BETHEL — Without ever celebrating a regular-season victory on the field, Telstar became one of the biggest stories of the 2014 high school football playoffs.

Not in the way anybody would dream up, either. After being awarded a late-season victory due to Traip’s inadvertent use of an ineligible player, Telstar elected to forfeit its Class D West (now South) quarterfinal contest to top-seeded Lisbon.

Some outsiders were sympathetic, while others were incredulous. Most interpreted it as a sign that the Telstar program was on thin ice, only four years after its revival.

The numbers still aren’t phenomenal, but the Rebels have new coaches, some new players and a new attitude as they resolve to put that episode behind them.

“No quit in us. We have a lot of heart,” senior slot back and safety Jack Connell said. “We’ve worked hard these last two weeks. I would love to make playoffs, and then anything that happens after that.”

Lou Brann takes the helm. He was a Telstar assistant last year and was part of the Dirigo staff under Doug Gilbert that won a Class C championship in 2009.

Eighteen players have spent training camp learning the Delaware Wing-T, an offense that Brann said it took “about 45 minutes” to teach.

“We simplified everything right up,” Brann said. “They have experience, I don’t want to belittle them, but they don’t have much football knowledge.”

Six returning players saw significant time in the offensive or defensive starting lineup, including Connell and junior quarterback Elijah Mason.

Telstar had just enough players to play a limited 7-on-7 summer schedule, and that was with Mason’s younger brother — a sixth-grader — snapping the ball.

That persistence carried over to the first week of workouts. Brann was ready to call a halt to the end of the Friday of double sessions when a rainstorm hit at 7:45. His soaked players begged to stay another 45 minutes, after dark.

“A lot of kids have more enthusiasm coming in than in previous years,” Mason said. “There’s a lot more intensity this year. Previous years a lot of kids want to quit. They’re getting tired. This year you kind of notice a lot of kids want more.”

Throughout the program, people with inside and outside connections have stepped up to instill habits that will keep Telstar football alive.

“The (youth) coaches called up and said, ‘Hey, Lou, we want to put in what the high school is doing.’ They’re running the same thing all the way up through,” Brann said. “It was a great to get that call. We’ve had I don’t know how many meetings to get things going.”

Mason said that 18 players from fifth and sixth grade are signed up this season. He is a volunteer coach with the third and fourth grade group.

Connell, who moved here freshman year from South Carolina, has noticed a change in the culture.

“Last year we’d have kids begging to come out. I was a victim of that. Now I don’t want to step off the field, even during practices,” Connell said. “Once it dawns on you that you’ll never play football again (after this season), it’s pretty crazy.

“I feel like we’ll surprise every team we play this year with our heart and whatnot. We may not have the talent that we’ve had, but we have more intensity and more heart than any team I’ve ever seen, and hopefully that means something.”


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