Brunswick School’s football team has numerous returning players from its 2019 squad that won the NEPSAC Todd Marble Bowl against The Governor’s Academy, including four athletes determined to provide leadership in their role as captains.
The Bruins’ senior captains, all of whom are expected to ignite the team at different positions, include Michael Burton Jr., Charlie Johnson, George Villis and Ashton Winegardner.
The group is especially eager to lead the team after the 2020 season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’ve been working all through the summer up until the fall to make up for lost time from last year,” said Johnson, who has committed to play lacrosse at Duke University. “Having the opportunity to have a season this year makes it all the more special for sure.”
Winegardner and Villis both had brothers who served as captains for the Bruins. Nick Winegardner, a 2020 Brunswick graduate, excelled at quarterback, while Nick Villis, who graduated in 2019, was a star linebacker.
Wide receiver is a position the Bruins possess plenty of depth at and Winegardner is slated to line up as a slot receiver.
“It’s amazing, it’s such an honor to be a captain,” Winegardner said. “My brother was a captain before me, so I always looked up to him. Our captains as a unit are amazing. Our center (Burton), it will be his fourth year starting on the team, he’s an incredible player. Charlie Johnson our starting safety, is a great captain, George Villis, our starting linebacker, his brother was also a captain. There are a lot of special seniors on this team that are great leaders.”
Coached by Mike Hannigan, Brunswick opens its season on the road on Sept. 18 against The Hun School.
“The team’s camaraderie is really good and the senior leadership is great,” said Hannigan, who is starting his third season at the helm. “All of our seniors are really enthusiastic.”
Villis will help lead the Bruins’ linebacker corps, a group his brother Nick, who plays football at Fordham University, also flourished at.
“I was a freshman when my brother was a senior here at Brunswick,” Villis said. “I have learned a lot about playing linebacker from him. A lot of my game I reflect off of him.”
As always, Brunswick expects a lot of production from its defensive unit.
“We’ve got a lot of good players coming in on defense,” Villis said. “We are ready to do what we do best. Brunswick football’s defense wins games. Our offense is going to be great too, but being a defensive player, I want to see us do well. I think the defense will come together. We have a strong defensive line and safeties and overall, our defense has a lot of potential.”
Burton should be a force on both sides of the ball at his center/defensive tackle positions.
“Coach Hannigan has been one of the best defensive coordinators in the NEPSAC for a while,” Burton said. “We have great leadership on the defensive side of the ball. Charlie Johnson is one of the leaders of the defense. In my opinion, he’s an extension of the coaching staff. He does a great job of getting the leading these guys. Our defensive line has a lot of potential with really high ceiling players.”
With a secondary that has a lot of depth and talent, the Bruins should be well-prepared to face the challenging opponents they will meet.
“We’ve got a lot of experience in the defensive backfield,” Johnson said. “They have a lot of football experience and they’re familiar with the concepts and playing, which is going to be helpful.”
After visiting The Hun School in its season-opener, Brunswick will host Suffield Academy in its home-opener on Sept. 25, before traveling to Salisbury School the following week. Other home games include matchups against Williston Northampton, Cheshire Academy and Trinity-Pawling School.
The Bruins will also visit Wyoming Seminary, Phillips Andover Academy and Avon Old Farms School.
“The coaches and athletic department have done a really good job of putting together a super intense and high-level schedule and it’s an awesome privilege to play against schools of that quality,” Johnson said.
Brunswick hosts Greenwich in a scrimmage this Saturday at 1 p.m. and will also scrimmage Trinity-Pawling at home on Sept. 18.
“Getting a chance to matchup with Greenwich High School against kids who, most of us have been competing against since we were eight or nine years old, will be great,” Johnson said. “Even though the scoreboard may not count, it counts in our hearts at the end of the day.”