of the football players, Brianna became intrigued by the sport. When Brianna was in 4th grade, one of her friends who played football would often tell her stories about the practices and the games. This piqued Brianna’s interest enough for her to join the Guilford Youth Football program as a 5th-grader.
Now, Brianna is a member of the football team, the wrestling team, and the girls’ lacrosse squad at Guilford High School, where she recently finished her sophomore year. Brianna sure is glad that she had that all-important chat that steered her toward the gridiron.
While her family was surprised at first, they supported Brianna in her new endeavor. Brianna feels thankful to both her late grandfather, Matthew Middleton, and late great-grandmother, Shirley Middleton, for their encouragement as she started playing football. Both of them passed away earlier this year, although they were able to see Brianna continue with football as she entered high school. They also saw Brianna take up two new sports with wrestling in 8th grade and lacrosse as a freshman.“I was cheering at a game, and a player ran off the field right next to me,” says Brianna. “He was in his pads and we talked a little bit, and I thought it was really cool.”
“I picked up wrestling a lot faster than football and was the only girl since I joined the 8th-grade team,” Brianna says. “Since I was new, I didn’t win a lot, but I won my last match by pin and realized I could pin another person again. I wanted to test my motivation and continued in high school.”
Brianna also tested her mettle by signing up for the football team at Guilford High School. While Brianna and her competitors were similarly sized throughout youth football, she saw this change at the high school level as many of the other players were taller and now outweighed her by at least 40 pounds.
“The first time I got hit at that level was during practice, and I was told that I was going to be scared at first. But once I took the hit and got up off the turf, that was my adrenaline,” says Brianna, who is a tight end and outside linebacker. “One hit can’t stop my love for what I want to do. If you find love in it, there’s nothing stopping you.”
Guilford football Head Coach Anthony Salvati remembers the first time that he and Brianna met. Brianna demanded that she receive no special treatment as a female player on the team.
Coach Salvati adds that he’s eager to see Brianna hit the field and fight for playing time as a junior next season.“Brianna is amazing and has earned the respect from her coaches and teammates by working as hard as everyone, sometimes harder,” Salvati says. “She knows what her position responsibilities are on both offense and defense at all times and always helps her teammates if they are struggling to comprehend.”
“Brianna will be competing for varsity playing time this fall against players at her position who outweigh her by 50-plus pounds, but one thing is for sure: She will be ready to compete and she will not back down,” says Salvati. “Brianna and I share a common goal, and that goal is get her to be the first female to score a varsity touchdown in school history.”
Brianna is grateful for Salvati’s support in their quest to make Guilford history. Brianna is already the first female in Guilford to complete more than one season of youth football and high school football. Brianna does offseason training at Pro Limit Athletes in North Haven with Ike Igbinosun, who was a member of several NFL franchises.
Brianna has received support from many other people, including her mom Ashleigh Fritz, who Brianna says, “really pushes me,” along with her teammates, team captains, and her classmates at Guilford. Brianna recently realized that her accomplishments have inspired other people.
“I didn’t realize how many girls actually supported me and thought it was cool and I was brave,” says Brianna, who also plays the violin and shows cattle. “Last fall, a little girl from Southington messaged my mom and asked me to come to her football game. I went and her eyes lit up and she was so happy to see me and wanted pictures. I didn’t realize I had an impact on younger kids.”
Another lesson that has always resonated with Brianna was one from Ron Lecointe, her lineman coach. Leconite gave her an assignment of watching the 1997 film Gattaca and reporting the movie’s message to him the next day.
“The message was that genetics don’t define your potential,” Brianna says. “That is something that has stuck with me through football, wrestling, and lacrosse, and will hopefully stick with me when I’m wrestling in the Olympics.”
Brianna has been working toward her goal of qualifying for the Olympics. After earning the pin that inspired her to continue in 8th grade, Brianna joined the team at Guilford High School, where she wrestles at 145 pounds. Brianna competed in enough varsity matches to earn her varsity letter as a freshman last year. Although she got injured midway through the season, Brianna came back to compete at the inaugural Girls’ Wrestling Invitational, where she finished in fourth place for the 145-pound division.
Brianna became the first female wrestler at the high school to finish a full season and also to first to place at a state competition. When COVID-19 took away the 2020-’21 wrestling season, Brianna’s coach recommended that those interested should join a club. Brianna had previously competed among 99 wrestlers at the Women’s State Championship and became familiar with Ella Nichols, who won the state title.
“A few months after that tournament, she texted me and asked if I’d go to KT Kidz [in Rocky Hill] with her to drill,” says Brianna. “As a mediocre fourth-in-the state wrestler going against a girl who was fifth in the nation pushed me and made me see what I could work toward.”
Brianna then joined the Overcomer Training Center in Middletown, where she worked on her technique several days a week. With that club, Brianna traveled to Nationals in Virginia Beach and won a match in the women’s brackets.
Brianna went on to compete in women’s tournaments in Gatlinberg, Tennessee and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Brianna took first place in folk-style and second in freestyle at both events, making her a two-time All-American wrestler.
“I’d only worked on freestyle for about a month,” Brianna says. “So, I just wanted to test what I’d learned in those tournaments, and I ended up knowing a decent amount.”
Even with all of these achievements, Brianna is hardly satisfied and has some big goals for herself going forward.
“I really push myself a ton to get what I want. You have to be the best to stand out,” says Brianna. “I’ve made town history four or five times and state history with a record 99 girls going to the state tournament, but there’s still more I want to do.”
The 2021 Moving the Chains Team Football Clinic will be held July 6-9 at Jess Dow Field on the Southern Connecticut State University campus from 5:30-8PM. Participation is encouraged but not mandatory. Each player will be responsible for registering themselves, paying the fee and securing transportation. For those players who register, Coach Salvati will be handing out equipment beginning on Wednesday June 9 (after team workout).
Please register your player by clicking here. SCSU will be emailing you payment information as we get closer to the event.
Congratulations to our senior players on their commitments to continue their football careers beyond Guilford High School. We are all incredibly proud of your accomplishments and can't wait to watch you perform at the next level.
Evan Chapman - Nichols College
Ian Derda - SUNY Maritime College
Sam Huffman - Mass Maritime Academy
Aeden McDermott - Canterbury School
Nico Tartagni - Nichols College
Your Guilford Football Family will be cheering you on every step of the way. Go be great!
Additional pictures from the signing day can be found by clicking on the Pictures tab in the top navigation bar.
We are excited to share that Guilford Youth Football & Cheerleading is hosting the first annual Guilford Football Golf Classic on Thursday, May 20, 2021 at Quarry Ridge in Portland, CT.
This is a great opportunity to bring together our Guilford Football families for an annual gathering with youth and high school parents as well as alumni families to have fun and raise money for the program. Sponsorship, foursome and individual player opportunities will be available.
We are sorry your high school football experience ended the way it did. You deserved better. The entire program is proud of your commitment and dedication to helping build Guilford Football into a program we can all be proud to support.
On behalf of the Touchdown Club and your parents, coaches and teammates, we wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors. We are excited to watch where life takes you after high school. Good luck and we hope to see you at Kavanugh Field whenever we are able to play again.
The first time that Evan Chapman put on a helmet and a pair of pads, he knew he was destined to play football.
Evan is currently in his senior year at Guilford High School, where he’s played offensive tackle and defensive end for the football team. Evan’s inspiration for playing football came from his father Sloan Chapman, who also played the sport at Guilford.
“I’ve been playing sports since kindergarten. I started with youth football the summer of 2nd grade and never looked back,” Evan says. “What inspired me to play football was my father. He had a passion for football and also played at Guilford High School, where he was All State. Maybe someday we will play an alumni game together.”
Guilford was limited to playing 7-on-7 non-contact football in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The hope for Evan, along with many high school football players across the state, was that a full-fledged tackle season could take place sometime between the winter and spring campaigns. Unfortunately, the CIAC nixed any chances of that happening when it recently canceled the proposed alternative season.
“This was a different kind of season for football due to restrictions. This is where, ‘Let them play,’ came into action,” says Evan. “Our football team and our coach traveled to the Hartford state Capitol to voice our hopes to play. I liked how we all gathered to show our love of the game and how important it was for us to play.”
The news was disappointing for Evan and his teammates, especially his fellow seniors, when they found out that they wouldn’t be playing 11-on-11 football in the current school year. Evan had been holding out hope that a season would occur in some shape or form.
“I felt hopeful that we would finally be getting the chance to get some time in this season to be a team and have some senior year memories to take with us. [I} and my teammates have been keeping physically and mentally ready in hopes we would be playing,” Evan says. “As for me, I will continue my workout routine to be strong and ready for next year.”
Evan has received an offer to play football at Nichols College—a Division III school in Dudley, Massachusetts—and hopes to continue his career at the next level. Guilford Head Coach Anthony Salvati describes Evan as one of the hardest workers on his squad and believes that he deserves a shot to play in college.
“Whether it’s in the weight room or on the field, Evan’s one of the first ones in and the last one to leave. His eagerness and determination to become better has led him from a special teams player to a starter and leader on both the offensive and defensive lines,” says Salvati. “Evan has recently received an offer to play for Nichols College, where I know he will excel if he chooses to attend.”
Aside from football, Evan is also a goalie on the Guilford boys’ lacrosse team. Evan had previously played baseball, but recently found his niche in lacrosse and has been playing the sport for the past five years.
When Evan isn’t playing sports at Guilford, he enjoys saltwater and freshwater fishing. Evan is an honor roll student at the high school and plans to major in criminal justice in college with a goal of becoming a police officer.
“I am mentoring with the Guilford High School resource officer [Anthony Martone],” Evan says. “We are working on a Capstone Project, which will be an asset to my college studies and intended career in criminal justice and law enforcement.”
While he wasn’t able to play tackle football as a senior at Guilford, Evan feels grateful for any opportunity that he gets to compete in college, regardless of which school he attends.
“I am looking forward to college,” says Evan. “I’m honored to be playing football at a college level.”
Sam Huffman’s favorite day of the week is Friday. That’s because, for the past several years, Sam has been spending his Friday nights on the gridiron alongside his teammates with the Guilford football squad. He’s hoping for one last chance to do that as a senior.
Sam, a senior captain for Guilford, has been playing football since he was 10 years old. Sam was inspired to step on the field by his brothers Casey and Clay Huffman, who are both program alums.
“My friends got me into playing football, as well as my older brothers. They both played for the program,” Sam says. “I always liked the game of football and wanted to try it out. My favorite aspect of the sport is going out on the field on Friday nights with my brothers, knowing we are playing for each other and, no matter what, we have each other’s backs.”
Unfortunately for Sam and his teammates, the Guilford football team has been limited to 7-on-7 non-contact play after the CIAC canceled the 11-on-11 tackle season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the limitations, Sam has still enjoyed the experience of practicing and competing throughout the last few weeks. Everyone on the squad is staying optimistic there will be some football played during the spring.
“My favorite moment from this season has been just practicing and working every day to get better in preparation for what’s ahead,” says Sam. “I hope that we can still continue to play in this fall season and keep grinding as a team, so we can be prepared for this, hopefully, upcoming spring season.”
If there is a spring season, Sam plans on being a leader on whom Guilford’s younger players can rely. Sam also knows that any sports played need to take place in a safe and secure environment.
“This whole pandemic has definitely affected the way sports are played, and I just hope we can play in a manner that keeps the players, coaches, and parents safe,” Sam says. “In this spring season of football, I want to be the guy that everyone can count on and lead this team to success down the road.”
A safety, Sam snagged four interceptions for Guilford during the 7-on-7 season. Head Coach Anthony Salvati describes Sam as one of the team’s leaders on defense.
“Sam was a starter for us on defense as a junior. This year, he was the captain of our defense during our 7-on-7 season, and he led us with four interceptions,” says Sam. “He’s a big leader on the field for us.”
Sam appreciates that he can always go to his coach with any problem. Sam views Salvati as a huge mentor for him.
“My head coach is my role model, and I look up to Coach Salavti with the utmost respect. He isn’t just a coach on my high school football team—he’s a person I feel like I can talk to about anything,” Sam says. “Coach Salvati has always wanted the best from me and the rest of the team. He’s the kind of guy to not stand down from anything, and that mentality has definitely played a major role with the mindset of the team.”
Sam is also a member of the Guilford baseball team, for which he’s a pitcher and an outfielder. When he graduates from high school, Sam plans to play both of his sports and study international maritime business at Massachusetts Maritime Academy. Regardless of what sport he’s playing, Sam always tries to set an excellent example whenever he puts on the Guilford uniform.
“I’m always looking to get better on the field, and I come to the practices with the mindset that I’m going to get better. I hustle every play and make others want to work harder, as well,” says Sam. “I’m working out every day in the gym before football practice to get bigger, faster, and stronger. I owe it to my team to be the best version of myself, no matter what season it is.”
Football is more than a sport to Jimmy Krupp. It’s an endeavor that has helped Jimmy grow just as much as a young adult as it has as an athlete.
Jimmy, who is entering his senior year of high school, has lined up as a defensive tackle throughout his career with the Guilford football team. Jimmy began his career on the gridiron playing flag football until the 4th grade, after which he started playing tackle football. Jimmy says that he’s grown by leaps and bounds in many ways, while growing up around the game.
“I started playing flag football as a kid, which my dad got me into. I loved the sport since day one,” says Jimmy. “As soon as I started playing tackle football in the 4th grade, I knew it was something that helped me mentally and physically. Football has also taught me life skills that I wouldn’t have learned anywhere else.”
Guilford showed signs that it has the potential to become a legitimate contender in the Southern Connecticut Conference last fall. Jimmy will always remember when the team edged out crosstown rival Branford in its season opener.
“I would say my favorite thing from last season was getting better every day and accomplishing goals that seemed too hard to beat at first,” Jimmy says. “If I had to choose a favorite moment from last season, it would be the Branford game. It was the first game, and most of us never started a snap on varsity before. We were down at halftime, but something sparked, and we were able to fight back with a 20-19 victory.”
Jimmy, who’s 6-foot-3 and 285 pounds, made the All-SCC Tier 3 Team for his performance as a nose guard last season. Head Coach Anthony Salvati says that the senior was one of the anchors of Guilford’s defense in 2019.
“When Jimmy’s in the game, he demands a double team from the opposing offense. Teams have a real tough time running the football between the tackles when Jimmy’s in the game,” says Salvati. “He’s looking to play football at the college level and has been in contact with several teams thus far.”
While he’s only worked with Salvati for a year, Jimmy credits his coach for helping him flourish on the football field. Jimmy knows that Salvati is someone he can always trust and go to whenever he needs help.
“My relationship with Coach Salvati is what all athletes should have with their coaches,” Jimmy says. “Over the past year, I learned to trust his decisions and communicate with him on certain topics. He is someone I can talk to and ask questions to. He also is able to push us as athletes and make us become better people on and off the field.”
Jimmy dedicates a lot of his free time to refining his football skills and is a fixture at the field all year long. Jimmy does a variety of exercises and plenty of homework in order to improve his abilities.
“I try to go to the turf or field, even if it’s alone. I just work on technique,” says Jimmy. “I like to watch videos of pro players or college players to learn new pass-rush or run-stop moves to apply into my game. One of my biggest things I like doing is watching some of my film from last season to see what I did wrong to work on it and become better.”
Even when he isn’t playing football, Jimmy likes to stay active. Jimmy often takes long drives with his friends and family and also enjoys doing yard work around the house.
“Most of the time I don’t like to sit still in one place, so going on drives is something I enjoy doing,” Jimmy says. “I also like doing things outside and being able to help people in my family with things they need done.”
At the end of the day, football remains Jimmy’s biggest passion. Jimmy knows that playing football has helped him build a foundation of values that will benefit him throughout his entire life.
“I think football is more than just a game. It shows determination, hard work, and being able to create a bond as if your teammates were your family all along,” says Jimmy. “Football shows you new ways to think that others will never be able to see.”
Niko Tartagni is an integral member of the Guilford High School football squad who has anchored the team’s defense as a middle linebacker the past two seasons. Now a senior captain, Niko is ready to take the reins as a leader, while taking Guilford to another level this year.
“I’ve been playing football for about seven years,” says Niko. “I’ve made a lot of bonds and friendships with my teammates, and I’m really looking forward to getting started with this season.”
Guilford finished with a record of 4-6 in the 2019 season, but showed glimpses of becoming a contender by playing several competitive games, even in defeat. Niko proved a huge factor in Guilford’s progress by recording 70 tackles with one interception and one fumble recovery as a junior. Niko absolutely loves playing the middle linebacker position.
“I love being able to fly around the field and control the defense,” Niko says. “Getting the guys ready and knowing what to do is huge in game preparation. I also enjoy working out and building strength, so that I’m game ready.”
Head Coach Anthony Salvati calls Niko a coach’s dream. Aside from Niko’s skills on defense, Salvati was impressed with how Niko transitioned from playing running back to the offensive line last year. Salvati also saw plenty of traits that he knows are going to make Niko a great captain.
“Niko does anything and everything you ask him and does it at 100 miles per hour,” Salvati says. “He’s the vocal leader of the group and he’s respected by all.”
Last fall marked Salvati’s first campaign on the Guilford sidelines. Niko says that he and Salvati grew close throughout the course of the season.
“We’ve got a tight bond. I got to know him a lot last year,” says Niko of Salvati. “He came to work and wanted to get down to business, and that’s what I really harp on. He’s a great coach.”
The 2020 fall season is still no guarantee due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Niko wants to play more than anything, so that he can help Guilford have a successful year, while also showcasing his talents to any colleges that are interested in him.
“I’m looking forward to the season, but it’s really in the hands of the officials at this point,” Niko says. “I’m hoping that we are able to start in time, and I think starting now would be as good of a time as ever, because we still have good weather.”
In terms of his plans for life after high school, Niko has been looking at colleges all around the New England area in his quest to continue his football career at the next level.
“I definitely want to stay more local because of my family, and my dream is to be able to play college football,” says Niko. “I’m going to work harder than ever this season to make sure that happens.”
Above all, Niko is aiming to create a solid foundation for the Guilford football team before he leaves the program. One of the biggest things for Niko is conveying the importance of hard work to the team’s younger athletes.
“I want to build for the football team and, hopefully, before I leave, we get these guys in the mindset of a hardworking culture,” Niko says. “I know when I first started, we had seniors that showed me the ropes and, once they graduated, I was able to improve because of what they taught me.”
Niko is also an outfielder for Guilford baseball team, although football has always been his main game. Aside from athletics, Niko is honors student who has a 3.1 grade-point average at Guilford High School.
“I enjoy baseball, but football is definitely my No. 1,” says Niko. “I also enjoy my schoolwork, and I feel like I’ve improved a lot academically over the years.”
Aedan McDermott is a senior captain on the Guilford football team who also plays for the boys’ lacrosse squad at the high school. Aedan has played football and lacrosse for several years and seen his fair share of success in both sports. With his senior season drawing closer, Aedan is hoping to finish his high school career on a high note.
“I’ve been playing lacrosse since the 2nd grade. My sister actually plays lacrosse, so she was the biggest motivation for me to go into it,” Aedan says. “I’ve also been playing football since I was in 3rd grade, where I played up on the 4th-grade team. Prior to that, I played flag football for two years. When I was younger, my parents had me try the majority of sports, and I fell in love with football and lacrosse.”
Aedan suits up as the quarterback for Guilford football squad and plays on the attack in lacrosse. In his first season under center, Aedan passed for 1,231 with eight touchdowns and threw only two interceptions last fall.
Head Coach Anthony Salvati refers to Aedan as the heart and soul of his team. Salvati knows that he can always count on his QB to get the job done.
“McDermott is our rock, our leader,” says Salvati. “He is the guy that gets everyone on the same page, coordinates team meetings and training. He knows what everyone’s assignments are around him and lifts them up to reach their potential. It’s like having another coach out there.”
While Aedan enjoys both of his sports, he’s found different ways of appreciating each of them. Above all, Aedan says that playing lacrosse and football has helped him form some of his strongest friendships.
“My favorite aspect of lacrosse is how family oriented it is. I’ve grown up with the majority of the team and are around them every day, either if we are playing lacrosse or just hanging out,” Aedan says. “Lacrosse and football have created some of the best relationships I’ve had and given me a family of friends that will last a lifetime.”
Aedan has experienced many memorable moments on each of his respective fields. Aedan will always remember when he scored five goals against Foran in his first start for the lacrosse team as a sophomore last spring, along with Guilford’s big win over Hand. In terms of football, Aedan says that Guilford’s victory versus Branford was the highlight of the 2019 campaign.
“Beating our rival Hand was a great moment for the team,” says Aedan. “From this past football season, my favorite memory was when we came back in the fourth quarter against our rival Branford to win, more specifically when my friend Charles Walcott scored off a 60-yard run.”
Aedan values his relationships with his coaches in both sports. Aedan has learned a lot from Salvati and boys’ lacrosse coach Brian White, and says that they’ve helped him maximize his abilities as an athlete.
“Coach White is a great coach and leader. We call him dad, because he treats us like family. Even though he is hard on me at times, I know it’s because he believes in me and just wants me to improve and reach my full potential,” Aedan says. “I also have a tremendous relationship with Coach Salvati. He is a very dedicated and passionate about football and cares about us as people. He has become a great role model for me, and I strive to be like that in my own life, so he’s been a great example for me.”
Aedan is constantly working hard with his teams and on his own in order to improve his skills. Aedan gives just as much effort in the offseason as he does during the season.
“I go to the [Oilers’ Lacrosse] winter camp, as well as going to captains’ practice throughout the year. When I’m not practicing with my team, I’m putting work in on the field or at my house, where I have a net and rebounder,” says Aedan. “We live very close to the high school, so having access to a field that is a minute away from my house is a great help. I also train at Break Out Athlete in North Branford. Training there has given me the opportunity to train with high-level high school and college athletes.”
As he gears up for his senior year, Aedan feels honored to be leading the Guilford football team as a captain. Aedan is also hoping that he gets to wear the captain’s hat for the lacrosse team in the spring.
“One of the most meaningful accomplishments I have is that I was named captain of the football team. A lot of time has been put into football, so it means a lot that I was awarded captain,” Aedan says. “I’m also working really hard to become the captain of the lacrosse team for my senior year.”
Ian Derda has an unwavering love for football. Ian prides himself on hard work and puts in some long hours at the gym in an effort to achieve his ultimate goal. Ian wants to be the best player and teammate that he can possibly be as a member of the Guilford High School football team.
Ian is a slot receiver who was named one of Guilford’s senior captains for the 2020 season. Ian has been playing football for the past 10 years, ever since he started watching his older brother Eryk compete. Ian and Eryk were constantly moving because their father Sebastian is a member of the United States Coast Guard. However, that didn’t stop them from pursuing their passion.
“My brother Eryk got me into it when I was in the 2nd grade. I knew he always watched the football games, and that’s what started it mostly,” says Ian. “He started playing in Long Island and, when we got to Puerto Rico, I took interest and played. I was born in Pennsylvania, moved to North Carolina, Long Island, Puerto Rico, then finally to Connecticut in 4th grade. I’ve been in Connecticut ever since.”
Ian dedicated himself to growing alongside his teammates from the moment he joined the Guilford football team as a freshman. He enjoys all the unique intricacies of football and embraces every aspect of the game. This fall, Ian is slated to lead Guilford on the gridiron with fellow senior captains Aedan McDermott and Niko Tartagni.
“I think my favorite aspect would be the fact that it teaches you values throughout your years—toughness, teamwork, commitment, strategy, unity, and strength,” Ian says. “The important thing about these values is that the values go beyond football. They are important in life. Football is, in many ways, a microcosm of life. It teaches you to overcome adversity, to stay focused on an objective, and allows you to taste success at varying levels.”
Guilford Head Coach Anthony Salvati is looking forward to watching how Ian performs in the slot during the upcoming season. Salvati knows that Ian is going to be a key cog in Guilford’s offense.
“Derda is that quiet spark plug that can make a big play at any second,” says Salvati. “He makes big plays in every facet of the game—offense, defense, special teams. He has that rare electrifying capability that can change a game on a dime.”
Guilford saw some ups and downs while battling its way to a record of 4-6 last year. Ian says the biggest highlight came when Guilford notched a 20-19 road victory over crosstown rival Branford in the first game of the season.
“I think my favorite memory from last year was beating Branford. Everyone thought we were going to lose, and you just felt that rush after you hear that buzzer, and you got that confidence from proving everyone wrong,” Ian says. “This was also one of my favorite moments, because this was my first varsity start for football.”
Ian has made some huge improvements to his skillset during his tenure with the Guilford football program. Ian started out bench pressing 95 pounds and squatting 160 pounds. Now, he can bench press 205 pounds and squat 330 pounds.
“I usually go to the field with Aedan and throw routes that will help with my hands and route running skills,” says Ian, who is 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds. “I also run on the turf. I do some agility work that gets me faster. I also go to [Mangino Strength & Conditioning], which helps me get stronger, so that I can go up against those bigger kids.”
Ian is also a member of the Guilford boys’ lacrosse squad. He says that playing lacrosse has proved a big help in terms of his hand-eye coordination as a football player. Ian also enjoys playing video games in his free time.
“Lacrosse keeps me in shape with all the running and helps me with my hand-eye coordination, having to catch the ball, stick, and everything,” Ian says. “Some other things I like to do is play video games. I like playing video games, because they’re something you can play with friends, alone, or even with family.”
Ian plans on bringing a competitive edge to the football field this fall. No matter what, Ian is never going to stop pushing himself to perform at his peak.
“Once I beat my goals, I know I didn’t beat them. I set my standards even higher,” says Ian. “I’m a very competitive person, and I hate losing.”