By Doug Bonjour
Hearst Connecticut Media takes a look at 10 defensive players to watch this high school season.
Zach Allen, New Canaan linebacker: Tackling machines Michael Root and Cole Harris both graduated, leaving Allen as the linchpin of the Rams' defense. At 6-foot-6, 258 pounds, Allen has the athleticism to make plays from sideline to sideline. The Northwestern-bound linebacker's a good bet to post big numbers once again (81 tackles, 11.5 sacks in 2013).
Coach's take: "He's got a great mentality and a good feel for the game. He's definitely one of the best pass defenders, if not the best in the league. He can play like (defensive end Mark) Evanchick from Darien, but he can also get into coverage." -- Warde's Duncan DellaVolpe
Tom Costigan, Trinity Catholic linebacker: In an 0-11 year for the Crusaders, Costigan delivered monster results. A rangy middle linebacker, the 6-4, 215-pound Costigan finished ninth in the state with 137 tackles. The senior committed to Bryant University in the offseason.
Coach's take: "He's a great leader that has a desire to be better than anybody else on the field. His motor never stops, and he's relentless to the ball." -- Trinity Catholic's Donny Panapada
Mark Evanchick, Darien defensive end: What Evanchick lacks in size, he makes up for with pure athleticism. The 6-foot, 228-pound Evanchick established himself as an elite pass rusher last year, piling up the fourth-most sacks (14) in the state. He was equally as dominant against the run, notching 110 tackles. For Darien to return to the Class L final, Evanchick will have to be just as good, if not better, as a junior.
Coach's take: "He's been a beast since he was a freshman. He's got to be one of the premier defensive guys in the state. He's certainly a force to be reckoned with." -- New Canaan's Lou Marinelli
Julian Falcioni, Seymour lineman: When Falcioni recorded sacks as a junior, he did so in bunches. His 11 sacks -- tied for seventh-most in the state -- were registered in four games. At 5-11, 180 pounds, Falcioni's undersized for a defensive lineman, but he's ridiculously strong. He won his class at the NVL weightlifting competition and took sixth in the shot put at the Class M outdoor track finals in June.
Coach's take: "He's such an explosive kid. He's incredibly strong, incredibly fast. If he were four inches taller, I'd have (college) coaches knocking down my door. At the high school level, he's a matchup nightmare." -- Seymour's Tom Lennon
Max German, Law linebacker: German broke out as a first-year starter in 2013, piling up 97 tackles (27 for loss), 9.5 sacks and five fumble recoveries. The 6-1, 160-pound senior will play primarily linebacker, but he'll also be given the freedom to roam in a stand-up position.
Coach's take: "He's as explosive a player as I've coached. ... He has a third, a fourth and even a fifth gear." -- Law's Derrick Lewis
Tim Krapf, Newtown linebacker: Krapf is the anchor in the middle of a lights-out linebacking core. In a year in which Newtown defended its SWC title, Krapf recorded 110 tackles (81 solo) and one interception. As a senior, Krapf will be the emotional leader of a group that includes Ben Mason, Jaret Devellis and Nick Samuelson.
Coach's take: "The kid is just physically a beast. He flies to the ball. He will fill (space) like crazy. If he gets his mitts on you, you're probably going to go down. He's one of the strongest kids I've been around." -- Bunnell's Doug Cotto
Anthony Palazzolo, Fairfield Prep lineman: Palazzolo committed to Boston College in December as an offensive tackle, but the 6-6, 305-pound senior's proven to be a formidable run-stuffer as well. Rated by ESPN as the state's No. 3 prospect in the Class of 2015, Palazzolo notched five sacks and 17 tackles for loss last season for the Class LL runner-up.
Coach's take: "Anthony is just a very gifted young man. He's very big, he's very strong. He's athletic." -- Fairfield Prep's Tom Shea
Gabe Pompette, Brookfield safety: Pompette gained a reputation as a ball-hawking safety as a junior during Brookfield's runs to the SWC and Class M finals. He led the Bobcats with five interceptions and was fourth on the team in tackles with 77.
Coach's take: "He has a real eye for the ball on defense." -- Brookfield's Rich Angarano
Kentrell Snider, McMahon cornerback: Despite giving up a few inches in height to most receivers, the 5-7 Snider was disruptive in the secondary last year. As a junior, Snider intercepted five passes and notched 61 tackles.
Coach's take: "Small and quick. He's a little speedster. ... We'll switch him around from left to right (corner). We really lock him on the opponent's best receiver." -- McMahon's AJ Albano
Zach Spencer, Weston linebacker: The youngest player on this list, Spencer racked up 95 tackles in 2013 to lead all freshmen. It will be up to the linebacker to deliver a rousing encore.
Coach's take: "He has great leadership qualities. He is a true competitor. (Zach) is going to compete for 48 minutes every Friday night." -- Weston's Chris Pace