DANBURY — Since Danbury head football coach Chance Barlow won his first game as a head coach in Week 1 of the season; things since have not gone according to plan.
He has dealt with injuries to his two best players on the team, the offense — his pride and joy — has been stagnant because of those injuries and his team has not won another game.
Still, Barlow is confident in his team as district play begins Friday.
And of all teams for the Panthers to open against, they will face a program they have historically struggled to beat.
Danbury will host old rival Boling at 7 p.m. Friday at Humber Field. Danbury is 6-31 all-time against the Bulldogs, with the last victory coming in 2013.
Entering Friday’s District 14-3A, D-II opener, the Panthers’ offense will work at half strength for most likely the rest of the year with running back Kamrin McKinney out with a hand injury. If the team makes it to the playoffs, there is a chance McKinney could play, Barlow said.
Quarterback Michael Goudy should be good to go this week, Barlow said, and the rest of the team is healthy.
“It’s all about chemistry,” Barlow said. “It seems like every week, we get thrown a curveball. We have to adapt to those injuries, and I think we have. Once we are back to full strength, I think we are going to peak at the right time.”
Playing in place of the injuries has been senior Mason Ahart, who was one of three players competing for the starting quarterback role in the offseason before Barlow gave it to Goudy. During the process, Barlow thought Ahart was the best of the three in running the offense smoothly.
“He leaves it all on the field, he’s thrown some really good balls to where we can stretch the field horizontally and vertically with his arm, and he’s also a running threat,” Barlow said. “He has been tucking the ball, and he sees the holes. He has been a dual threat, and that’s what we need out of our quarterback.
“As long as he keeps moving the sticks, we’ll have some success on offense.”
Boling returns nearly its entire team from a year ago with 21 returners and 21 starters.
The Bulldogs finished 1-4 in district play before dropping to Division II and moving to District 14-3A in the offseason. The last time a Boling team was in Division II was in 2017, when the Bulldogs advanced to the regional semifinals.
The team returns a three-headed monster in the backfield, including starting running backs Ryan Oneal (800 yards, 13 touchdowns in 2021), Trenton Jones (722 yards, five touchdowns) and Christian Montalvo (713 yards and eight touchdowns).
“They’ve got size, they’ve got speed, and they are a good football team,” Barlow said. “They are a heavy run-orientated team. They tip their hat on what they are going to do; it’s just, we’ve got to be able to stop them. We know what is coming, we know the freight train is going to hit us and we have to be ready for it.”
Boling (3-1) averaged 40.5 points per game on offense and limited teams to 14 points or fewer in three contests.
Aside from the 1-3 record in non-district play, Barlow was happy with how his team got after it, especially on defense with the similar scheme it ran last season. Before their loss last week to Ganado, the Panthers did not allow an opponent to score more than 11 points in a game.
“We went back to the 4-2-5, we made it simple and we expanded on it from last year,” Barlow said. “It allows for less thinking for the kids, and that gives them more opportunities to be aggressive. I like our aggression, and that’s why they have had some success because we are coming at you defensively.”
Barlow has also been pleased with his team’s physicality through the first four games, something the program did not always have.
“We are playing hard, we are hanging with teams and we are battling for four quarters,” he said. “Now it is time for us to execute. We have to clean up all the miscues, the dropped passes, the penalties, the fumbles and once we correct all of that, we are a pretty dang good football team.”