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Senior lineman Kristjan Fonacier stands to be a three-year varsity starter with the East Haven football team if the Yellowjackets have a season in the spring. Kristjan is set to play right guard and will also line up on the defensive side of the ball. (Photo courtesy of Kristjan Fonacier )
Senior lineman Kristjan Fonacier has played a pivotal role for the East Haven High School football team during the past three seasons. Kristjan has displayed an outstanding work ethic that’s propelled him to a starting role on both the offensive and defensive lines for the Yellowjackets, who are hoping to get a chance to play football this spring.
Standing 5 feet, 8 inches as a 6th-grader at Joseph Mellilo Middle School, Kristjan was always one of the biggest kids in his class. After playing a year of basketball, Kristjan was encouraged to play football in East Haven’s recreational league, and he hasn’t looked back since.
“Everybody was like family to me,” Kristjan says of his 6th-grade teammates. “There was no better feeling than winning with those guys around you.”
After two seasons in the rec league, Kristjan joined the Yellowjackets as a freshman. He spent that season on the freshman team, continuing to develop as a lineman. At the time, East Haven’s head coach was Melvin Wells. Kristjan attended a preseason camp with his teammates and Coach Wells, who has since passed away, in Massachusetts. That camp helped Kristjan realize how important East Haven football is to him.
“It was one of the best years ever. Every day, I wish I can go back,” Kristjan says. “We went to this camp, and I felt like it made our bond 10 times stronger. We were all together for a whole week, playing football. It was a really good time.”
By his sophomore year, Kristjan had become the starting left guard for East Haven’s varsity squad. Kristjan’s first experience playing varsity helped show him what he needed to do to improve. He had always been bigger than other kids, but now Kristjan realized that his technique needed polishing in order for him to face bigger and faster defenders.
“It was very stressful. A lot of the guys we faced were better than me. I had to find ways to beat the blocks,” says Kristjan. “I trained a lot more. I watched a lot of film. I learned new techniques and how to stay lower. My hand placement, my footwork. All that type of stuff.”
In his junior year, Kristjan felt more confident about knowing what it takes to shine on the line. He remained in his starting left guard role before shifting to center after one of his teammates got injured.
“It has been a wild ride. The competition gets way harder in high school,” Kristjan says. “You have to lead four other guys beside you and communicate. We have to move for each other.”
Scott Benoit became East Haven’s head coach during Kristjan’s sophomore season. Benoit was impressed with Kristjan’s abilities as a sophomore and says that his lineman has only grown stronger throughout the past two years.
“He’s a great kid. He’s a good student and hard worker in the weight room. He is a big, physical kid. He’s probably about 270 to 275 [pounds] right now. He has made himself into a very good player,” Benoit says of Kristjan. “He brings a lot of experience to the offensive line. He has started every game, played multiple positions, and understands exactly what we’re doing. He, along with all our seniors, are great with the young kids. He’s a good kid to coach.”
As East Haven looks to potentially play a spring season, Kristjan has been practicing at the right guard position. Along with his duties on offense, Kristjan is slated to be two-way lineman by also playing on the defensive line. In the Yellowjackets’ preseason practices, Kristjan worked with new defensive line coach Rusty Dunne, who helped him get up to speed on the other side of the ball.
“With Coach Dunne, I think our defensive line is going to be very good. He is a very well-taught coach,” says Kristjan of Dunne, who has previously served as East Haven’s head coach. “Before, I didn’t know a lot about the defensive line, because I had never played it. Now, since I play both, I’ve only trained harder. I’ve watched more videos and worked on my footwork.”
Kristjan got into the sport of football because of his teammates. As he enters his senior year, Kristjan says that his bond with his teammates is unique and that there is no other group with which he would rather play football.
“It has helped me build character. It has made me a better person. I’m a better person because of the sport and the people around me,” Kristjan says. “The bond I’ve grown with my teammates is stronger than it has ever been. Coach always says, ‘If it was easy, everybody would be doing it.’ There is nobody doing it like us. There’s no better feeling than this.”