Panthers set to tangle with tough out-of-conference foes

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Masuk's aerial attack will ride on the arm of talented quarterback Nick Saccu this season.

MONROE, CT — Led by first-year Head Coach Coach Steve Christy, the Masuk High football team will strive to, at the very least, make things tough on the opposition from week to week.

“I expect us to be competitive and I need us to be competitive,” Christy said.

After all, a grueling schedule awaits the Panthers.

In addition to taking on seven South-West Conference rivals — including 2019 Class LL state champion Newtown — the Panthers will play a trio of non-conference opponents: Hillhouse, Daniel Hand (Class L runner-up in 2019) and Notre Dame-West Haven.

“Our schedule’s brutal,” Christy said as his team practiced for its first traditional 11 on 11 games in two years. Last season was altered significantly to feature 7 on 7, non-tackle football due to coronavirus protocol.

Christy embraces the tough slate ahead.

“If you want to be the best you’ve got to beat the best,” he said.

Hand defeated Masuk in the 2017 Class L state title game when Christy was on the Masuk coaching staff.

“They took my heart three years ago. I was glad to see them on the schedule,” said Christy, quickly adding that his team’s focus is “laser-sharp” on a week one matchup with SWC foe Bunnell of Stratford.

The Panthers’ captains are quarterback Nick Saccu and twin brother and receiver Ryan Saccu, along with linebacker/kicker Mike Epifano and center/defensive lineman Tyler Mauro. Christy said a fifth captain might be named as the preseason unfolds.

The Saccu twins both said they are “super excited,” for the opener.

“We’re taking it one day at a time and we’re focused on Bunnell,” Nick Saccu added.

A strength of the team, Christy said, is the camaraderie.

“I’m excited coming to practice and I enjoy coaching the kids. We have to stay together through thick and thin and not fracture,” Christy said.

The Panthers have an abundance of upperclassmen to lead the way, and Christy is hoping the veteran leadership translates to success.

“We have a lot of seniors and it’s time for our seniors to do their thing,” the coach said.

The Panthers visit Bunnell on Sept. 10 at 7 p.m. After traveling to Stratford High and Hillhouse in the following two weeks, Hand comes to Masuk for an Oct. 1 battle. All games are Friday nights at 7 p.m. with the exception of the Thanksgiving Eve clash with Newtown. Masuk is at Newtown, Wednesday, Nov. 24, at 6 p.m.

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