#TrainingCampTour Day X: New London
September 2, 2015
Duane Maranda has spent 10 different offseasons at the Middlesex County 4H Camp in Moodus. He has coached at New London for seven years, but this year was the first time that he took the Whalers there.
There are a ton of whacky personalities at Whaler camp. This was perhaps the most fun group that I got a chance to spend time with during the #TrainingCampTour. Almost every kid asked to have his picture taken in some devilish pose. Kids were diving into the swimming pool left and right. An impromptu game of “four-square” broke out, led by quarterback Melquann Gomez. But when you ask the kids about football, their carefree nature fades into a focused attack.
New London literally limped into the playoffs with a 7-3 record (and some much-needed losses by fellow contenders) after suffering a tough defeat at the hands of arch-rival Norwich Free Academy, 63-40 LIVE on CPTV Sports, on Thanksgiving. They were eliminated by eventual CIAC Class M-Large champion Brookfield in their first playoff match-up, 46-14.
“It was a tough journey,” recalled tight end Major Roman. “We suffered some injuries before that game, but we worked very hard to that point and we would definitely like to see better results in the years to come, but we gave it our all.”
“We worked every day after lifting and we were here in the mornings running on our off-time, foot work, routes in the air, everything,” declared Gomez.
Gomez inherits the starting quarterback gig from all-ECC first teamer Danny Maranda, the coach’s son, who is currently a freshman signal-caller at Worchester Polytechnic Institute.
“It’s a great experience anytime you get a chance to coach your son, obviously being on the field with him and anytime you get to travel with him back and forth to practice and to games, I mean that was special,” recounted Duane Maranda.
“He really prepared me for these next two years coming up, being behind him,” stated Gomez. “He’s humbled me a lot. He helped a lot through out the season just to get used to coverages and the little things.”
The two years on the bench have allowed Gomez to work on his arm strength and accuracy, in addition to the time he took to study defensive coverages. The playbook will be opened up a bit more this season for Gomez, who’s speed and quickness allows him to be more of a dual-threat quarterback. Roman will be a tremendous asset for Gomez as he is a Division 1-caliber tight end standing at 6’6″, 210 pounds.
“He’s a big target!” exclaimed Gomez. I can throw him open, he can get open, and he can go up and get the jump ball.
Jelani Lucas is another big loss from the 2014 team. He collected 13 touchdown passes from Maranda and intercepted 7 passes on defense. He returned kicks and also punted for the team. Coach says that Lucas was so good that he will have to replace him with four or five guys.
Due to scheduling conflicts in the ECC, along with an abandoned game with FCIAC stalwart Stamford, the Whalers will not play during a 20-day stretch from November 6th to Thanksgiving. New London scrambled to find a 10th opponent after the FCIAC championship game controversy reared its head this summer. They were able to schedule Foran-Milford, but only during a previously appointed bye week on October 16th.
“It is going to give us the time to heal up and hopefully be in a position to be able to put a great team on against NFA who is going to be a very, very good team this year and then hopefully make a run at the postseason,” intimated Maranda.
Follow the #TrainingCampTour as it happens on Twitter. Please check in to cptvsports.org nightly for other team training camp recaps. For more on the Whalers, tune in to the 2015 High School Football Training Camp Special on September 4 at 7 p.m. Watch New London battle Bacon Academy on CPTV Sports, Tuesday, September 22 at 9 p.m.