BRANFORD — Hoping to be a guiding voice in the future, Branford senior Junior Cress is filling that role for the Buccaneers now.
Cress, likely playing his final season of football, is the leading voice for the Branford defense, calling the defensive plays from his linebacker position.
The 6-foot, 215-pound Cress will also be utilized on the defensive line, on offense at tight end as well as in the backfield and also on special teams.
It is a utility role that Cress not only accepts but stars in.
Cress considers himself valuable no matter where he plays, “but I usually make the calls on defense.”
That role in aligning the defense comes with experience. Cress is the most senior Buccaneer, having played on the varsity as a freshman before emerging the past two years as a playmaker on both sides of the ball.
“We rely on him to make the calls on defense and get us lined up,” Branford coach Tim Clark said. “He is our most experienced players and has an excellent knowledge of our defense, so we are able to move him around.”
So far, Clark said Cress has done a good job in setting the Bucs’ defense. Branford routed St. Francis Catholic in Week 1 before falling 22-14 at Maclay last week. The Marauders used a pair of big plays on offense as well as a special teams score to edge the Bucs.
“We prepare him throughout the week by showing him different formations and lots of film,” Clark said.
Cress added: “I improve by watching film and learning the calls that the coaches give me. I call out the strength of the defense, so that we can get lined up. I make sure everyone has the call that the coaches signal from the sideline.” Clark describes Cress as “a weapon” on both sides of the ball, and against St. Francis in the first game of the season, he caught two passes, one for a touchdown, for 28 yards. On defense he had five tackles and a sack.
Cress had a big reception against Maclay to set up one of Branford’s scores and also picked off a pass on defense.
Cress said he “Likes being on the field, no matter where it is. I like catching the ball, but I also like hitting people, so I’d say it’s about even,” on which side he prefers.
Clark also describes Cress as, “One of our most physical players, and he keeps the energy up with his hustle. He has good size so he is an imposing presence in the passing game.”
On offense Cress is needed as an extra playmaker, with Clark adding that Cress is “One of our best blockers along the line at tight end, and is a deep threat with his jump ball abilities.”
As a junior, Cress hauled in 16 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns in Branford’s run-first offense.
Defensively, he had 54 tackles — second-most on the team — with four sacks and 11 tackles for loss. He also recovered a pair of fumbles.
As a personal goal this year, Cress wants 80 tackles.
“Which would be more than last year,” he said. “And as a team I want a winning record and hopefully that will get us back in the playoffs.”
Clark describes Cress as a player who leads by example.
“Junior is our most seasoned veteran, and has been an unselfish player for years,” Clark said. “He’ll do whatever it takes to win, and he has a consistently good attitude.”
After this season, though, Cress plans to put that unselfish nature to work away from the football field.
He is going to attend Word of Life Bible Institute for two years, and “would like to start a ministry one day.”